A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!

A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!
Aiming his singular brand of disaffected cynicism at the holiday season, Stephen Colbert lampoons old school American Christmas variety shows, subverting their incessant pleasantness by emerging as the tainted, sardonic Bing Crosby of these modern times. When The Colbert Report first debuted on Comedy Central, many critics and fans wondered how he could possibly sustain his caricature of a senseless, hypocritical conservative with a more than flawed worldview. Yet Colbert and his writers have better than exceeded expectations, making the news monthly for ridiculously self-serving publicity stunts (i.e., campaigning for President on both major tickets, challenging indie rock bands to green screen video contests, etc.). That same sense of surreal preposterousness is evident in A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All! Taking its premise from Colbert's frequent condemnation/open fear of bears, the host believes he is trapped inside his rustic, but festively decorated, cabin while his Christmas special is in production at his studio. Though encouraged by frequent phone updates from a humorously made-up Elvis Costello, dressed for one bizarre theatrical number after another, Colbert is despondent about missing his show. Fortunately, a type of show comes to him, in the form of special musical guests who drop by to sing hilarious, vaguely derivative Christmas songs that essentially satirize perceptions about themselves. Wielding a machine gun that morphs into a sunburst acoustic guitar, Toby Keith plays an ultra-patriot, condemning the politically correct "war on Christmas" and promising that America is "taking it back." Willie Nelson may or may not represent a hallucination Colbert experiences due to cabin fever, springing to life from a nativity scene to wax romantic about weed and its impact in Bethlehem. The back-up vocals from Colbert are priceless here, as are his "into it" facial expressions during John Legend's deliciously profane sex jam about nutmeg and a man's desire to take his lady and "nog her egg." The least known celebrity here, Feist, hasn't yet fostered a recognizable persona to ridicule, so she's asked to highlight her lovely voice, playing an angel working reception and filtering Colbert's prayer to God with a funny tune about being placed on hold. Not surprisingly, Jon Stewart completely steals the show in a duet with Colbert, kindly suggesting that, while Colbert's Christmas might be ruined, perhaps he should consider celebrating Chanukah instead, maybe? It's a crystallizing moment in a special extolling the emptiness of tradition these days and only a few traces of lament appear in the execution. How else to explain a DVD with a video Yule log that is stoked by burning books? A Colbert Christmas is bitingly funny in ways that are both base and profound. Plus: alternate endings, Stephen's 25-Day Advent Calendar. (Paramount)