A Very Murray Christmas full movie review - The latest in the ongoing line of pointless vanity projects making us laugh because we recognize actors
In September 2015, HBO gave us the special Ferrell Takes the Field, an hour-long documentary following actor/comedian Will Ferrell joining ten different MLB teams in one day for a game of preseason baseball.
The purpose of the event was to raise money for Ferrell's friend's charity that helped give terminally ill kids an opportunity at college education, but instead of making a meaningful contribution that would go unnoticed like many would, Ferrell had to embellish it and make it all about him. This, in turn, led to a purposeless publicity stunt and a film that screamed nothing but vanity and ego for Ferrell himself.
With that, just in time for the holidays, Bill Murray, enough universally loved and respected actor, has decided to hop aboard the train of mindless projects that assume we, the audience, is just going to bust a gut throughout because the titular actor is the lead in the film. Sofia Coppola's A Very Murray Christmas is pointless Christmas special, never quite making the stride towards self-referential humor but never acting like a straight-forward comedy either. As a result, we get fifty-six minutes of Christmas carols from recognizable faces punctuated by a sulking and brooding Murray and banter between him and other celebrities.
The film revolves around a lonely Bill Murray, who has lost his holiday spirit after a vicious blizzard in New York City prevents guests like Pope Francis and Brad Pitt from showing up to his one-man-show "A Very Murray Christmas," where he was set to perform various Christmas songs. The venue he was scheduled to play at, New York's famous Carlyle Hotel, is nothing but an empty auditorium, and Murray's crushed sentiments can't even be curbed by the encouragement of a perky Amy Poehler. In the midst of this mess, Murray runs into Chris Rock, who agrees to perform a song with him in the meantime, and over the course of the day, Murray helps liven up a couple's (Jason Schwartzman and Rashida Jones) postponed wedding and finds the gall to sing alongside George Clooney and Miley Cyrus.
The end result shouldn't be as cheerless as it is. To begin with, the Christmas songs move at a snail's pace and are never played for the absurdity of circumstance. It also doesn't help that writers Coppola, Murray, and Mitch Glazer can't find a consistent tone for the project and don't really know how to handle the sardonic and often bleak humor of Bill Murray's character. Secondly, the scenes interjected in between the musical numbers aren't very funny or interesting either. They're more along the lines of nudging the audience at how allegedly funny it is that Clooney, Cyrus, and Murray, at one point, all share the same on-screen space. Most of these scenes are clear that Coppola and company just assumed that the presence of many actors at once would hopefully take over and, in turn, produce comedic results, but time again shows that this notion is just an excuse for lazy/minimal screen writing.
Finally, what's the takeaway from this project? By the end of it, the characters don't seem to learn anything they didn't already know, the glacially paced musical numbers have mostly faded from the mind, there's not a single quotable line in the film, and Murray's attitude has made the audience exhale comfortably knowing that this special doesn't even last an hour. A Very Murray Christmas is about as perplexing as it gets, if you try to discern its themes and content in a literal sense, but it's pretty easy to understand the soulless attempt to make the audience laugh solely based on actor recognition as a result of lazy screen writing and conceptual ideas.
Starring: Bill Murray, George Clooney, Miley Cyrus, Chris Rock, Amy Poehler, Paul Shaffer, Jason Schwartzman, and Rashida Jones. Directed by: Sofia Coppola.