When holidays and all the rude people start to get to me I like to watch a movie that helps me remember what the whole mess is all about. You could pick It’s a Wonderful Life or the original Christmas Carol, the source of which this is also based off of. Either one of those should give you a general warm and fuzzy feeling and maybe even restore some of that holiday cheer that goes away all too easily this time of year. However, I need something with a little push back and slap in the face compared to the standard run of the mill Christmas flicks, and Scrooged delivered.
Santa is way too giving this time of year
Richard Donner is at the helm again hoping to knock it out of the park as he did with Goonies and Lethal Weapon the two previous years. The story does not veer all too far from what we know of the mythical holiday character Scrooge from the aforementioned story. In this case the lame duck is Frank Cross played by the great Bill Murray. And as we know this selfish, cold man is to be visited by three ghosts (past, present and future). Each one is to show him what is, was, and could be wrong if he does not correct his ways. So let’s dig into this one a bit and see how many beers come rolling out, eh?
Right away it seems like too much is being thrown at the viewer without really explaining anything. In one scene we see several things taking place like: people being fired, a boss demanding a late work night, phones ringing, unacceptable items at one’s work place and so on. I get the idea here of showing the fast-paced Frank Cross and also establishing his character as this take no sh*t, fire you on the spot executive bad ass. I just feel we could have slowed things down a bit, or spread them further into the story when things begin to seem a little slow and drawn out.
You can never really go wrong with Bill Murray. I mean come on, he is comedy gold and I doubt many will disagree with me. He does a great job, more than once taking what is meant to be a heart warming scene/exchange and turning it cold and heartless. Hilarious… like the scene with the mouse when the set tech cannot get the mini antlers to stay and Mr. Cross mentions stapling them, without a smile or any other expression that would lead you to believe he was anything other than sincere.
This is a time traveling taxi?
There were so many laughs and almost all of them are centered around Frank and his quick-witted quips. Bill Murray is so great with sarcasm and making you laugh without even trying to. His humor never seems forced or out of place, even during intense pieces like when his mentor, Lew, comes back from the dead to warn him of the coming ghosts and his need to change. There were so many laughs in that serious scene, like when Frank is trying to justify the visit as a side effect of poisoned vodka. They also did a great job allowing this movie to get emotional, especially when we visit Frank’s past, but it never gets overly serious.
The effects were also very good and hold up to some of today’s better ones. The exploding entrance of Lew was done very well and even small details like lying debris were carefully taken care of. I also enjoyed some of the costumes in the movie, namely those of the ghosts. The last ghost with the living torso was done pretty well along with Lew and his rotting carcass. The audio was on par with most of the 80’s and 90’s stuff that has been transferred over to DVD. This movie is also available on Blu Ray with remastered picture and audio for you AV nuts out there. Personally I like these movies to have the same slightly washed out look and audio they did when I first saw them.
A little less time in the sun never hurts!
I know I should not have an issue with the predictability of this movie because the story is based loosely on Charles Dicken’s Christmas Carol but I just cannot shake it. There was more than one moment where I thought things could have went in a different direction than they did without loosing sight of the source material. I also believe there were some poor casting choices when it came to Karen Allen, who played Frank’s love interest Claire Phillips.
First off, something about her look was off-putting and odd, and she always seemed too intentionally stiff as if she was not sure if this was the right movie for her. But in her “flash back” scenes as a younger woman she seemed more natural. Are the writers/directors intentionally doing that to show how different she is now, and if so why? Was she jaded because of the past relationship with Frank? I don’t think so, because she is sold to us as a savior of sorts working at a shelter for the homeless and all. She also came running after a single call fifteen years later.
The other character I did not care for was his assistant Grace Cooley (Alfre Woodard). I could not warm up to this character. She seemed so stereotypical, playing the somewhat meek single mother of five living in an apartment and just scraping by. I know, a lot of things were stereotypical in the movie and since 1988 so many things have joined the ranks of the stereotypical, but still this character was blah to the point where almost anyone could have pulled that off. I cannot complain about any other characters in this film as they all at least played the required part, if not exceeded my expectations. BobCat Goldthwait, as Eliot Loudermilk, was a great example of a character who did not seem like much of anything initially, but by the end of the movie I loved him and found myself cheering him on as he found his sweet revenge.
I firmly stand by the above verdict and could dig even deeper into what really makes this movie a classic for me. Initially I did not like this film all that much. It took a few viewings to really “get it”. Speaking of “getting it”,Murray’s speech to the camera and the world at the end is great as he now really gets what the holiday is all about. That’s why we watch these movies right? Anytime I can watch a movie that takes so many jabs at common holiday themes and still shows you what Christmas is, I am sold. If that does not sell you on this movie, you are probably a Scrooge anyway, in which case you should at least appreciate the “cold Frank Cross”.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: any time one of Bill Murray’s family members is on screen.
Take a Shot: any time Frank’s tie, hair, or belt is adjusted.
Chug a Beer: any time you see Tab (the soft drink) on screen.