The Grumpy Cat TV Christmas movie is here, about a year too late, and it’s as mindlessly soul-sucking as one might expect (hope?) a Grumpy Cat TV Christmas movie to be.
Nevertheless, people are going to watch it in droves and clog up your Twitter feed Saturday night with real-time, “Sharknado”-style responses to the movie in failed attempts to outwit one another, which won’t make you grumpy so much as it might make you clinically depressed. Believe me when I tell you the grumpiest cat in the world is no match for an unhappy TV critic on an off day.
Should you derive any pleasure at all from “Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever” (airing on Lifetime at 8 p.m. Saturday), Grumpy Cat herself (voiced by “Parks and Recreation’s” Aubrey Plaza) frequently interrupts her narration to remind you how awful the movie is and how it’s your fault for watching.
“Deck the halls? Deck me in the face,” the feline says. “You don’t have to watch it, but I know you’re going to,” she warns viewers at the outset and then chides them all the way through, reminding them to tweet out their scorn with “hashtag WorstChristmasEver, hashtag WhyAmIWatchingThis.”
What, you may ask (if you’re about a trillion years old), is a Grumpy Cat?
In the cat’s own words: “I’m embarrassed for you.” I’m embarrassed to even have to explain it, but, according to her media clips, Grumpy Cat (real name: Tardar Sauce) is a 2-year-old cat who has some kind of feline dwarfism that left her with a permanent and sort-of-adorable frown. A picture of the cat became an all-purpose Internet meme in late 2012; from there, Grumpy Cat became a small merchandising empire. In the visage of Grumpy Cat, it seems, her fans found the perfect holy expression of indifferent disdain for all things.
We’ve worn out the joke, which was never an actual joke. It was just a picture, a fad, some sad evidence that our culture really hasn’t moved a stone since “Garfield.” Now, “Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas” steps in with all sorts of unwanted narrative.
Grumpy Cat stars here as a lethargic resident of a struggling, shopping-mall pet store, spending her days directing bored insults at the animals around her. She is deeply unimpressed with their good-natured attempts to woo customers, and she holds special contempt for the store’s latest acquisition, a champion celebrity show dog brought in to drum up business.
An introverted tweenager named Chrystal (Megan Charpentier) has acquired the special ability to hear Grumpy Cat’s mean-spirited thoughts; eventually, she and Grumpy Cat spend a night in the mall foiling the plans of two would-be burglars. From the advertising, viewers may have been led to believe that the movie’s climax involves a car-chase with Grumpy Cat behind the wheel of a car, in some unacknowledged homage to “Saturday Night Live’s” Toonces sketches of yore, but alas: The budget is so low for “Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever” that the cat must switch seats with the 12-year-old girl to let her drive. (It should be noted that Grumpy Cat, true to her personality, spends most of the movie in repose, either on pillows or in someone’s arms.)
There are other subplots and characters here, because, in order to lampoon holiday movie tropes, “Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas” has to first come up with its own bad holiday movie. This is momentarily inspired, as Grumpy Cat’s face floats across the screen during the non-Grumpy Cat moments: “Blah, blah, blah,” Grumpy Cat’s voice says over the flirtatious conversation between a waitress and one of Santa’s mall elves. “B-story, b-story, not my line, not my line, blah, blah, blah.”
Therein lies the only real attraction: At some point, Plaza, who has built a career on a comedy style the relies on half-heartedness and a side-eye toward all things, decided that a Grumpy Cat movie doesn’t have to wait around to be mocked by others. She and the writers are about 10 steps ahead of viewers on this.
At two hours in length (with commercials, it will feel like only five hours), “Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever” could use a whole lot more of Plaza’s ad-libbed derision for the entire project and the suckers who find themselves watching it. The claws do come out, but the scratches just aren’t deep enough.
(two hours) airs Saturday at 8 p.m. on Lifetime.