It’s not even Thanksgiving yet and we’re already devoting a second Scenes We Love list to a Christmas movie. Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of Scrooged, so how could we not? Did you know this modernization of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol had the fourth best opening of 1988? And of those four, it debuted in a significantly fewer amount of theaters, giving it the second-best per-screen average among them. It also opened on a Wednesday, like three of those films, and of those three it had the second-best five-day opening. People clearly loved this movie, right? Not quite, but they really wanted to see it. Unfortunately, it didn’t stay at or near the top for very long. By the big holiday weekend, it was in 9th place, behind stuff like Tequila Sunrise, The Naked Gun and Oliver and Company. But at least it was doing better than Ernest Saves Christmas.
Scrooged received a fair amount of negative reviews when it came out, and maybe the audiences then were disappointed, especially if they were hoping for something as entertaining and funny and spectacular as Ghostbusters, since this was both Bill Murray’s first comedic starring vehicle since then and it was also marketed to that film’s fans. In the decades since, many of us have warmed to it, probably through countless TV airings, where it does seem kind of appropriate. Back then perhaps audiences weren’t happy with how unlikable Murray’s character is for much of the movie, even though that’s part of the point. I also wonder if him sort of repeating that idea to great effect with the better Groundhog Day has retroactively made him tolerable in Scrooged.
Whether you love Richard Donner’s Oscar-nominated (for makeup) holiday comedy or you need a reminder how much fun it is, check out our picks for some of the best scenes below.
Frank’s Style of Marketing
Who doesn’t love a good satire of television programming and marketing? First we see the normal way of selling a live Christmas Carol event, and it’s straightforward if boring. Then Frank (Murray) presents how he would do it. With fearmongering and a reminder of the Hell on Earth viewers are out to escape from. To Frank’s credit, this ad does have a good point. The whole world needs to watch the Dickens classic to be reminded of not only what Christmas means but to be better everyday. Maybe if everyone tunes in, the pollution and terrorism and especially the freeway killers will be no more – because the evil people responsible will have changed their ways. Someone should do another remake of A Christmas Carol where the whole planet has to go through what Scrooge (and Frank) goes through.
The Night the Reindeer Died
While we’re on the subject of satires of TV programming, let’s go back a bit to the opening of the movie and the commercial for a fake Christmas action movie starring Lee Majors called The Night the Reindeer Died. The funny thing is that Scrooged came out a few months after Die Hard and unless this spot was tacked on much later than the main film shoot, it kind of anticipated it. It’s basically “Die Hard in Santa’s Workshop.” It looks a lot more like Die Hard 2 than the original, though.
Programming for Cats
More TV industry humor! We’re halfway down the list and we haven’t even really gotten to the Dickensian plot. But we do get the great Robert Mitchum as an executive who proves Frank isn’t the most ludicrous programming businessman at IBC. As Preston Rhinelander, Mitchum suggests, based on a silly study of course, that the network needs either shows directly targeted at dogs and cats or at least shows with material that will appeal to the pets. I think we’ve actually passed the point where that’s become a reality, haven’t we? Anyway, it’s thanks to this conversation that we later get the still-funny gag about stapling antlers to the heads of mice.
“Niagara Falls, Frankie Angel”
There are a few great moments during the Ghost of Christmas Past sequence. If we wanted to continue the TV programming jokes, we’d go with the kid show Frank works on when he’s young. “It’s a bone, you lucky dog!” is probably the best thing to ever come out of the mouth of Buster Poindexter – I mean David Johansen – and I say that as someone who likes the New York Dolls. I also like the cab ride introduction, which leads me to believe Johansen could have played Beetlejuice (or is that just the Danny Elfman score’s doing?). This scene, though, is just the sweetest. The kid who plays little Frankie (Ryan Goldstein, now a filmmaker) breaks my heart every time with his line readings. And the punchline at the end about why five pounds of veal is a great gift is a perfect mood killer. I also love that Murray gets his family in this movie, with older brother Brian Doyle-Murray playing his own father.
Some terrific character actors in this bit. You’ve got Michael J. Pollard (Bonnie and Clyde; Dick Tracy), Anne Ramsey (The Goonies; Throw Mama From the Train), who’d passed away a few months before the movie opened, and her husband, Logan Ramsey (Star Trek; Head). And then Murray just dominates them all with his nonsensical Richard Burton impersonation. I’d love to Murray to another Shakespeare film but this time do it completely in this voice and style and speech, even if none of what he says is authentic nor makes any sense. I swear, by thee I forswear.
Ghost of Christmas Present
We can’t celebrate the film’s character actors without including the amazing Carol Kane. She’s nutty, she’s pretty, she’s rough – in fact her means of travel is by violently abusing Frank. Who wouldn’t want to get beaten up by this woman? (Or am I the only one who’s always had a thing for her?) The toaster bit isn’t in the scene below, unfortunately, but that just means you should go and watch the whole movie. And it’s easy to do that, via Amazon Instant Prime and a number of other options. It’s also probably already airing on TV for the holiday season. No, it’s not too early. It’s never too early to put a little love in your heart.