Friday, December 25, 2015

A Murrier Christmas

Thanks to Netflix, many people had A Very Murray Christmas this year.

But ours was even Murrier.

Taking the risk of its potential inferior quality in our hands, we saved the Netflix original holiday special A Very Murray Christmas for Christmas Eve. The next night, violating my own personal rule of no longer watching Christmas movies at any point after December 24th, we watched the Bill Murray vehicle Scrooged, which my wife had never seen and which I hadn't seen since it came out in 1988. (Twenty-seven years ago. Jesus.)

So our Christmas was definitely chock full of Murray. But was that a good thing?

Let's called it a mixed bag. The Murray jury is still out.

Mixed not because one was good and one was bad, but mixed because both were kind of bad ... but also kind of good.

Actually, only one moment from A Very Murray Christmas really stood out as being genuinely funny, and not half-funny and half-cringeworthy. That moment came when (spoiler alert) George Clooney, scheduled to appear as part of Murray's holiday variety show that gets ruined by a blizzard that shuts down New York City, does actually appear in a dream sequence. He provides an expected dose of glitz and glamour as he dances with Miley Cyrus, but he also does something very unexpected. In the next song, kind of a jazzy, R&B-inspired number where Murray is the lead vocalist, Clooney pops out from behind a Christmas tree and sings: "Santa Claus wants some lovin'. Santa Claus wants some lovin' - yow."

My wife and I might have been forcing tepid laughs earlier to try to get ourselves in the swing of this special, but we both erupted here. There was just something so absurd about a) the voice in which Clooney delivers this line, and b) the way he leans stiffly out from behind the tree, then back behind it once his lines are finished. The tuxedo makes it all the more wonderfully goofy. We loved this moment so much that it has already become a meme in our family in just over 24 hours since we watched it. It made the whole disappointing affair worthwhile.

Scrooged actually has more in common with A Very Murray Christmas than just being holiday-themed. In this movie Murray is also involved in the preparations for a live holiday special, though this is a version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol titled Scrooge that the IBC network advertises with a fire and brimstone campaign of Murray's character's choosing. The network president has to search his soul to go on the same path to redemption as Dickens' most famous character.

Scrooged dates really easily -- there was one joke about throwing ice water on somebody because they thought he was Richard Pryor. That apparently relates to a long-forgotten episode in which Pryor set himself on fire in 1980, which even then was eight years before the movie came out. I'd say that's probably typical of what passes for humor in this movie, though it does also get a lot broader than that. But I was surprised that the moments with heart still worked on me -- sort of.

I was interested to note something else the two pieces have in common -- they both feature a guy I had completely forgotten about until I saw him last night. One of the "special guests" for Murray's new Christmas special was David Johansen -- so not all that special, since I'd forgotten entirely about his existence until I recognized his name in the credits. Looking him up, I determined he was the singer who once went by the name Buster Poindexter, and a person I hadn't thought of in 15 years suddenly popped back into my consciousness. Lo and behold, Johansen also played the ghost of Christmas past in Scrooged -- you know, the one that drives the taxi cab -- hence probably explaining his presence in A Very Murray Christmas. (FOM -- Friend of Murray.)

If Christmas is not yet past for you, have a merry one.

Or I guess a Murray one, if you are prepared for some lumps of coal mixed in with your gifts.

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