A movie based on an internet meme. No…. A CHRISTMAS movie based on an internet meme. This is actually something we needed.
Not a Christmas Movie
When this trailer hit the internet last month people reacted the way the internet does: “This is gonna suck! This is wrong!” You know, the way the internet does. Jumping to conclusions about a movie before anybody has ever seen it.
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But that’s a trailer for a Christmas movie. Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever is a movie about an internet meme – the first movie about an internet meme – that happens to take place at Christmas. It’s made in such a way that this is a movie about an internet meme that knows it’s a movie based on an internet meme. THIS THING IS SELF AWARE!!!
You see that? That is actually the title shot from the movie – made to look exactly like a meme! It’s got the white Impact-font – top text and bottom text, exactly like a meme. This is probably the only move that can use a generic font like Impact for its titles and get away with it. Early in the film we are treated to plenty of moments like this – introducing the audience to grumpy cat and the viral sensation it is on the internet.
On top of these, when the merchandise is show, the pet store owner holding grumpy cat turns to the camera and says “Or even a Lifetime movie.” Oh yeah, this movie breaks the 4th wall so frequently that the 4th wall doesn’t even exist. Oh we have nods to other popular memes – both piano cat and nyan cat make cameos. Most of this movie is Grumpy Cat (voiced by Aubrey Plaza) snarking about everything that goes on – the cat actually riffs her own movie. When another character shows up, the movie breaks the fourth wall to show Aubrey Plaza in a sound booth saying “second billed behind Grumpy Cat voiced by Aubrey Plaza” with accompanying onscreen text (in Impact of course).
The story itself is pretty simple Christmas fare: A lonely girl, Crystal (Meghan Charpentier), makes a Christmas wish to have a friend, so now she can hear all of Grumpy Cat’s snarky comments. Some thieves steal a million dollar dog from a pet store – which means the pet shop is now getting evicted because they can’t pay rent. Grumpy Cat begrudgingly saves Christmas with her new friend. It’s a pretty standard story for a Christmas movie – but this really isn’t about the story – it’s about grumpy cat having a movie that lives up to all the expectations of a movie based on an internet meme. We have a template – a movie upon which all future internet meme based films can follow.
We Love Grumpy Cats
Grumpy Cat (who doesn’t have a name beyond Grumpy Cat) is not the first phenomenally popular grumpy cat. Anyone remember this guy?
As a character in a film with a narrative Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever is pretty much any Garfield story. We’ve got this grumpy cat who snarks on everything, makes fun of all the other talking animals but the end still has a heart. This movie is pretty much live-action Garfield. Okay, there were live-action Garfield movies but this one is actually better.
Now there was a bit of internet harumphing over the fact that grumpy cat is a girl. Again, just the internet being the internet because was there ever something that stated Grumpy Cat having a specific gender? Traditionally cats are often associated with being a girl’s pet while dogs are for boys so it makes sense from my point-of-view for Grumpy Cat to be a girl. In the end though, the gender of Grumpy Cat has little to do with the outcome of the story – has little to do with the narrative or the jokes.
A Movie FOR the Internet
When SyFy premiered Sharknado it was an internet sensation. Live-tweeting, anyone utilizing the tie-in hashtag greatly increased the film’s viewership. This was a lesson the media industry learned – the internet, perhaps the most powerful communication force in the world, IS watching your movie. Forget the critics – the internet is the real barometer of your movie, the real way to market. Once upon a time a positive write-up in a magazine was good PR – now it’s all about the retweets. And for a movie based on an internet meme, this movie NEEDS the internet.
While most movies on television these days will ask you on commercial breaks to give the movie a shout-out with an associated hashtag – Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas doesn’t just ask at commercial breaks. Tweeting and using the hashtag #WorstChristmasEver is actually part of the movie. On top of that the movie itself breaks into a sudden advertisement for www.grumpycat.com and @realgrumpycat and facebook.com/the officialgrumpycat
A New Generation of TV Movie
Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever is a kid’s movie. I originally had no intent on watching this movie but my daughter REALLY wanted to and was motivated about it so it was a good family moment. The movie was directed and co-written by Tim Hill, a very accomplished producer/director of children’s entertainment (Sponge Bob Squarepants, Hop, Max Keeble’s Mig Move and, incidentally Garfield 2), so the man already knows how to talk to his audience successfully.
It’s a Lifetime movie – once known as “television for women,” and was known for making original movies which rivaled Hallmark in their schmaltzy melodrama. Now they’re rebranding themselves in an interesting way with this film – not the way that so many other channels have rebranded themselves by following a wave of whatever was popular (and look how well that worked out for TLC). This movie sets a precedent – adults are NOT going to like it because it’s not for them. It’s a strange narrative that speaks perfectly for a different generation. It’s story is simple but underscored by the rapid-fire internet-style of randomness and getting the audience involved in the film – by hashtags and by breaking the fourth wall.
I anticipate seeing many more movies in this unique style – this “internet generation” style of filmmaking. A movie where tweeting to the protagonist is PART of the narrative – I’ve not seen anything like this before but we’re going to. I don’t know if we’re going to get anymore movies based on internet memes, but we are going to get this style much more often. And I’m okay with that.