Stuff I Watch in December: Scrooged (1988)

scrooged

Happy Holidays and welcome! We are counting down the days until December 25th and, in that time, I will be reviewing each and every Christmas/holiday film I watch during the month. They’re mostly a selection of films in my own library or films and shows that have been recommended to me.

Please enjoy and leave a comment!

And if you missed any of our past reflections, take a look:

Holiday Inn (1942)
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
White Christmas (1954)
Santa Claus (1959)
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (1972)
Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)
I Believe in Santa Claus (1984)
Lethal Weapon (1986)
Die Hard (1988)
Ernest Saves Christmas (1988)

Our next film is…

WATCHING: Scrooged (1988)

scrooged

DIRECTOR: Richard Donner who also directed Lethal Weapon, a film we covered here earlier.

WHAT IS IT?: A wonderful dark and modern comic take on the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol.

THE PLOT: Francis Xavier Cross (Bill Murray) is a complete asshole TV exec who doesn’t care about much of anything. He’s cheap, abrasive, volatile and impulsive, treating everyone — including his assistant Grace (Alfre Woodard) with complete and utter disdain. As the stress of producing an over-the-top, all-star version of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” begins to mount, Cross lets loose, firing one of his most loyal staff members (Bobcat Goldthwait) because he didn’t agree with Cross on the direction of the show. What’s worse: he’s estranged from his brother who continues to make overtures to join the family despite Frank wanting nothing to do with him.

Enter the spirit of the very dead Lew Hayward (John Forsythe) who visits Cross the night before the show is going to air. He warns Frank that he’s become so awful that he’ll end up just like him. Frank laughs this off at first until Hayward proves that the visit isn’t a prank. From there, Frank goes the “Christmas Carol” route and is visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future in an attempt to make him a better man.

WHAT DID CRITICS THINK?: Critics were largely divided on Scrooged. Ebert hated it. Several critics said that Murray plays such an abrasive character, it makes him and the rest of the film unattractive. Other critics called the film cynical — but a dead-on-the-mark satire of Christmas Gone Corporate. The writers of the film were furious with the finished product, calling it “an unabashed piece of shit”.

WHAT DID I THINK?: Scrooged is one of those films that split its audience down the middle. On the one hand, Murray plays Frank Cross as such a bastard that you can’t even come close to identifying with him. Furthermore, the film gets dark and gritty and mean and uncomfortable and cannot decide whether it’s a re-telling of Dickens’ classic story or a cynical satire on the entertainment industry.

On the other hand, Dickens’ tale is dark anyhow so a fan of the story might also enjoy the clever way it’s re-told in a modern setting.

The sequences with the spirits are the highlight of the film with singer/songwriter David Johansen (AKA “Buster Poindexter”) playing the grimy The Ghost of Christmas Past, the absolutely adorable Carol Kane playing a very violent version of Christmas Present and there’s also the obligatory Grim Reaper-like Christmas Future who looks like something Jim Henson and Terry Gilliam gave birth to.

Scrooged is a lot of fun once it gets rolling and parts of it do recall Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night as well as It’s a Wonderful Life but your tolerance for this film will depend solely on how much darkness and mean-spirited stuff you can take.

GRADE: B

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