Paramount // 1988 // 101 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // December 12th, 2001
"That thing looked like the Manson family Christmas special!"
-- Eliot Loudermilk (Bobcat Goldthwaite), Scrooged
Ah yes, the holiday movie. We all have our favorites. Some of us are traditionalists who prefer Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life and the uplifting Miracle On 34th Street. Others enjoy cartoon treats like A Charlie Brown Christmas or The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (the cartoon version, NOT the live-action bastardization). Then there are those of us who love what I consider to be modern day classics: Bob Clark's A Christmas Story, the Chevy Chase gag fest National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and director Richard Donner's acidic retelling of Charles Dickens' classic "A Christmas Carol," Scrooged. Starring Bill Murray (Groundhog Hog), Karen Allen (Raiders Of The Lost Ark), John Forsythe (Charlie's Angels), and Carol Kane (TV's Taxi), Scrooged is now on DVD care of Paramount to brighten up your holiday season!
Frank Cross is the youngest president in the history at the IBC television network. Frank Cross is also a complete jerk, a man who indulges in criticizing others and jabbing mean barbs into everyone he comes in contact with. Frank Cross is a modern-day Scrooge. Cross is in the middle of producing a multi-million dollar adaptation of "Scrooge" that will air on Christmas eve (a holiday that Cross celebrates only by TV ratings). On the eve of his show, Frank gets a visit from an old friend: Frank's long dead boss Lew Hayward (John Forsythe), complete with chains and rotting skin. Hayward has come to warn Frank three ghosts will visit him on Christmas Eve (say them with me: past, present and future). What follows is a weird and wacky trip through Frank's life, loves (the one that got away, played by Karen Allen) and choices as he discovers what the true meaning of Christmas is really all about.
I get goose bumps just thinking about this movie. I remember seeing it back when it opened in theaters and I instantly feel in love with its biting wit and oddball charm. I also recall reading reviews of Scrooged that were very harsh -- many critics dismissed it (and Bill Murray's character) as being too mean spirited. I disagree. While the movie certainly has its fair share of off-color jokes and jabs, the heart of the film still lays firmly in Charles Dickens's classic tale of a man learning the real reason we celebrate Christmas (well, maybe not the real reason. There is no mention of Jesus Christ in the movie, so I guess it goes with the second reason we celebrate the holiday).
I may also be a bit biased seeing as I'm a big Bill Murray fan. He's one of those guys that you either love or hate. His winking comedic style has cracked me up for years, and Scrooged is no exception. Frank Cross is a typical Murray character, if a bit edgier than usual. Seeing as this is a modern day Scrooge, Cross comes off as both despicable and lovable at the same time. Only someone like Bill Murray could pull off that feat. The supporting cast around Murray is a mixed bag -- the late Robert Mitchum (Cape Fear) and Bobcat Goldthwaite are both funny as Cross' co-workers, but leading lady Karen Allen often is too cutesy and patient (I can't imagine that anyone would put up with Frank's abusive behavior no matter how much he was loved). The Bob Cratchit character comes in the form of Grace (Alfre Woodard, Grand Canyon) as Cross' secretary, and Tiny Tim is Grace's son who hasn't spoke a word since he saw his father shot and killed. While I found the end of the movie a bit forced (Cross wants a miracle, and by all that is holy and good he gets one with the little mute boy's first words), overall Scrooged has enough zingers and holiday cheer to make any cynic crack a smile.
I think that Scrooged is one of those rare movies that a lot of people like even though it was lambasted upon its initial release. I can see why many critics found this to be disparaging and vile; by no means is it as soft as White Christmas or It's A Wonderful Life. Instead, Scrooged plays for those of us who have a sense of humor that leans more towards the David Spade theory of comedy: hurtle as many cracks as you can and see what sticks. It may not be as uplifting as the original A Christmas Carol, but it is funnier. What more do you look for in a Christmas movie about Bill Murray, eggnog, and mice having antlers stapled to their heads?
Scrooged is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This transfer looks above average with only the smallest amount of grain and dirt showing up. Colors look very vibrant and bright with black levels very sharp and dark. There was a small amount of edge enhancement present in the picture, but it was hardly noticeable and shouldn't detract from the viewer's enjoyment.
Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 in English, as well as Dolby 2.0 Surround in English and 1.0 Mono in French. The 5.1 soundtrack is mildly full with some instances of surround use. While this track often sounds clear of any distortion or hiss, I didn't think that there was as much fidelity and depth as in other 5.1 remixes. Also included on this disc are English subtitles.
Extra features for Scrooged gets a hearty "humbug" from this reviewer seeing as all we get is a measly theatrical trailer presented in anamorphic widescreen. It looks like someone over at Paramount skimped on our Christmas bonus this year.
Up until the very end, Scrooged can be mean-spirited, cynical, and harsh. While the conclusion tries to be upbeat and fuzzy, it's a bit of a stretch. However, that's small potatoes compared to how much I laughed during this movie.
If you're a fan of this holiday classic then you'll defiantly want to pick it up before the holiday season rolls around. Since you'll probably only watch this movie once a year I'd advise renting it first if you haven't had the chance to experience the vast comedy that is Scrooged. Paramount has done only passable work on this title -- though it's nice to have a widescreen version of the film, the exclusion of any good supplements makes this disc somewhat disappointing.
Paramount is slapped with a small fine while Scrooged is absolutely free to go! Case dismissed!
Review content copyright © 2001 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Theatrical Trailer