Ah, the Holidays. A time to indulge in stale cookies and bad eggnog, and watch endless reruns of tired Christmas classics. This year, in the same spirit of mediocre holiday entertainment, comes A Very Murray Christmas. The Christmas special, recently released on Netflix, is directed by Sofia Coppola, and stars, of course, Bill Murray. Murray, along with a gaggle of famous friends, try to recreate old timey holiday variety shows, with a contemporary spin. Unfortunately, this star-studded affair lacks any Christmas magic.
The special begins with a lonely Murray standing by his window at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City. Fake reindeer ears droop atop his head as he mournfully views the blizzard that has ruined his highly anticipated Christmas Eve cabaret show. Despite the fact that none of his anticipated guests (such as George Clooney, Pope Francis, and Iggy Azalea) have shown up for the cabaret, Murray is pushed by his producers—played by Amy Poehler and Julie White—to eventually go through with the event, so as to not violate his televising contract. So begins Murray’s holiday blues, as well as his journey to turn the failing evening around.
This journey is lit by a number of celebrity appearances, including Jason Schwartzman, Rashida Jones, Chris Rock, French indie pop band Phoenix, Michael Cera, Jenny Lewis, and Miley Cyrus. With each new encounter Murray slowly comes out of his Scrooge-like shell, as he realizes that even if it’s freezing outside, good friends, food, and music can nonetheless keep you warm. Despite this exciting assortment of cast members, A Very Murray Christmas never quite elevates its audience to the same level of holiday cheer. The plot is weak (even for a variety show), the singing is mediocre, and the humor is subpar. Murray does not do the work to earn his audiences, as the special’s main weakness is its reliance on name over substance. The characters are shallow and they deliver jokes without passion. Coppola and Murray have written an awkward special, one steeped in the kind of humor that doesn’t come to life on stage or anywhere outside of the writers’ room.
Astoundingly enough, Miley Cyrus’s appearance is by far the best part of the hour. She sings a beautiful rendition of “Silent Night,” revealing that she actually does have great pipes—at least when she is not vomiting glitter out of them (see her latest music video, “Dooo It!”). Unfortunately, Miley’s cameo takes place at the very end of the show. By that time there have been more than 45 minutes of gratuitous celebrity cameos. While one smiles each time a new celebrity face pops on screen, the smile gradually turns into a frown as their performance—slowly but surely—disappoints.
The days leading up to Christmas invite plenty of unnecessary indulgences, and A Very Murray Christmas might as well be one of them. It’s too short to be painful and at the very least you get to see a diverse mix of celebrities in a rare holiday context. But don’t go looking for anything revolutionary here; Murray’s variety special fails to reboot the bygone era of Christmas variety shows. It is tired from the start, reminiscent of Christmas decorations still left up in May.
No matter how much star power has been packed into one room, A Very Murray Christmas fails to shine.