When this Richard Donner (The Goonies, Lethal Weapon) directed and starring Bill Murray (Groundhog Day, Ghostbusters) film was released in 1988 the critics were none too kind to it. I guess they wanted a meaner, darker film, but rewatching it today I have to say that it ain’t half bad and the reason for that is Murray’s exuberant portrayal of Frank Cross, the meanest executive working in television.
Frank Cross (Bill Murray) is a television executive at a New York City based station. Not just any television executive, but the meanest and most selfish one (and that is saying a mouthful) in all the land. To increase his station’s ratings he will stop at nothing. No level is too low for him to stoop. An example of this cutthroat and take no prisoners mentality is when he makes his staff work on Christmas Eve. His station is going to run a live adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. Cross does not have any Christmas spirit due to his harsh upbringing, so it makes no difference to him.
To give him some insight into what Christmas truly is about three spirits bring him on a voyage that shows Frank why he needs to change. The Ghost of Christmas Past (David Johansen – The Aviator, Get Him to the Greek), The Ghost of Christmas Present (Carol Kane – Annie Hall, The Princess Bride) and The Ghost of Christmas Future (Robert Hammond – Predator 2, The Blob) all show him how much he needs to change.
The story behind Scrooged is an old one that has been told many times. In literature and in films (example: It’s a Wonderful Life) the concept of showing a person the true meaning of life by bringing them through a voyage of the world without them is one that has been used a lot. But it is not one, despite how many times it has been used, that we ever seem to bore of. We love the whole concept of miracles and how each person on Earth is here for a reason and a good one.
Like all good films should, Scrooged allows us to jump out of our own consciousness into that of another and experience life through them. We learn the lessons of the importance of being giving and generous in our lives and to those around us. Simple concepts, but ones that need to be reinforced through repetition as it seems like we often forget about them.
Bill Murray is why this film works. He jumps into the dastardly character with both feet. Commits completely. Murray is evil and heartless when called upon to be. The key is that he is believably so. The humour in the film comes because he plays the character in a straight manner rather than over-the-top evil. As a result humour comes out of his straight man act. Coupled with witty dialogue and sight gags the result is plenty of laugh out loud moments.
A spoof of the original tale, yes, but still one that will put you in the Christmas spirit with each viewing.