‘Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas’ Review: Wish You Were Here

Design art for Zoey's Extraordinary Christmas
©Roku Channel via Digital Spy

Where there’s a lot more we wish we could’ve seen with Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas, what we get intrinsically captures what the first holiday after loss is like. Grief isn’t linear, and from the moment Mitch Clarke passes, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist shows us precisely what that sentiment means. Grief looks different on all of us, and as similar, as the two paths can be, there are still notable differences in how people process it. As Andrew Garfield so beautifully put it in his interview with Stephen Colbertgrief is all the unexpressed love, and in the way that tick…tick…BOOM! brings that to life through music, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist has been a similar form of comfort for so many viewers.

Thereby, it remains a gift that both pieces of fiction come out at the same time where the world is still fighting through a global pandemic, and it seems like losses are everywhere. Art, in this form, thus always provides the necessary comfort and almost effortlessly at that. Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas is a gorgeous piece of fiction that will undoubtedly guide someone through the pangs of loneliness upon its release. And while there are some impressive numbers throughout the film, the covers of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” and Judy Garland’s “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” deserve hearty praise.

In what rings like a love letter to everyone who’s ever lost someone, Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas lightens the dreary road so many are going towards with the holidays approaching. From a cast and crew who’ve continually made it clear they care most about the stories that are hardest to tell, the film acts as a reward for the fans who tirelessly fought to see a conclusion.


Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas: Wish You Were Here

Still from Zoey's Extraordinary Christmas
©Roku Channel

The truth is, most of us probably wish someone was still here and that’s largely why this rendition hits the hardest.

In the “Wish You Were Here” number, Jane Levy, Mary Steenburgen, Andrew Leeds, and Alice Lee pour everything they have into singing the kind of heart song that’s as evocative and as beautifully transcendent as “American Pie.” It’s a defying moment for the characters, but it’s a moment of catharsis for the audience too.

The most riveting feature that makes Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist so rewarding is the detail that the chosen songs are surprisingly intricate. While it’s lyrically an emotional song, I hadn’t felt this way formerly with Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” It hit before because it’s an undeniably powerful piece, but I hadn’t tied it to personal grief. And maybe, some viewers have. Or maybe, like me, someone somewhere will now connect with it differently.

At that moment, when each actor is given a solo before rising together, they deliver something so uniquely palpable to their character and the personal loss that encompasses them. You feel the heart in their voices, and you can see the ever-present pain that’s drowning them. Jane Levy captures pangs of grief with such a piercing sadness the moment the snow globe falls, it was easy to let out a guttural sob for her. And then, it was easy to worry so deeply for her while drowning in our own grief because she brought so much pain to the surface with the kind of subtlety that’s utterly breathtaking.

If you haven’t dealt with a close family member’s grief, may that darkness stay far away. Most who live with grief will say that’s something they wouldn’t even wish on their worst enemy. And how people choose to deal with the holidays remains as authentic as Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas showcases. People opt out of trees and decorations, and people out of any celebration. And yet, some people, like Zoey, try so hard to hold on that they do everything they can to keep fighting through their own grief.

And that’s the thing with grief—there are no rules. You don’t disrespect those who’ve passed away by celebrating, but you also don’t succumb to pain by opting out. But what’s crucial is that people know it’s okay to grieve in the ways they need to because there’s no enemy quite as haunting as pent-up emotions. And we watched variations of this come to life in the kind of film that feels tailor-made for healing.


Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

When Max loses the powers after the gorgeous “Time After Time” number with Zoey, she states that maybe she has them to feel closer to her father. And any one of us who’ve lost someone wishes we could be there right alongside her because dancing with her father again in her dreams is the best kind of remedy. Plus, in some indescribable way, it’s what so many of us needed too.

Jane Levy and Peter Gallegher as Mitch and Zoey in Zoey's Extraordinary Christmas
©Roku Channel

Peter Gallegher’s Mitch singing one of the most iconic, heartwarming Christmas songs ever to exist, Judy Garland’s “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” is the most beautiful decision made for the film.

Using a song about embracing the changes, moving forward, and accepting that it’s okay to allow the darkness to pass feels unbelievably right for the show. And the thing about “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” that’s always been a marvel is the detail that it’s one of the saddest yet simultaneously, most hopeful songs to exist. In a lot of ways, much like grief, the song is a conundrum of sorts. You can’t exactly put what it means into words, but you can try. You can allow yourself a moment of vulnerability to feel, and that’s what this moment between Jane and her father leaves us with. 

It leaves us with a moment of vulnerability to sit with our own sadness and try to find a way to understand that our loved ones would want us to create new memories. It’s a difficult fact to grapple with because we aren’t given heart songs the way Zoey is, but there’s such a natural essence to it that it helps.

Still from Zoey's Extraordinary Christmas
©Roku Channel

Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas delivers on all fronts. It provides plenty of brilliant moments for Mo and Perry, and as a whole, the film acts as a lost soul’s return to home. And that final scene with everyone at MaxiMo’s is the kind of happy ending I always imagined for this show. Pain will still be there, the sadness doesn’t go overnight, but the waves are easier to come out of it when there’s this much love by your side. This show has always been about shared grief and trauma wrapped in love.

You know Max and Zoey are stronger than ever after the beautifully vulnerable rendition of “Time After Time.” You know Mo and Perry are growing as an even stronger family after Amirah’s performance of “What Christmas Means to Me.” In short, the film is just the kind of holiday gem many of us will probably watch every year. But…it’s still something we wish we could have more of. This show is too special to end this quickly, but if this is the way to go, then at the very least, it’s been a healing experience.

Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas is now streaming free on Roku Channel!


One comment

  1. Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas was amazing, just like the series. I would love to see another season. Please consider creating another season of inspiration with beautiful songs.

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