Two-and-a-half out of Five Kernels
“A Very Murray Christmas” has both the good and the bad, much like Santa’s naughty and nice list.
Let’s start with the good:
Every good Christmas special has its slew of memorable guest stars, and “A Very Murray Christmas” is no exception. Leading the way is, of course, Bill Murray, followed by icons in film, television, comedy and music: George Clooney, Amy Poehler, Chris Rock, Miley Cyrus, Maya Rudolph, Jason Schwartzman and Rhasida Jones. Most of the talent are used to their full star potential (Clooney, Cyrus, Rock), but some don’t get as much time to shine (Poehler, Rudolph, Schwartzman, Jones).
And a Christmas special is nothing without its music. In this case, it’s done by none other than the phenomenal Paul Shaffer, formerly of the “Late Show with David Letterman.” He works the piano during all the musical numbers with mesmerizing magic. Sometimes he uses more traditional arrangements and sometimes he shakes things up a bit to give it something new. Whatever he does and however he does it, the music always works for a toe-tapping good time.
Murray playing Murray, or at least an exaggerated version of himself, is fun to watch. But at times, it almost seems like it’s too exaggerated and he’s having too much fun.
Now for the bad:
Although the story doesn’t matter much — after all it’s all about the singing and the dancing — there’s not much holding it all together. Murray is supposed to give a Christmas special, but thanks to a Christmas Eve blizzard in New York, no one shows up. Murray’s got the Christmas blues and has to pull off a spectacular show with nothing. After that, it’s pretty much just musical number after musical number, sometimes not even leaving a single minute between songs.
Now don’t get me wrong, the music is fantastic, but the presentation of it leaves much to be desired. There’s no big overdone sets with dance numbers: They try, but it’s not big enough. There’s no real climax and there’s no big “wow” moment. In the end, it lacks spectacle and so feels a little flat. Perhaps it would have worked better to have a director who has a larger musical/Broadway background rather than Sofia Coppola. Although a talented and accomplished director in her own right, she doesn’t exactly scream “Christmas special.”
The final bit of good news with “A Very Murray Christmas” is that it’s only about an hour long on Netflix, which means: you only have to commit to 56 minutes; and if you already have Netflix you’re not really losing anything money-wise.
If you have an hour to kill over the holidays why not give it a try? It’s certainly better than the many schmaltzy, Hallmark Christmas specials/movies. If anything, I would suggest leaving it on the TV/computer/tablet as background music while you get ready for the holidays. That way you can enjoy the music without having to suffer through the non-existent story and bland production.