Exclusive to Netflix, “A Very Murray Christmas” sets out to gently spoof those ubiquitous variety specials which used to pile up in the festive TV schedules of the seventies and eighties like snow drifts. At its heart is Bill Murray, playing a version of himself – the same version of himself that he’s been happily playing in public for the past few years; the eccentric, cosily curmudgeonly Great American trickster God, the low key Loki of the USA, every ready to crash a party, deliver impromptu words of wisdom or pose for oddball selfies.
As Bill prepares for his live TV special, New York is shut down by the worst blizzard in history. Marooned at the Carlyle Hotel, a morose Murray laments his situation and tries to rally fellow guests and staff into enjoying Christmas Eve.
It’s a fairly slight premise and, apart from the musical numbers, oddly silent and starkly staged by director Sofia Coppola. How much you enjoy it will depend very much on how much you buy into the aura of adulation which surrounds Bill Murray the person, as he lazily plays his hangdog smartass routine in a variety of “The Office”-like set pieces. When not trying for documentary style melanchomedy, Murray croons his way through some Christmas standards with a variety of celebrity guests (some playing themselves, some playing characters). The musical numbers are a mixed bag, but there’s no denying the awesome Bing Crosby/ David Bowie weirdness of Bill Murray singing ‘Do You Hear What I Hear?’ with a very reluctant Chris Rock and George Clooney’s choral contributions to ‘Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’ ’ are enough to bring even the Grinchiest of hearts tidings of comfort and joy.
Individual inspired moments, though, do not a classic make and the whole affair feels unfocused and as artificial as the white Christmas trees which adorn its dream sequence finale. Not consistent enough to be an effective dramedy, not funny enough to be a pureblood comedy and lacking any kind of genuine spark of magic to be a festive treat, it may raise a wry smile from die-hard Murray fans but it’s unlikely to make the leap to perennial holiday favourite.