SCROOGED (1988) ****
Starring: Bill Murray, Karen Allen, John Glover, John Forsythe, Bobcat
Goldthwait, Carol Kane, David Johansen, and Alfre Woodard
Director: Richard Donner Running time: 101 minutes Rated PG-13 (for
violence, language, and sexual references)
By Blake French:
"Scrooged" is one of the top ten holiday comedies ever produced on the big
screen. It enables a viewer to experience the true meaning of cinema: to
jump out of our lives and experience another. Once in a long, long while we
get a movie with as much magically irrelevant context as Richard Donnar's
1988 adaptation of Charles Dickens classic fable. "Scrooged" holds a place
on my list of the top 100 American movies ever made.
The film takes place a few days before Christmas. Bill Murray stars as the
heartless Frank Cross, a corporate tightwad in charge of a highly
profitable television company. This man seldom gives raises, airs stomach
churning TV ads, and fires desperate employees at the drop of a hat,
regardless of what time of year it is. Currently, Frank's company is
producing the first live Christmas program on network television, on
Christmas eve. It is a Charles Dickens fable. Frank is at the prime of his
life, living a wealthy, glamorous, but unhappy life.
His greed soon catches up with him, however, when one night his old boss
visits him, who has now been dead for years. Frank is at first astonished;
he thinks he is hallucinating. The talking corpse tells him that very soon
he will be introduced to three ghosts involuntarily. Franks then calls his
old girlfriend, and continues on with his deprived life.
Bill Murray plays his role straight, with intensity and imagination--just
like everyone else in the cast. He acts like he is yelling at his workers,
and they act like they are being yelled at. This is what generates the film
all of its laughs. It takes the characters seriously, and the comical
situations in which they are placed are what makes the film
Each of the three ghosts visit Frank. They include The Ghost of Christmas
past, a rough cigar smoking taxi driver, an angelic but brutal pink fairy,
the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the most feared ghost, Christmas Future,
the death-resembling, dark capped figure. They each contribute a heartfelt,
terrifying message to Frank, explaining to him how that he either needs to
clean up his act and become a giving, generous man, or dastardly things will
happen to him.
The three ghosts are some of the most memorable characters ever seen in the
movies. The human characters are also very interesting and entertaining. The
filmmakers write each with distributive characteristics, provoking empathy
and captivation. They are wonderfully portrayed as well.
The interlocking stories each related to each other in Richard Donnar's
comedy classic as well. Each scene relates to the next with a strong,
supportive narrative through line through Frank Cross.
''Scrooged'' definitely fits into the comedy genre, and offers copious
amounts of laugh out loud material. There's even dialogue and sight gags
that provoke laughter. On the other hand, the film doesn't lose track of its
message by being all over the wall slapstick silliness. It leaves room for
the emotions and feelings present. For this type of comedy to work, the
humor needs to be played accurately. Some scenes involving the past of Frank
are quite emotional, and the filmmakers use this to their advantage to
develop the Frank character even further. ''Scrooged'' may be a spoof, but
if still holds true to the classic story it is based on.
I also enjoyed the illustrious style this film uses: a mesmerizing blend of
perfect set direction and colorful atmosphere. The sound track is very
effective as well, with memorable tunes and voiceless medleys. The closing
scene of ''Scrooged'' may feel a bit contrived and fake, but it also allows
us to leave the theater with joyful happiness inside. If this film doesn't
put you in the Christmas spirit, nothing will.
Brought to you by Paramount Pictures.