'Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever': TV Review
The face that launched a thousand memes goes dashing through the NO
In Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever, Grumpy (voiced by Aubrey Plaza) is a pet store feline who has been returned at least twice for being "the kind of cat who looks like she would smother you in your sleep." She (reluctantly) becomes attached to a friendless 12-year-old girl, Chrystal (the excellent and sharp Megan Charpentier), who volunteers at the pet store, after a magical coin allows Chrystal to hear Grumpy's sardonic musings. (Like Grumpy referring to her as "a blonde witch.")
Unfortunately, the pet store is about to go out of business, which means Grumpy and her cohorts could end up on the street unless the store can sell a million-dollar dog named JoJo (voiced by Stephen Stanton). But a nefarious duo of rocker-types (Evan Todd and Isaac Haig), in cahoots with someone at the mall, steal JoJo and hold him for ransom. It's then up to Grumpy and Chrystal to save the day (and Christmas!)
For those who are unfamiliar, Grumpy Cat (née Tardar Sauce — misspelling intentional) is a dwarf cat who seems to be frowning constantly. That little pout is Grumpy's moneymaker, and Lifetime's movie devoted to her makes no bones about the fact that she is "the Internet's biggest cash cat." She's also the first meme to transition from the Internet to TV. (And if successful, what might this open the door to? Bad Luck Brian: The Movie? Scumbag Steve and the Case of the Missing Four Loko? Insanity Wolf's Big Christmas Massacre?)
Impressively, writers Tim Hill (SpongeBob SquarePants) and Jeff Morris (The Honor System) do Lifetime's meme-centric movie a great service by making it constantly snarky and self-aware. Everyone is in on the joke that it's ridiculous, and the movie plays up to that while still executing a workable plot. Grumpy (or rather, Plaza) narrates with trademarked boredom, and makes meta references to what's happening on screen: JoJo's worth "sounds like a MacGuffin to me, whatever that means," she says, and later asks viewers, "Red herring or plot point? You decide!" before chiding them for still watching.
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It's certainly valid to ask why Grumpy has to speak at all (instead of being subtitled like she normally is), or why she wasn't made into a cartoon (in some scenes she's exchanged for a puppet or a similarly-colored cat). But Aubrey Plaza, who has replaced Janeane Garofalo as the current generation's go-to voice of sarcastic displeasure, does as good a job as possible voicing the blasé feline. Besides, what makes Grumpy marketable and a necessity to watch is her unrelentingly adorable little face.
Late in the movie, Chrystal's mother makes sure she's OK by asking if the thieves did anything to her. "That's a different kind of Lifetime movie," Grumpy comments. The Christmas miracle of this movie is that Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever isn't the worst Christmas movie ever. As Grumpy herself says: "Please, like the Lifetime execs would blow their chance at a sequel."