Unfortunately Charles Dickens never knew of the institution he was about to create when he sat down to pen ‘A Christmas Carol’. Over 160 years on and we’ve been assaulted by adaptation after adaptation, some good (Alistair Sim’s 1951 Scrooge), some musical (the 1970’s musical rendition), some animated (2009’s Jim Carrey affair) and some muppet-ed (A Muppet Christmas Carol). None, however, manage to parody the story whilst capturing its essence as well as 1988’s Scrooged does.
Bringing the story into the world of 1980’s America, director Richard Donner’s modernised retelling of the tale thankfully loses none of the magic provided in the original novella. The brilliant Bill Murray plays Frank Cross, the film’s Scrooge character, a man whose hunger for power and success has pushed away everyone who has ever loved him. Instead Frank is surrounded by employees who either fear or loathe him (and in some cases both), alcohol and loneliness. Enter Lew Hayward (his predecessor who died after being struck by lightning on a golf course), who warns Frank to abandon his selfish ways to avoid eternal damnation. Sound familiar? Of course it does. Frank ignores the ghost’s advice and pushes forward with his company’s production of a live-action retelling of Dickens’s story… but then the other ghosts arrive. Will Frank change in time to redeem himself?
Scrooged is filled with both comedic and heart-warming moments. All the well-known characters are present but are given interesting spins – the part of Crockett is replaced with a forlorn secretary who has to deal with Frank’s cruel outlook whilst the individual ghosts themselves all brilliantly challenge their on-screen predecessors. With the Ghost of Christmas Past being a taxi driver, the Ghost of Christmas Present being a batty fairy and the Ghost of Christmas Future being a spookily intimidating robot-esque hooded figure, none are quite what Dickens described.
Bill Murray is, undoubtedly, the film’s highlight. His trademark sarcastic dead-panning works exceptionally well here and moulds to the character of the Scrooge-like Frank perfectly. The perfect balance between disbelief and a hope for redemption Murray portrays makes him likeable despite the fact that his character delivers lines such as ‘all day long I listen to people give me excuses why they can’t work… “My back hurts!”, “My legs ache!”, “I’m only four!”. The sooner he learns life isn’t handed to him on a silver platter, the better!’. What a charmer.
A love interest has been neatly slipped into the mix in the guise of Claire (Karen Allen) who helps Frank find his heart after years of ignoring it. If you think you recognise Claire then you probably do – she’s none other than Indy’s love interest in Indainna Jones parts three and four. The multiplicity of the film is another of its strengths. Although comedy surrounds the film’s core, it also interestingly scrutinises the power of Christmas TV.
Scrooged is a great Christmas film that allows Bill Murray to perform at his best. With its entertaining ending and enthralling ghost scenes it’s a must-see in the festive period!
Best line: Props man: ‘I can’t get the antlers glued to this little guy. We tried Crazy Glue, but it didn’t work’.
Frank: ‘Did you try staples?’
Best performance: Bill Murray as Frank Cross
Best ghost: The Ghost Christmas Past
Watch this if you liked: Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day