Bill Murray is at once a logical and least-logical fellow to host a Christmas music special. On the one hand, he’s the king of faux-sentimentality, able to spoof cornball conventions by creating something funny from them. (We’ve known the musical side of this ever since his Saturday Night Live Star Wars crooning.) On the other hand, he has a warm, loyal heart, as evidenced by his collaborators on A Very Murray Christmas, now on Netflix, who range from director Sophia Coppola, with whom he collaborated most famously on Lost In Translation, to Paul Shaffer, with whom he musically conspired on both SNL and David Letterman’s NBC and CBS late-night shows.
Conceived as a fantasy in which Bill is supposed to be hosting a Christmas special in New York’s Carlyle Hotel, Very Murray is a shaggy-dog blizzard story. The place is snowed-in, it looks as though the show will never come together, but a despairing Bill is rescued by the talents of a singing waitress (an ineffable Jenny Lewis), a singing bartender (the amiable growler David Johansen), and various hotel inhabitants including Maya Rudolph, Jason Schwartzman, and Chris Rock.
When Bill passes out, he dreams of more holiday fun with George Clooney and Miley Cyrus. The latter acquits herself exceedingly well, singing a beautiful “Silent Night” solo, as well as a joyous “Sleigh Ride” with Murray and Clooney, demurely pulling her short red skirt down when Murray lifts her off the ground in triumph — there’s not a hint of provocation in this Cyrus appearance.
As directed by Coppola, Very Murray retains a warm, dark glow most of the time (the dream sequence is a pretty soft-white). You could say a few of the jokes are silly and a few of the musical moments go on too long (that Clooney-Murray rap interlude could have been snipped), but to complain would be churlish. I could imagine lots of people firing up their old Netflix accounts each year to watch A Very Murray Christmas all over again.
A Very Murray Christmas is streaming now on Netflix.