Christmas is on the way! I’m not a yay, rah Christmas! kind of guy, but I’m not all bah humbug, either. I can’t stand Christmas music, but I do love egg nog and gift-giving. I get by, is my point. I’ve seen some Christmas films, and probably more than you’d expect, considering the nature of this column. I may have grown up without cable or much of a video collection, but Christmas films pretty much always turn up on broadcast TV somewhere in the month of December. I actually had to hunt a bit to find films to watch for this month, believe it or not.
Let’s start out with Scrooged, a Bill Murray take on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” which, with a meta angle, actually features a production of said classic tale within its plot. (Weirdly, they only refer to it as “Scrooge” throughout the film.) And that’s as good a place to start as any…
The greatest shortcoming of this film is that it’s just another “Christmas Carol.” I know, I know, it’s Bill Murray, and most of the movie-going public loves Bill Murray. I love Bill Murray. I bet Bill Murray loves Bill Murray. But even giving a wink and a nod to the fact that it’s just another retread of that old story doesn’t change the fact that it’s just another retread of that old story.
It’s a good retread of that story, don’t get me wrong. The casting is great, and Bill Murray as creepy TV exec Frank Cross works really well. (Did he make that scary-ass promo and then sit and watch the one his underlings made anyway just to screw with them?) Bobcat Goldthwait does great as a sad-sack employee of the network, and Alfre Woodard as Murray’s assistant is also excellent. I especially enjoyed Karen Allen as Murray’s former flame, who had surprisingly good chemistry with him.
The best parts, naturally, are the ones where Murray (probably) got to improvise. His monologue at the end, for example, is a bit rambly, but it feels genuine. The scene where he sees himself being cremated while The Ghost of Christmas Future is visiting was another good moment for him, albeit in a different way. It’s actually really intense and kind of eerie, with Murray screaming to his brother (who, of course, cannot see or hear him) to not “let them burn [him].” I really wish I could find it on YouTube, but alas, the internet has failed me.
One thing that I thought was going to be unique to the film was the idea that, as a young boy, Cross had watched so much television it had warped his memories. He runs through several memories and The Ghost of Christmas Past corrects him, informing him that they were from TV shows. I was really interested in the idea that Cross hadn’t lived a real life, that he was hollow and lived vicariously through the magic of television to escape from his reality.
Unfortunately, it was never mentioned again. He grew up relatively normal, then put his job before his love life, just like the regular old Scrooge. It would have been a nice chance to explore something unique to this version of the story. It’s really too bad they left it on the table like that.
Like I said, it’s not a bad remake of “A Christmas Carol.” If you’ve not had enough of those, and you’ve certainly not had enough Bill Murray (no one has), it might be worth sneaking away from the family to give it another (or first) whirl.