Scrooged (1988)

Bill Murray’s unsettling performance in this 80’s classic is still as memorable as it was 27 years ago. A film that can bring Christmas cheers to the most ardent of scrooges. 

Christmas films are tough balancing acts between originality and family fun. Scrooged combines the two, effortlessly retelling Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol through the lens of a programming executive at a fictional station, IBC.

Frank Cross (Bill Murray) is attempting a live, elaborate rendition of A Christmas Carol for prime-time Christmas Eve viewing when he fires a timid executive who questions his decisions. The film then follows the famous narrative as Cross is visited by the ghost of his mentor, before being taken on a journey by the ghosts of Christmases past, present and future. The ‘Bah Humbug’ is transformed over the two hours from a miserable cynic, to an advocate of Christmas cheer.

In an unusual role, Murray acts seriously, none of the tongue-in-cheek jokiness of Ghostbusters, four years its predecessor, more reminiscent of his more recent roles in St Vincent, or Wes Anderson’s Life Aquatic. I imagine at the time, this film would have made tough viewing for ardent Murray fans looking for his comedy flair. While it is clear the film remains a comedy, the vain by which it does this is entirely different from Murray’s early roles.

The familiarity in the story makes this film hard to dislike, while the modern overtones are a welcome break from the standard Dickens retelling, its structure remains. This is where it succeeds in its combination of authenticity and family fun, anyone familiar with the story can appreciate what it tries and successfully manages to do.

Richard Donner managed to bring Dickens to life in 1980’s America, making us feel the very soul of Scrooge. A Christmas treat that keeps on giving,Scrooged is enough to convince even the most ardent of Christmas film scrooges that holiday feels can sometimes be truly good.


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