12. Scrooged (1988)
Scrooged is one of my favorite Christmas films and the first of Film Misery’s 12 days of Christmas!
Dickens classic tale, A Christmas Carol, has had countless cinematic and televised renditions, and quite honestly I have little appreciation for any of them other than Scrooged. The title is quite obviously a reference to the classicâ€™s lead characterâ€™s name, Ebenezer Scrooge. This is, however, not a typical page-to-screen adaptation. It is a modernization that antagonizes the television/entertainment industry by making it the corrupting job that makes Scrooge such a humbug.
The film came out in 1988 when Bill Murray was in his comedic heyday with such films as Stripes, Ghostbusters, and Caddyshack. It is directed by Richard Donner, coming hot off of a strong decade having directed, The Omen, Superman, and Lethal Weapon. However, for both of them, Scrooged was a bit of a new turn, and in a way, a combination of the two of them. It was comedic in a manner similar to Murrayâ€™s other endeavors but it was tonally dark and flashy with its special effects, classic Donner. But if I were to compare the film to anything, it would be the work of John Landis, particularly An American Werewolf in London.
Murray stars as Frank Cross, a corrupt and cold hearted TV executive who is forced to supervise a Christmas Eve rendition of A Christmas Carol. His heartlessness has caused him alienation and quite literally makes him Scrooge. During the production, Frank finds his own life mirroring the Dickens story. He is visited by three very entertaining ghosts, one has a shotgun, and another has a TV screen for a face. Karen Allen stars as his love interest and the films tool for Frankâ€™s emotional appeal.
What makes the film endlessly amusing to me is the quirks of the minor characters, the satirical manner in which it represents the film industry, and the utterly pitch black sense of humor applied to Christmas comedy. But of all the wonderful gags in the film, the striking supporting cast that includes John Forsythe and John Glover, the absurdity of the literary interpretation, and Bill Murray doing his classic but lovable comedic routine, the thing that really sells Scrooged to me is pet appeal.
Pet appeal is the thought that TV stations should include animals in productions and commercials for the sake of remembering four-legged friends in their ratings. This is suggested as part of the televised Dickens tale. This bit is particularly nostalgic for me because I used to watch TV with my family and my dog, Kandy. And whenever an animal appeared onscreen I made sure to inform Kandy that â€œpet appealâ€ was on TV. Iâ€™m sure she had no idea what we were talking about and neither did I. I just heard by siblings and parents do it, so I started to. I literally shouted â€œKandy! Itâ€™s pet appeal!â€ for years without realizing I was referencing Scrooged. Now whenever I see the film, I find myself especially amused. This isnâ€™t necessarily to the filmâ€™s credit. But it caught our attention on a personal level. So through a weird combination of sentiment and cynicism, I connect with this film.
Scrooged is ultimately falls short ofÂ being a timeless classic but it was a respectable career move for Bill Murray at the time and a great companion film to his eighties greats. It is kind of like a weird Tim Burton comedy; in many ways it is the closest Christmas film to Nightmare before Christmas (which is a compliment in my book). It is a horror-comedy-Christmas romp of dry, sadistic humor and a thoroughly enjoyable ride from start to finish that dares its viewers not to laugh.
It has been years since I have taken the time to sit through Scrooged, it did not disappoint. Christmas films are really a bit separate from the rest of cinematic genres. While they can be truly artistically sound and great, the very idea of pretentiously critiquing a Christmas film goes against the very holiday that the film is celebrating. Scrooged, like many Christmas films, laughs in the face of pretentiousness and laughs in the face of the industry that produces it. Itâ€™s really an intelligent blockbuster that embraces the irony of its own contradictions. This may not be the definitive Dickens adaptation, but I will pick Murray over Scott, Stewart, or Carrey any day.