Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever
Written by Tim Hill and Jeff Morris
Directed by Tim Hill
What to do about Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever? That is the mystery, because the noxious exploitation of a deformed cat has already got everyone beat by predicting their own movie would be awful and makes that joke over and over again. And in a way, the movie is awful. But in a way, part of it isn’t. Part of it tries so hard and comes so far, but in the end, it really doesn’t matter. It’s crawling in its own skin, and other lyrics. This isn’t going to be an angry screed against the film, because it doesn’t deserve that, and angry rants against this movie will seem forced and uninteresting. It’s more of a statement on the film and US culture today.
Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever takes place in a mall, once the bastion of American consumerism. Malls are dying all over America, as shopping moves online, teenagers switch up where they hang out, and overpriced chain stores fail to compete with discount chains as far as the shrinking wallet of American consumers is concerned. The economic recovery that produced jobs that pay insultingly low raises, people trapped due to lack of opportunity, young people graduating to a world where they can’t find a job related to their degrees. Into this world we dump a movie about a talking deformed cat.
The mall setting mirrors with the commercial exploitation of the Grumpy Cat into a marketing line. Grumpy Cat is no longer a cat, but a product. The movie even includes scenes that hawk the Grumpy Cat website and Grumpy Cat swag. Grumpy Cat is a success story for the owner, who went from being a waitress to a millionaire, built on the back of a cat and not any actual talent. It’s all about selling out, making all the money you can possibly rake in. The film is even set up in a mall pet store, not an animal shelter. A pet store filled with animals begging for homes, but the only one with a future is a papered pedigree dog worth a million dollars. The animals are commodities, their personalities disabled by a dismissive quip or two from Grumpy Cat.
Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever specifically instructs you to tweet about it during several commercial breaks. Lifetime’s hashtag #WorstMovieEver is a bit strong, but disarms insults in the attempt to create a social media phenomenon around the screening. Which makes sense, not just because Lifetime attempts to do this with all their films, but because those that live on the internet will be more likely to buy Grumpy Cat merchandise.
The film itself is a fairly vanilla tale of a girl who wants a friend, a talking cat, and a few Home Alone shenanigans taking place in the mall. The thieves are targeting a dog worth a million dollars, which they will hold for ransom (the only thing you can do with the dog, because a pedigree dog without papers would be worthless, and registering a stolen dog is an invitation to be arrested. Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever is aware that it is dumb, and will continually remind you of that fact. It makes up for it with segues into ridiculous alternate scenarios of what’s happening on screen. Some of those are rather entertaining, and makes me wish they had been the real story branches. Because it should have just went crazy. Have the cat drive the car without explaining how. If Toonces can do it, Grumpy Cat can! Logic is for suckers and for Vulcans, and we all know what happens to Vulcans: They get their planet blown up in the reboot!
Chrystal (Megan Charpentier) has no friends except the animals at the pet store she works at without pay (again, exploitation! Why not volunteer at a pet shelter?) She makes a wish for a friend thanks to a semi-magical Santa played by a Russell Peters cameo, and now can hear Grumpy Cat talk, but only Grumpy Cat, and not any of the other talkative animals. She sneaks out from a party to go talk to the cat, and winds up in the middle of the thieves’ plan to steal the dog. Hijinks ensue, the mall should have never hired the killer from River’s Edge (Daniel Roebuck) as their security guard, and a cat fires a paintball gun. Grumpy Cat narrates the film and provides a running commentary, there is no real way to say how much Aubrey Plaza ad libbed versus how much is in the script, but I like to think she vastly improved the material because some things just feel made up on the spot.
Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever gets bonus points for using I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas and the cameo of Keyboard Cat. I’ll even give props for calling the mall security guard Paul Blart, the overacting thieves who continually talk about rock topics (Isaac Haig and Evan Todd), a too brief appearance by Tasya Teles, and JoJo the expensive dog (voiced by Stephen Stanton) caring even less than Grumpy Cat about what’s going on around him. There is even a Dave Franco knockoff as Gill Brockman, the mall supervisor who wants his rent. None of these elevate the film to greatness, but keep it from wallowing in the muck and mire of the sewers. Many of the scenes are based around Grumpy Cat lying in a bed responding to things happening around her, because the cat isn’t a trained Hollywood cat.
Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever is self-aware because it has to be self-aware. It’s from the internet, the internet is self-aware and ironic. The film just wouldn’t work straight, if it has any chance of succeeding, it has to be meta and ironic and sarcastic. So it went full force, ridiculous meta self-aware double-secret ironic. And it didn’t suck. It didn’t rule, it just was okay. And I’m all right with that. Be okay. Many movies can’t even do that!
Rated 6/10 (boring store owner, other memes, cupid, magic coin, grumpy bear, grumpy catman logo)
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