When holiday preparations are in full swing, people sometimes need a bit of background spirit to help those fun activities like wrapping gifts, decorating the tree, and eating your neighbor’s two year old fruit-cake (at least that’s how it looks, I don’t touch the stuff).
Most people would probably put on Bing Crosby’s Old Fashioned Christmas, Elvis Presley’s Xmas in Hawaii, or maybe Barbara Streisand’s I’m Doing It for the Money Xmas Album. I, on the other hand, don’t care for such albums. I only seem to enjoy the electronica version of “Carol of the Bells” and Christmas parody songs.
No, when it comes to Christmas spirit, I usually go to the DVD collection for my background noise. Some of these films are classics. Some are most definitely not (except in my own mind). Some of them stop me from wrapping presents and decorating so I can make some spiked hot chocolate and laugh my ass off. The one thing they all have in common is that they infect me with the Christmas spirit, for better or for worse.
When it comes to holiday movies, we always have to be on our guard for those updated renditions of Christmas classics that are made for television, or even The Hallmark Channel. They’re usually trite, obvious, and downright boring. We know the story. How can telling it in the present day with a few new special effects possibly make an updated A Christmas Carol worth watching?
Luckily, no one told Richard Donner that, as he directed one of the greatest Christmas movies in history, Scrooged, which eclipsed both holiday classics and modern retellings.
Frank Cross, the president of a television network (played by Bill Murray) leads the typical life of a scummy, self-obsessed businessman. On the eve that his television station is to broadcast a live filming of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Frank is visited by the three ghosts of Christmas, who proceed to pummel him emotionally, psychologically, and even physically, in order to teach him the true meaning of Christmas, and also how to sing really badly in front of a camera for a movie finale.
Yes, this is another Christmas movie where the character learns the error of his ways after looking into the past, present, and future of his life and those around him. Obviously, the film-makers weren’t trying to hide the fact that this is a present day Christmas Carol: it functions as a plot device to keep the “day that Frank meets his destiny” rolling, and it works, maybe even better than the original. Although Frank, and all of the people around him, may think he’s going crazy, the movie stays grounded enough to make it believable that Frank has not missed Christmas, and can begin to fix his life, starting with the little mute kid who finally starts talking.
The movie is cheesy, but in a good way. Everything Frank Cross does is obvious and schticky, but it’s that comfort zone of knowing what’s coming that allows the quirky parts of the film to be accepted. (“Niagara Falls, Frankie angel.”)
The biggest nod in the movie goes to Bill Murray, of course, but not for acting ability alone. He shares the screen well with such talented under-the-radar actors and actresses such as Carol Kane, David Johansen, Karen Allen, and the illustrious Bobcat Goldthwait, to the point that you wonder why those stars haven’t risen very high. Murray makes everyone around him better.
I give Scrooged 5 out of 5 towels, and am not afraid to do so. Even if 5 VHS player/records would probably be better.