Directed by: Richard Donner
Starring: Bill Murray, Karen Allen, John Forsythe, John Glover, Bobcat Goldthwait, David Johansen, Carol Kane & Robert Mitchum
From director Richard Donner (of Lethal Weapon fame) comes this underrated Christmas gem, that he somehow managed to find the time to wedge between the aforementioned Lethal Weapon (1987), and its sequel Lethal Weapon 2 (1989). Starring Bill Murray in his first leading role since Ghostbusters (1984), it’s another excellent (and again, underrated) performance from the comedy actor. In Scrooged, he plays Frank Cross, a cynical, selfish and egotistical TV executive in charge of running his own TV station, which has started planning a live televised adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic novel ‘A Christmas Carol’.
What really makes this film stand out from the rest of the crowd, and makes it a lot of fun to watch, boils down to the premise of it being the story of Ebenezer Scrooge within another story of Ebenezer Scrooge. A “Scrooge-ception” if you will. The character of Frank is a modernised version of Scrooge, updated and brought to life in a more contemporary society. Hating on everything that is Christmas and not believing in the magical spirit of the jolly season – on the account of not having a very pleasant childhood during this time of year – he receives the alarming news from his old boss (who has risen from the dead) that he will be approached by three ghosts, each with the sole purpose to convince him that he needs to change his cold-hearted and bullish ways before it’s too late, becoming doomed to spend all eternity roaming the earth as one of the undead like his previous employer.
Following this encounter that Frank merely brushes off as just a bad dream after boozing on his stash of alcohol one late night in the office; his current boss, Preston Rhinelander (Mitchum) has had enough of Frank and his poor attitude to his fellow work colleagues, gradually making it obvious that he has plans to get rid of Frank by bringing in another young, hot headed TV executive (Glover) as his suitable replacement.
If this day wasn’t bad enough for him , he does indeed get invites from three ghosts – the familiar Ghost of Christmas Past, Ghost of Christmas Present and Ghost of Christmas Future – just like in the original Christmas Carol story that we all know and love. Weirdly enough, Frank never catches on and makes it known that he’s experiencing some kind of strange déjà vu that mirrors the very same story that he’s about to broadcast live to the world.
Against his own wishes, he’s taken on a trip down memory lane by his ghosts, to hopefully evoke an emotional response from him, which it does but of course he’s just way too stubborn and selfish to not attest to this. We are glided through his somewhat upsetting childhood at Christmas to his first chance meeting with Claire (Allen – more well known for her role as Marion Ravenwood in Raiders of The Lost Ark), his one true love and discovering what he’s missing during his absence with his family on Christmas day. All of these discoveries and memories bring nothing but regret to Frank’s life but it’s only when he’s shown an alternate reality by the ghost of Christmas future and a bleak one at that, where upon lying in his own coffin descending into the fiery furnace, pleading and begging that he doesn’t want to die was really all the answer the ghosts needed.
With the new found knowledge that he would end up in an early grave if he didn’t change the person he was had suddenly changed his life around. Happily screaming out at the top of his lungs ‘I’M ALIVE!’ he now has a new found love for life and the people around him, wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and offering a kind generosity that nor he or his colleagues and loved ones ever thought would happen.
So the moral message of this film folks, is that life just really is just too damn short. It’s about being happy and cherishing all the time you have in this world spending with the ones you truly love and care for. Christmas only happens once a year, the one time where we can forget about all the anger and hatred and petty arguments and just for once focus on all the happiness and caring and sheer generosity for one another, and what better time to remember this!