Movie Name: Scrooged
Studio: Mirage Studios
Release Date(s): November 23, 1988
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Francis “Frank” Cross (Bill Murray) is running a top television station but hates the world. With the holidays coming up, the IBC is putting on a version of the Christmas Carol which will stretch around the world. Frank fears that the station’s owner Preston Rhinelander (Robert Mitchum) is threatening to replace him with Brice Cummings (John Glover) and in addition to this he believes he is cracking up. Frank is seeing ghosts. First the ghost of the former manager Lew Hayward (John Forsythe) and then the Ghost of Christmas Past (David Johansen), the Ghost of Christmas Present (Carol Kane), and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. With each ghost, Frank is being forced to reexamine his past, his relationship to his brother James (John Murray) and his wife Wendie (Wendie Malick), his secretary Grace Cooley (Alfre Woodard), and the former love of his life Claire Phillips (Karen Allen)…but the deadline is approaching and the show must go on!
Directed by Richard Donner, Scrooge is an adaptation and modernization of the Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol from 1843. Although originally met with mixed reviews, the film has garnered a cult following and is now often considered a holiday classic among other version of the classic tale. The movie was nominated for an Oscar for Best Makeup.
The movie has a tricky plot. It has to tell the classic story of A Christmas Carol which everyone knows, modernize it, and make it a comedy. For the most part the movie succeeds, but it also doesn’t quite make sense that no one says “hey, this is just like A Christmas Carol which your channel is putting on” when Murray begins having his visions of ghosts. I would have liked a bit smarter reflexive plot that looks at a possible psychological reason he’s seeing ghosts.
This film was at Bill Murray’s comedy peak and is largely a showcase for Bill Murray. The humor of the movie stems a lot from Murray’s delivery and not as much from the script (which everyone essentially knows). Murray is back by a great supporting cast. Karen Allen returns to her Raiders of the Lost Ark romance role as Claire, and Alfre Woodard is a nice female version of Scrooge’s abused secretary. Bobcat Goldthwait also has a pretty big role as a man down on his luck due to Frank. You have good weaselly characters in John Glover and Robert Mitchum, and the ghosts are fun (especially Carol Kane’s pain inducing Ghost of Christmas Present). With the TV station tie, there is also appearances by Jamie Farr, John Houseman, Robert Goulet, Buddy Hackett, Lee Majors, and Mary Lou Retton playing themselves…plus, you get appearances by Murray’s brothers Brian Doyle-Murray, Joel Murray, and John Murray.
The effects of the film work for the film. At points like with Lew Hayward’s character the horror of the ghost is emphasized, but for something like Carol Kane’s fairy, a classic, scaled back approach to the character is used. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come’s TV head is a perfect idea since it can reflect the modern day…I think it should have been used a bit more.
Scrooged is a good addition to your family’s holiday plans. The film has a PG-13 rating but is pretty harmless with some language. It also goes to remind you how big people like Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, and John Candy were in the ’80s and early ’90s. It is the holidays…revisit Scrooged if it’s been a few years since your last stop.