A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this animated Christmas special is fairly mild but does include some off-color jokes and depicts Santa as a sweatshop owner who calls kids "brats." Humor gets slightly edgy when it targets mental illness, trading affection for material goods, and "being gay" but "not that way." Expect a few bits of nudity or sexualized content including a parade that shows a woman in a bikini on a float, a high-kicking women with bare legs, and, briefly, Santa's bare behind.
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What's the story?
Animated holiday musical special HOW MURRAY SAVED CHRISTMAS takes place in the town of Stinky Cigars, where all the residents are holiday icons: Cupid, Father Time, the Easter Bunny, and so on. Everyone sings and dances and works on toys -- everyone, that is, except cranky deli owner Murray (Jerry Stiller). He just wants to sling pastrami and lox without all the merriness. But when Santa (Kevin Michael Richardson) is put out of commission by Edison Elf's (Sean Hayes) aggressive new invention, the Jack-in-the-Boxer, Murray has to step up to the plate and deliver Christmas presents to all the good boys and girls (and maybe even the bad ones) in the world.
Is it any good?
You'd think that with a hilarious writer adapting his own material, this holiday special would become a classic -- but sadly, no. Murray comes with a pedigree: It's written and executive-produced by Mike Reiss (The Simpsons), who also wrote the best-selling children's book of the same name. But the charm of Reiss' book is lost in its translation to the screen, with characters who come off as sour and unfunny rather than odd but lovable. Perhaps the problem is that the special opted for a more mainstream animation style that doesn't look like the eccentric, stylish drawings of David Catrow, Murray-the-book's illustrator. And the plot is a mash-up of Christmas tropes you'll recognize from other, better holiday movies: The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Elf.
But, although these holiday movies and specials found fresh things to say about the season and its celebrations, Murray doesn't. Some of the jokes are cringe-worthy: Murray sings he's "gay gay gay" but "not that way," and Santa's elves complain that they're serving in a sweatshop without life insurance but are still cheaper than Chinese manufacturers. Other gags, such as a Christmas-themed Google-send-up search engine called "Bingle" that features the visage of Bing Crosby, are sharper yet destined to date quickly. A 9-year-old or a younger child will probably laugh at jokes about "tushies" and getting "sleigh-sick"; adults will wait impatiently for the special to be over.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why so many Christmas specials are made. Think about some of the Christmas or holiday shows you watch. Do you watch them every year? What year were they made? Now consider why networks would want to make new holiday specials.
Holiday specials are frequently animated. Why would this be? What advantages do animated shows have over live-action ones?
Why are there no main female characters in How Murray Saved Christmas? Which of the characters could have been female without changing the plot or its outcome?
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