About halfway through Lifetime’s Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever, there is a poor special effect featuring two Grumpy Cats flying red and green airplanes across the screen. The planes carry banners that read, “If you’re still watching this, I worry for you.” Well. At least this movie is self-aware, I suppose. There are multiple self-deprecating meta moments throughout the movie that break the fourth wall and laugh at the audience for watching this strange, too-early, and pathetic Christmas “special.” The joke’s on us for watching, sure, but the joke is also on Lifetime, and on Grumpy Cat (and his owners), and on Aubrey Plaza (who voices the cat), and on everyone else who had anything to do with this movie.
I’ve gone on record as being unimpressed with Grumpy Cat’s schtick, believing that she needs to retire and her owners need to just let her chill and be a cat. Still, I went into this movie with an open mind — or as open of a mind as one can possibly have when the main character is a cat that is being dragged around by D-list actors — because hey, I like Christmas specials. I generally enjoy silly things involving animals (to the extent I have gotten into arguments about whether or not the Air Buddies movies are canon within the Air Bud franchise; they are not). I spend all my time on the Internet, and I regularly watch Lifetime. I am probably the target audience for this mess, yet I had to pause and stop watching four or five times, just to mutter and express my disbelief that this exists.
Here is the rough “plot” of Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever. Grumpy Cat lives in a pet store because every family who adopts her returns her for being too grumpy. She doesn’t care, but she secretly does care. The pet store is at risk of closing because the owner can’t afford the mall’s rent, so he decides to try to make a cute dog into a famous meme to get money. Then, and I’m a little hazy on the details because this is where the special gets too idiotic to pay full attention to, two wannabe rockers (who compare themselves to Nirvana, for some reason, who the hell knows) steal the dog. Some random little girl who makes a wish in a fountain (because Santa tells her to?) wishes for a friend. That friend is Grumpy Cat, so they team up to help foil the dognapping. At one point, a mall security guard tries to kill them, I think. While all of this is happening, there is a love-story subplot, but, in the words of Grumpy Cat herself, “Blah blah blah, b-story.”
Nothing in Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever makes much sense because it’s all so inane. The movie, as you’ve probably realized by now, gets weirdly meta. It opens with Grumpy Cat narrating, “You don’t have to watch it, but I know you’re going to. So.” And she’s right, of course, because so many people are going to watch this thing, even though they don’t necessarily want to. At one point, we see Aubrey Plaza in the recording booth voicing Grumpy Cat. There’s a fantasy sequence where Grumpy Cat dreams about becoming a famous Internet cat — complete with a shot of the “I had fun once. It was awful” meme, the words appearing on the screen in that infamous meme font — and eventually getting her own Lifetime movie.
The one thing I can sort of, very hesitantly, praise about the movie is that it does make fun of its network. When Grumpy Cat is in peril, she reminds viewers that she can’t die — it’s her movie, after all, but most importantly: How would Lifetime continue to capitalize on this cat’s face by making a sequel like Grumpy Cat’s Worst Vacation Ever? The movie mentions this so-far-nonexistent but most-likely-happening sequel twice. Then, of course, it ruins the humor with an uncomfortable “joke” about Lifetime’s penchant for disturbing molestation stories. When our tween heroine is reunited with her mother (spoiler: the child doesn’t die), her mother asks, “Those guys didn’t do anything to you, did they?” And Grumpy Cat’s voice-over responds, “That’s a… different kind of Lifetime movie.” Yikes, Lifetime.
Mostly, though, Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever is another shameless cash grab (Grumpy Cat’s pimps her official merchandise more than once) and a shoddy attempt at getting attention for the network (Grumpy Cat also breaks the fourth wall by telling viewers to tweet while watching the movie with the hashtag #WorstChristmasEver). It’s terribly written (by two writers), with jokes ranging from “Beautiful? On what planet? Planet ugly?” to “Devil’s advocat.” That’s the level of humor you’re going to get from a Lifetime movie about a grumpy cat, but, well, what did you expect?
Grumpy Cat is right about one thing: people are going to watch this. But trust me, no matter how much you want to avoid relatives this Thanksgiving, this movie is a waste of your time. Don’t give Lifetime the ratings. Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever was inevitable, but maybe, just maybe, we can kill the sequel before it happens.