"Scrooged" opens in the clouds, and then suddenly descends on a snowbound cottage. Signs inform us that it's Santa's workshop and we're at the North Pole. Inside, elves work hastily as Santa prepares himself for his impending duty on Christmas Eve night. But then, terrorists, packing some serious heat with them, lay siege to the workshop.
Panicking, Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the elves run towards the back of the shop, open a tool cabinet, which reveals an arsenal of M-16s, and soon everybody's armed to the hilt with automatic weaponry. But then Lee Majors appears on a snowmobile and reassures Santa that Christmas will be coming on time this year. Then Lee goes to work killing the terrorists with a large Gatling gun.
Then we're treated to a promo spot for a television production of "Scrooge," which features a bloody highway shooting, a plane blowing up, and drug addicts taking heroin. It is this sort of cynicism that's underlying in much of the subtext of this film, and it's also something that Frank Cross (Bill Murray), "the youngest television president in network history," thrives on.
And so opens "Scrooged," director Richard Donner's contemporary take on Charles Dickens's classic tale "A Christmas Carol." Dickens's novel has been fodder for countless television, film, and stage productions over the 150+ years it has been an accepted part of American literature, and this 1988 dark comedy is the latest incarnation.
The biggest reason it has is because it describes the need for mankind to not be so selfish, and it takes three ghastly apparitions over the course of a 24-hour period to show an old miser the error of his ways.
But all of this is in the past. Cross is so swept up in himself, that he gives bath towels to everyone (even his only brother) on Christmas. He asks his loyal secretary Grace (Alfre Woodard) to stay late at work, despite the fact that she has to take her mute son to the doctor. ("I care!" Frank says, when she confronts him about it.) He fires an underling named Eliot (Bobcat Goldthwait) for questioning him about his un-Christmas-like promo ads. He shuns Claire (Karen Allen), the only woman who's ever cared about him when she tries to provide comfort for the homeless. Yeah, Cross is every bit as a unsavory as most misers are when it comes to "A Christmas Carol."
But life is about to change for Frank, and that's marked by the sudden and (literally) explosive appearance of the rotting corpse of his late boss. The walking, talking "worm feast" informs Frank that he's going to be visited by three ghosts over the next 24 hours, and this may be his last chance to change his ways. And from there on, it's ghastly, darkly comic hilarity as Frank goes back, forward, and stays in the present as three ghosts (a manic cabbie, a jilted, abusive fairy, and a towering, cloaked skeleton, respectively) take him on a wild ride through his life.
Bill Murray is at his comic best here, getting "Scrooged" the way someone in his position should. Much like the lead character in "A Christmas Carol" realizes the error of his ways, Frank Cross does so too, but with a kind of cynicism that could only be provided by someone as indifferent, uncompromising, and selfish as him. And he's also quite aware from the appearance of the first ghost of what this trip entails.
The makeup and special effects are also worthy of some mention. The ghosts all look fantastic, even though some would argue that the effects that brought them to life are dated; well, this movie was made in 1988 for crying out loud!
I liked "Scrooged," as it is certainly a fantastic Christmas movie to watch, and is quite funny, especially just to see Murray get his comeuppance in a role that seems to suit him perfectly.
Watch Bill Murray get "Scrooged" - 10/10
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