Its a tradition at this time of year to watch a different Christmas special. I considered The Star Wars Holiday Season, but I made a grand total of seven minutes into it before considering jumping off a tall building. Instead, I chose to watch the Christmas special that puts one of my favorite performers front and centre, which seems like a choice I should’ve made in hindsight. Bill Murray is probably the most beloved comedic actor currently working – he has legions of fans throughout his long career, and how can someone possibly resist an entire Christmas special with him in the main role?
This won’t be a long review – it wasn’t a very long film, to be perfectly honest. However, it was perfectly lovely and everything we would expect from a Bill Murray Christmas special – dark humor, deadpan comedy, elaborate performances and a ton of celebrity cameos, all in a compact, sweet and very funny celebration of the Christmas season.
In 2003, Bill Murray (who had never really fallen away or declined in popularity) had a new perspective put on his career through his collaboration with a young film director named Sofia Coppola. The film was Lost in Translation, and what should’ve been a simple, honest depiction of human nature turned into the film that would revolutionize Bill Murray’s career – awards and acclaim proved that he wasn’t only a hilarious comedic performer, but also a massively talented actor. It proved Murray to be a talented actor, and put him in constant demand for many films that could use his unique style of acting. However, nothing has matched the spark of genius that occurred between Coppola and Murray, so it seems very bizarre that they waited over a decade to work together again, and of all projects they could’ve done together, a Christmas special for Netflix is their reunion – it is gloriously characteristic of the idiosyncratic filmmaker and her iconic muse.
The main reason to watch this film is probably for the wonderful celebrity cameos that populate the film. Paul Schaffer, the longtime bandleader for David Letterman and friend of Murray, is the musical director of the film, and appears throughout. Amy Poehler plays Murray’s “number one fan”, while Julie White plays his tough producer. They take up the first act and don’t serve much a purpose. The film really gets going with the introduction as Chris Rock, who play himself and is forced into a very awkward performance of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” with Murray. Jason Schwartzman (who was fantastic with Murray in 1998’s Rushmore) is fun as the groom with cold-feet, and Rashida Jones is his bummed-out would-be bride. Maya Rudolph (the queen of comedy as far as I am concerned) arrives to give a strangely serious performance of Darlene Love’s wonderful “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)”, which also happens to be my favorite Christmas song of all time (and a staple of the Christmas season on Late Show with David Letterman, another connection to the legendary talk show host – I am actually surprised he didn’t pop up in this special as well). The most memorable moments come when French indie band Phoenix perform a rejected Beach Boys song (a tender and sweet little ditty called “Alone on Christmas Day”), and when Murray is transported into a fantasy world, where angels sing and dance, and where he is joined by Miley Cyrus and George Clooney, in a spectacular epilogue.
A Very Murray Christmas was simply too short – it could’ve been at least half an hour longer, and perhaps a more efficient story would have allowed for some more fun cameos, and with the endless amounts of Christmas songs, and the legendary friends of Murray, I know there could’ve been much more than this. This was the only flaw of an otherwise wonderful Christmas special.
There isn’t much to say about A Very Murray Christmas – it is a sweet, funny and wonderfully quaint Christmas film that isn’t too serious, and is a good diversion from the craziness that surrounds this time of the year, which is wonderful. It is everything I expected from the dynamite team of Bill Murray and Sofia Coppola, and I absolutely adored it. A fun little film suitable for this holiday season.