Bill Murray has done what few have been able to do in the last several years. He has put together a likable Christmas special that is not a parody and is not a variety show. Murray, along with his director Sophia Coppola and co-writer Mitch Glazer, write the bad-weather plotted story of Murray’s Christmas special that doesn’t happen.
Murray begins the special lamenting that his live special from New York isn’t going to happen because none of his high profile guests can make it into the city. “The airports are closed,” he laments. “The trains are closed. The buses and bridges and tunnels are not working. A couple of saloons have closed. The entire city of New York has shut down.” After convincing Chris Rock to sing with him, the power goes out, putting an end to it all.
Murray, along with Paul Shaffer, spends the rest of Christmas Eve in the hotel’s bar. This is where the bulk of the special actually takes place. Because the show was produced for and aired on Netflix, bar language is permitted but not in a way that is vulgar, if that makes sense. And of course, there’s drinking.
And lots of singing.
Murray is like a Dean Martin, emceeing a group of his friends asking them to sing. Some of it is ridiculous, like Murray and Rock singing, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” Or humorous like Murray and George Clooney singing “Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’.” But much of it is really good. Miley Cyrus sings “Silent Night,” reminding us that she really can sing. Maya Rudolph and Jenny Lewis balance out the ridiculous and humorous with their selections, not to mention Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York.”
There is an air of gloominess throughout the special. Murray opens the show with singing “Christmas Blues” due to the snow storm. There is a bride and groom unable to get married. Rudolph is drinking alone. It’s Christmas Eve and no one seems to be happy. But Murray is not Grumpy Bear. He tries to replace the grumpy with the merry. I’m not convinced that he gets there, but it is only an hour-long special. The important thing is that he tries.