A cynically selfish TV executive gets haunted by three spirits bearing lessons on Christmas Eve.
Year 1, Day 174
BEFORE: As Christmas approaches I return back to just one film a day having more than made up the time for my impending break. Scrooged continues with the Christmas theme and also with a comedy chain that’s formed. I am a big fan of Bill Murray (last seen in Lost in Translation) but am cautious about modernizing the classic Dicken’s story A Christmas Carol after seeing how badly Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet turned out.
AFTER: Turns out, Scrooged was actually a very well done modernization of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. This is a story that you’ve probably read or seen many times throughout your life and yet there’s still a newfound enjoyment for the classic tale.
The reason Scrooged was a good modernization is that it stayed true to the essence and the message of Dickens’ tale but changed the appearances of the characters and sets. I won’t go too much into my hatred for Romeo + Juliet but the biggest reason I think that film failed is because it just took Shakespeare’s words and plopped it in the 20th century. As a result, the whole film felt out of place and what the characters were saying and doing weren’t making any sense. In Scrooged the director, Richard Donner, just takes the idea (read: Scrooge is a selfish miser who hates giving and Christmas, is visited by three ghosts to show him the bad in that, and then the transformation into a kind and giving person - spoilers for anyone who has never read this popular tale) and adapts the characters and the setting from 1843 Britain into 1980s America. Scrooge is now Frank Cross (Bill Murray), a TV executive, Bob Cratchit is now Grace (Alfre Woodard), and there’s a bunch of new composite characters that give the film that freshness I mentioned.
While Scrooged succeeds in changing the story enough to keep it new and entertaining, there’s still some areas that miss the mark. Most of my complaints have to do with the Ghosts of Christmas Past (David Johansen), Present (Carol Kane), and Future. In the novel, Scrooge goes through a more gradual change into kindness and generosity if I recall. In this film, the Ghosts still show Scrooge events that make him think and question what he does, but that final transformation seems to sudden and abrupt. I think part of this has to do with the Ghosts themselves which I see in a decreasing order of effectiveness. To me, the Ghost of Christmas Past is the most effective at showing Scrooge things that upset him and make him want to change. Once you get to Present and Future, the Ghosts who need to deliver the final shove in the transformation process, there’s a feeling of inferiority.
IMDb lists Scrooged primarily as a comedy and secondarily as a drama. I would actually reverse that and say Scrooged is a serious tale with some funny parts thrown in to lighten the mood a bit (it is Christmas after all). But classifications aside, this was a terrific holiday film that does a great job at bringing Charles Dickens’ work to life in a new and refreshing way. While I’ve seen many other versions and adaptations of A Christmas Carol, I think Scrooged stands out at the top of the pack and is worth a watch in this festive time of year. It’s a great reminder of the spirit of Christmas and the holiday season, something that is greatly summarized in Bill Murray’s memorable closing speech.
And one last word of note: if you are watching this with others, make sure to keep it playing as the credits role for a bit of interactive cinema.
RATING: 4 out of 5