The Two Gay Geeks and our Staff are continuing on with our holiday madness…. errrr cheer as we bring more share another movie from the Christmas Closet. Some of our selections are classics and others are off-beat and loosely associated with the holidays. We hope you enjoy our offerings and that your holiday season is safe, sane, and satisfying.
By Andrea Rittschof
So the next in my series of Christmas movies to rewatch was Scrooged. I remembered liking it and I’ve always been a big fan of Bill Murray’s comedy style. However, Scrooged aired in 1988 and while it is indisputably a Christmas movie, my real question was whether the movie was still as good as I remembered or if the film had aged past the point of enjoying? What I discovered is that there are still some parts that were funny but not as hilarious as I recall. It was uneven in both the performances and the comedy but I still enjoyed certain portions and the ending still is sweet.
Obviously, Scrooged is a remake of A Christmas Carol. One of the plot points that in the eighties was innovative was that the movie takes place in a television station putting on a live performance of A Christmas Carol. It focuses on the president of the studio, Frank Cross, who hates Christmas and believes in using the holiday to build ratings for the station. Frank has spent his entire life around television, leaving relationships and family bonds, like his brother, by the wayside as he became the youngest president in the history of the station. He loves his brother James (John Murray) but won’t spend Christmas with him. He forces his secretary, Grace Cooley (Alfre Woodard) to work late and pick out his presents for the holidays. His hatred of Christmas bleeds over into the production of A Christmas Carol with a promo ad that scares people to death. When he’s warned by one of his employees, Elliot Loudermilk (Bobcat Goldthwait) that there could be problems, he fires the man.
After he fires his employee, he soon receives a strange visit, from his deceased boss. The man warns him he will have three visitors and Frank is spooked, he ends up calling his ex-girlfriend. Soon, Frank ends up re-enacting the events of A Christmas Carol, trying to figure out if he’s going insane while dealing with a corporate shark, Bryce (John Glover) who wants his job. In addition, he rediscovers he still has feelings for his ex, Claire (Karen Allen) but doesn’t value her work helping others, like the homeless. Frank must learn from the ghosts of Christmas or his job and his life will be at stake.
Scrooged did have some factors that I liked. One of the best elements is Frank’s time with each of the ghosts. The ghost of Christmas Past as a New York cabbie is an interesting choice and the actor plays the ghost just like the stereotypical cabbie, rude and with crazy driving. Carol Kane plays the Ghost of Christmas Present and she is absolutely comedy brilliance. I doubt the woman could have done a bad performance and even years later, her moments in the film are still funny, some of the funniest in the movie. Bobcat Goldthwait plays Elliot and he does this slow-simmering transformation from a gentle, nice guy to a crazed, gun-toting madman. Bill Murray does a similar change, going from a self-obsessed workaholic, mean to all around him to a man who cares about Christmas, his family, and the love of his life. The scenes when he’s playing the younger version of himself are believable and have all the goofy charm that I love about Bill Murray. He can pull off the older version, mean and rude but the goofiness of those scenes is what make you believe his character is actually lovable.
The acting in the film is quite good, with excellent performances by Alfre Woodard as Frank’s secretary and a single widowed mother struggling with helping her son, who isn’t speaking. She takes a simple role and breathes dignity and beauty into the performance. Bill Murray plays his character perfectly, in tune with both Frank’s negative side as well as his more vulnerable side. When he gets the audience to empathize with Frank, it is sheer genius. But there are also times he needs some editing, with a comedy bit that just is over the top. Karen Allen is sweet and optimistic as Claire but I would have liked more depth to her character. The two stand out performances for me are Carol Kane and Bobcat Goldthwait, bringing the comedy to life, each in subtle, brilliant performances.
The themes of Scrooged still work well, probably because of its basis on the classic story. Christmas is about spending time with each other and giving. The movie demonstrates what happens when we lose sight of that and the ending is sweet and heartwarming. We also see that same beauty in Karen Allen’s character, Frank’s ex-girlfriend who spends her time helping the homeless and giving selflessly. The ending illustrates the change in Frank’s character perfectly and ends the movie on a high note that is much needed.
There are aspects that no longer work. The first is that the film is just too long for a comedy. This throws the pacing off and means that the comedy aspects aren’t as enjoyable because you tune out during the less engaging parts. If the movie had trimmed down some of the scenes, it would have been funnier. There are several scenes with Frank that could have trimmed a tiny element or two and would not have hurt the overall film.
There were scenes where the graphics and the design just didn’t stand up to today’s technology. The Ghost of Christmas Future, for example, comes across as cheesy and corny rather than creepy or remotely scary. It may have been played for laughs but it just loses my attention because I can’t take the creation seriously. The zombie boss was a very old-school zombie and much like the Ghost of Christmas Future could have used an overhaul. Little details like hair and clothes can be overlooked but the old designs of the buildings lacked the same energy I remember and I really feel like the promo that Frank runs would no longer work today. Something similar might but it would need to be re-designed.
Lastly, the film just isn’t as funny as I remember. There are some charming bits with Bill Murray. I certainly found him endearing and sweet in the final scenes with Claire. I found certain people hilarious but that didn’t carry over to the entire film. Certainly, the length is part of the reason but some of the jokes just fall flat and no longer work, if they ever did.
However, the ending is compelling and if no longer as funny, it still works for families and children, with several points that will make you laugh still. Carol Kane and Bobcat Goldthwait are worth the time plus it has an incredibly diverse cast and some cameos that I completely missed the first time I saw it. Bill Murray still has some very charming moments. If you like a true Christmas movie, embracing hope and miracles, with magic involved, this is certainly one to revisit.
Scrooged can be purchased at Amazon.