‘Scrooged’ (1988) – 6/10

So today I decided that I am going to watch more Christmas films from now up until Christmas. Today, I decided to watch ‘Scrooged’ for the first time. This is the 1980s classic directed by Richard Donner (who was behind such 80s corkers as ‘The Goonies’ (1985) and ‘The Lethal Weapon’ series).

Previously this week, I watched ‘A Christmas Carol’ (2009), which is the Jim Carrey animation variation of the same story. Both are based on ‘A Christmas Carol’, a novella by Charles Dickens about a banker called Ebenezer Scrooge who is visited by the ghost of Jacob Marley, his old business partner, on the 7th year anniversary of his death. Marley warns Scrooge that he will be visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come, as a warning of what will happen if Scrooge does not change his selfish and greedy ways. 

‘Scrooged’ has aspects of the original story within it (as the film would not be named after the main character otherwise), but is not a direct parallel of this (like the Jim Carey version). Instead, ‘Scrooged’ follows the life of Frank Cross (Bill Murray), a television executive who has many similar traits to Scrooge. For example, he is greedy, selfish and work oriented. He has sacrificed relationships and family life in the name of success. As Cross is scheduling a controversial live Dickensian-themed Christmas special at the television network he works for, he is visited by an old deceased business partner, along with all 3 ghosts of Christmas (much like Scrooge was), who show him where his life has fallen into disarray, and where his life will lead if he does not change.

I liked the idea that ‘Scrooged’ is a story within a story. I like that there are multiple layers to its narrative – the idea that Cross is creating a ‘Scrooged’ TV special whilst enliving the experiences Scrooge endures himself. I enjoyed the fact that this was an alternative to the literal variations that are created with regards to this film. Similarly, I like that this film has many traits that make it a classic 80s film, such as; dated hair cuts, daring clothing, Bob Goldthwait (who plays Eliot Loudermilk, but is better known for his appearance in the ‘Police Academy’ films), and cheesy comedy. I also love (and always will love) Bill Murray.

There’s something about Bill Murray that I adore. He has a charm (that is found in most films he stars in) that he has which makes me want to hang out with him and smoke a cigar, drink scotch and chew the fat. He is just so cool! He oozes this in ‘Scrooged’ whilst playing the character of Frank Cross. Even though this character is supposed to be an arrogant, selfish person, you can tell deep down that Murray is a lovely guy. This is not to say that he is a bad actor, as he plays this role with the right amount of humour intermingled with sass to pull off portraying a self-important television exec., but rather that he has an air of sinserity about him personally that he just cannot shake. I think that is why he partially takes on tongue-in-cheek roles, which is what this role is. It pokes fun at the original story of A Christmas Carol, whilst eloquently spreading the meaning of Christmas.

I must say, that in spite of loving all the above elements of the film, there were parts that irritated me. I felt that some of the humour was over the top. This included scenes where one of the television assistants gets repeatedly hurt in stupid scenarios. This was extremely exaggerated and slapstick in a dated way, which I must say irritated me – but then again this film is nearly 30 years old, so this style of comedy is probably appropriate for the time. Similarly, the Ghost of Christmas Present (Carol Kane) annoyed me. I thought she was a little too sickly and did not like that she kept hitting Cross. I know this was to make sure that Cross was put in his own place/ help him realise the errors of his ways, I just thought it could have been done less… or not at all. It did not add a lot to the story I don’t think.

As mentioned above, the hair cuts and clothing give this film a 80s feel that a love. That being said, although these images are dated, I thought that the special effects and make-up are great to say they’re nearly 30 years old! The scene where Cross’s old business partner comes to visit him is especially good. I much prefer special effects that require as little CGI as possible, and can see why the make-up department were nominated for an Oscar for this. There are certain scenes where Cross hallucinates too, that are edited brilliantly. This goes to show that older cinema techniques can stand the test of time if filmed/styled in a certain way.

Overall, as Christmas films go I really liked this film. It is not one of my favourites, as I have not seen it before now, and so don’t have the memories to evoke the Christmas emotions that psyche me up for the big day. Nonetheless, it has the potential for me to consider putting this in my list of Christmas films to watch each year. There are elements of the film that irritated me (like some of the ‘comedy’), but I feel like I can let this slide as it is a generational thing/Bill Murray smashes his role (as does Bob Goldthwait). The ending is a bit corney, but it’s a Christmas film, so what else do people expect from a Christmas film other than feel-good BS? It has definitely helped make me feel festive, so what more could you ask for from a Bill Murray Christmas film?

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