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Scrooged (1989)

2 December 2002 by Gnoll No Comment

SCROOGED


1989, Dir. Richard Donner.

101 min. Rated PG-13.
Starring: Bill Murray, Karen Allen, Bob Goldthwait, John Forsythe.

Review by Noel Wood

#9 on our list of the Best Christmas Movies Ever!

Bill Murray is one of the most consistently funny men in the history of modern cinema, and one of those folks who can make even the most mediocre scripts rather enjoyable. Such is the case with SCROOGED, the film that I’ve chosen as the #9 Christmas film of all time. It’s one of my least favorite Bill Murray movies, but even with that stigma, it still manages to make a top ten best list. That certainly says something about our man Murray.

Of course, unlike the previous movie I reviewed for the top ten, THE REF, this is a tried-and-true Christmas movie. Sure, it’s a little more uncouth and rough around the edges than a MIRACLE ON 34TH ST., but it still focuses on the holiday as its main plot point and delivers an uplifting little message at the end. I guess that has a lot to do with the fact that SCROOGED is an update of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, a story that every person who’s ever celebrated the yuletide spirit has to be familiar with.

It’s a pretty fun little update, with Murray in the role of our updated Scrooge, Francis X. Cross. Cross is a big-time television exec, and like all big-time television execs in the world of cinema, he’s a cold, thoughtless bastard who only cares about himself. Some of his victims include his secretary Grace Cooley (Alfre Woodard), who serves as the black female version of Bob Cratchit, and Eliot (Bobcat Goldthwait), who is fired by Cross and later comes back like a disgruntled postal worker. Of course, in keeping with the original novel, Cross is visited by three Christmas ghosts: Past (Carol Kane), Present (David Johansen), and Future (some big dude in a black robe with a TV for a head). We all know how the story goes, Scrooge has his little change of heart, and goes on to love Christmas once and for all. Except in this version, he does a big sing and dance number to let the world know how he feels.

Well, it’s certainly not a terrible movie, but it could stand to be better. I blame that mainly on the fact that Richard Donner is a pussy (yeah, Richard, you thought you were going to get through a review without that, huh?). Murray does his best to keep the film enjoyable, but even he can’t get by some of the hurdles. The tone is muddled, the characters aren’t very likeable, and the film has some particularly slow parts that just weigh it down. There are some memorable moments, but again, it’s not the best thing Murray has done. At one point, Cross suggests using staples to affix antlers on to the head of mice during a live television version of the same story that the movie itself is taken from. That’s kind of retarded in itself. Not the antler part, which is kinda funny, but the fact that they’re doing “Scrooge”. Why not some other holiday classic? Isn’t there a such thing as too much of a good spoof?

Anyway, what saves the film are its performances. Murray is the gel that holds everything together; without him, all the gags would be lost and the film would just be stuck in the ground from the opening reel. Goldthwait, Kane, and Karen Allen do a fine job of bringing life to their characters. Overall, definitely one that merits repeat viewings and holds up after several years, even with its imperfections.

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