Christmas time is a season of giving, recieving and all-round merriment. It is no coincidence then, that Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol is one of the most enduring tales of the period. It is so popular that for years people have attempted to recreate, reimagine and reuse the story in the medium of film. From Scrooge to The Muppet Christmas Carol, the story of a miserly man named Scrooge who learns the error of his ways and becomes the embodiment of Christmas spirit is as synonomous with Christmas as Santa Claus himself. Taking the idea and reinventing it for the 1980s generation, Richard Donner cast top-bill comedian Bill Murray as Scrooge and made him a power-suit-wearing, yuppy TV executive in the 1988 film Scrooged.
Frank Cross (Murray) is a cold-hearted, cynical television executive, who sacrificed his true love Claire (Karen Allen) for success and wealth. One Christmas, Frank is given the job of overseeing a live Christmas TV special. Just before airing he is visited by the ghost of his dead former mentor who warns him to change the error of his ways. He is then visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future who explain why his current choice of lifestyle will not benefit him in the long run.
Scrooged sticks tightly to the basic structure of A Christmas Carol with its events. What it does do is bring it in line with the worst excesses of the 1980s. Murray is at his acerbic best as the miserly Cross and his moments of venom are the best moments of the film. His transformation is believable to a point, unfortunately the ending is so sweet and twee that even Murray can’t hold it together and he comes full circle as the audience is left feeling that he might just be putting on an act for his own benefit.
The ghosts in Scrooged, played by the always excellent and vaguely annoying David Johansen, Carol Kane and John Forsythe are inspired and really play the basic idea of what their supposed to represnt, while Bobcat Goldthwait and Murray’s brother John Murray are solid in their supporting roles as the ‘good-but-poor guys.’ Scrooged is not perfect as the necessity to have the proper, happy ending really does cause the film to run out of steam and it’s a shame that just a little bit of subversion of the audience’s expectations might have made it the best anti-Christmas film of all time.
As it stands though, Scrooged is a great Christmas film, with some good comedy, an incredible lead star and honest reinvention of a classic Christmas tale.