'Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever' Brings Plenty of Holiday Spirit, But Could Be More Grumpy
Grumpy Cat is finally a TV movie star thanks to Lifetime. The channel that has recently provided biopics for Aaliyah, Brittany Murphy, and the cast of Saved By The Bell is now bringing forth a movie version of one of the most famous online animals around. Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever premieres Saturday night, starring Parks and Recreation's Aubrey Plaza as the voice of the titular feline in what might the world's most perfect casting ever. The movie is definitely much better than I originally thought it would be, but I genuinely wish Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever showcased more of its two stars' grumpiness.
While having both Plaza and Grumpy Cat in a holiday movie could easily make for both a joyful (keeping with the Christmas spirit) and sarcastically funny cinematic experience, Lifetime's film is slightly formulaic and cheesy, with hints of meta and dry humor. Those moments were unfortunately few and far between in a movie that focused too much on a kidnapping plot involving wannabe rockstars, Grumpy Cat's friend and owner Chrystal, and Chrystal's mom falling for a holiday elf at the mall. That last one sounds like the classic 2003 Christmas film Elf, but isn't as fun as Will Ferrell's take on the storyline.
Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever begins with Miss Grumpy herself living her life before meeting Chrystal at a local pet store in the mall, along with many of the other reject pets, a term which I'm sure Plaza's Grumpy Cat would permit. Here the movie shows its true potential as Plaza's Grumpy Cat describes the other wannabe pets in hilariously biting ways. She also tells the viewers that despite her icy exterior, she still gets the chance to be adopted on many occasions. It's just that people return her when they realize she doesn't really do much. Cut to a flashback with a little boy who would rather trade in the kitty for a goldfish.
Plaza also has a great moment where she, as Grumpy Cat, quickly explains Chrystal's mother's love story, but then cuts away from it by saying, "blah, blah, blah B-story." While the self-aware humorous moments are rare, that doesn't mean the movie doesn't attempt more. In fact, the film pokes fun at its own network multiple times, but the result isn't always so pleasant. For example, when the plot of the movie is resolved, a couple of robbers' plans to steal a famous dog is thwarted by Grumpy Cat and Chrystal, and Chrystal's mom asks her if the robbers "did anything" to her, to which Grumpy Cat replies (in her head of course) that this isn't that "kind of Lifetime movie." The reference makes sense, but doesn't fit with the tone the movie sets early on as a family outing with hints of biting humor.
The movie was written and directed by Tim Hill (and co-written by Jeff Morris), the man behind Spongebob Squarepants and movies like the Garfield sequel, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and more. Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever plays more like Garfield with Alvin and the Chipmunks around him, rather than what it could have been: Aubrey Plaza surrounded by a Spongebob Squarepants-like plot, aka a curmudgeon surrounded by overly happy holiday fare.
The movie let audiences down a bit by not giving us the full extent of Plaza's inherent grumpiness with the hint of love that she brings to April on Parks and Recreation. That sweetness masked by sarcasm is what makes April human and endearing, if that came across more organically in Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever, the movie wouldn't need to be as sappy anywhere else.
I like that Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever is meant for the current Internet-obsessed generation, and don't mind it's overall idea or the fact that it's holiday-themed. It just needs the right tone, and maybe a little more edge. Aubrey Plaza can definitely bring that, and if she ever voices Grumpy Cat again, I hope that overshadows any surrounding sentimentality.
Images: Chris Helcermanas-Benge/Lifetime (4)