Yes, it’s that time of the year, when all of the warm and fuzzy, tinsel-covered festive film favourites sleigh-ride back into our lives. Come December there’s nothing more enjoyable than settling down for a seasonal dose of goodwill. We’re here to discuss the very best Christmas film, however. No, it’s definitely not Elf. Home Alone? Nice try, but still wrong. Die Hard? Are you serious? No, it’s undoubtedly Scrooged, Bill Murray’s Christmas offering from way back in ’88. Scrooged embodies everything needed for a good old-fashioned festive film. Good triumphing over bad? Check. A cheesy musical finale? Check. A maniac storming the office with a shotgun attempting to kill the lead character? Check.
Director Richard Donner already had a stash of Hollywood successes under his belt when it came to creating a new take on the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, having taken the helm for Superman, The Goonies, The Omen and Lethal Weapon. Those are some iconic films right there… and Lethal Weapon. Much like his other films, Scrooged is very much of its time. It does look dated now; some of the special effects are laughable and Murray sports an awful ’80s perm throughout. But we’re not here to discuss why ’80s films all manage to look so much more dated than any other decade, we’re here to talk about the very best Christmas film.
Everyone knows the basics of A Christmas Carol. Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by his deceased friend Jacob Marley, who warns Scrooge that he needs to learn the errors of his ways before it’s too late. Three ghosts – of Christmas Past, Present and Yet-to-Come – soon arrive to spook Scrooge into becoming a decent human being. This film’s Scrooge is Frank Cross, a self-centered, egotistical TV network boss who is currently overseeing a live production of A Christmas Carol. He fires hard-working individuals without a moment’s notice, forces his underpaid secretary to work long hours, and decides a company-branded bath towel is a suitable Christmas gift for his only brother.
Scrooged‘s Ghost of Christmas Past (David Johansen) is a manic New York taxi driver, transporting Frank back to his childhood where his bitter father (Brian Doyle-Murray) somehow managed to sport even less Christmas spirit than he did. Frank is then taken to his early days in his office, where he avoids celebrating Christmas with his co-workers. On his way home he bumps into Claire (the truly wonderful Karen Allen), soon to become the love of his life. We see Christmases together where they are blissfully happy, but Frank’s self-centered nature soon manages to tear everything apart. Sure, he misses Claire, but look at where he’s got to without anyone else’s help.
The fantastic Ghost of Christmas Present (Carol Kane) is a sparkly, squeaky little fairy with a penchant for beating the crap out of Frank. She takes Frank to see his brother, holding a Christmas party that Frank was invited to, but didn’t bother to attend (for an extra 10 points, spot the fourth Murray brother in this scene). He then visits his secretary, at home in her cramped apartment with her five children. Her youngest son won’t speak since his father died a year ago, a death which apparently passed Frank completely by.
Frank occasionally shows flashes of compassion and empathy, but these quickly disappear. His only real awakening happens through his visit with the Ghost of Christmas Future, who shows Frank exactly where he will end up if he continues on the same path. He sees Claire, a bitter, uncaring woman who foolishly followed Frank’s advice of “scraping off” those who need her help. Frank is bolted back to the real world, his awakening shifting him from bitter and twisted to sheer, manic happiness. This is where the true Christmassy feelings come out in full force, as Frank rejoices in his newfound lust for life. It’s an all-singing, all-dancing, throw-your-arms-around-a-loved-one ending that truly embodies the Christmas spirit.
There’s dark humour, tinsel, and tears throughout this Christmas treat, but at its heart, Scrooged is a warm, joyous film that sucks you straight in. Yes, it’s cheesy beyond words. Yes, it’s very, very silly. But blimey, if you don’t get choked up at the film’s grand finale, then you must have a heart far colder than Ebenezer Scrooge’s.