The next Yuletide Christmas movie we’ll be covering is “Scrooged”, the 1988 retelling of the classic Charles Dickens novel, “A Christmas Carol”. We all know the basic plot: cold-hearted miser who abhors Christmas is shown the error of his ways by three ghosts, and redeems himself. This flick follows this formula to a tee, but updates it to a TV news station in the 1980’s.
Bill Murray stars in the Ebenezer Scrooge role of Frank Cross, a perpetually grumpy TV executive who will stop at nothing to ensure that his network gets the highest ratings. He plots to make all of his workers slave away on Christmas Eve by staging a live adaptation of “A Christmas Carol”. As Cross’ own memories of Christmas was less than fond, he takes his anger and bitterness out on his long-suffering assistant Grace (Alfre Goodard), and has alienated himself from his only brother, James (played by Murray’s own brother, John). When one of his employees, Elliot (Bobcat Goldthwait) poses an objection towards one of Cross’ promos for the network, he’s callously fired.
All of this leads into a very clear parallel of Dicken’s tale, especially when Cross is accosted by his old boss, Lew Hayward (John Forsythe), who warns him of the impending visit of three ghosts. There’s demonic cab driver, Ghost of Christmas Past (David Johanson), the nymph Ghost of Christmas Present (Carol Kane), and the Grim Reaper-like Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Through these encounters, Cross second handly witnesses the events that transpired to convert him into the man he is at present, the miserable lives of James, Elliot and Grace thanks to his influence, and the loss of his former love, Claire (Karen Allen). Will this be enough to make Cross see the light?
The main reason I love this flick is because of Bill Murray’s conviction in the lead role. Similar to his character in “Groundhog Day”, Murray’s Cross undergoes a transformation from a selfish egotistic to a more civil individual. However, there are some moments which seemed contrived and false, such as the one where Cross gatecrashes the taping of “A Christmas Carol” to recite a monologue of what he’s learned due to his exploits. To me, this speech, while intended to be heart-warming and touching, instead seems forced. Granted, Murray does what he can in that scene to make it believable, but it still falls flat. Likewise, almost all of Cross’ interactions with the Ghost of Christmas Present involve her beating him up, which didn’t seem necessary at all. (It’s worth reporting that Carol Kane hated having to rough Murray up in their scenes together).
On the other hand, the plot is a unique retelling of a classic Christmas plot. I liked how it wasn’t a direct retelling of the tale everyone’s heard almost umpteen times, but placed its own unique spin on things. Some performances which stood out significantly to me were Alfre Goodard as the put-upon assistant, and Karen Allen as the sweet idealistic Claire.
In summation, “Scrooged” achieves two and a half stars out of five from me. It’s worth watching for a different interpretation to “A Christmas Carol”, as well as hearing the Annie Lennox and Al Green cover of “Put a little love in your heart”. God bless us, everyone!