Scrooged

Scrooged

Hollywood has released countless versions of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol over the years, but none quite like Scrooged. Released in 1988, the film starred SNL funnyman Bill Murray in the lead role, surrounded by a bizzare but endearing cast of characters, the likes of which Dickens could have never imagined.

There is no Ebenezer to be found in this modern telling of the 1843 tale. Instead, the Bah-Humbugging duties go to Frank Cross (Murray), a television network executive with a heart of coal. Although a very successful man, it has come at the cost of a family that has distanced itself, overworked employees who loathe him, and the love of his life whom he neglected during his climb up the corporate ladder.

Frank is in charge of the upcoming network broadcast of A Christmas Carol, set to air live on Christmas Eve. The extravagant production isn’t going well, despite such star power as Buddy Hackett (playing Scrooge), Lee Majors, John Houseman, Robert Goulet, and Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton as Tiny Tim. Under enormous pressure, Frank is soon visited by his old boss, Lew Hayward (John Forsythe). The problem is, Lou has been dead for a long time and is horribly decomposed. He warns Frank that he will be visited by (you guessed it) three spirits.

The Ghost of Christmas Past arrives in the form of a New York cabbie (David Johansen) who takes Frank on a heartbreaking tour of his life, from childhood to the loss of Claire, his beloved. The next ghost is the merciless Ghost of Christmas Present, played by a wonderfully-sadistic Carol Kane who shows Frank the effect his tyranny has on his employees and family members in a most painful way.

While trying to deal with the emotion of his first two encounters, a drunk and angry ex-employee (Bobcat Goldthwait) arrives at the station with a shotgun and tries to kill Frank, but he is saved by the Ghost of Christmas Present, a foreboding ghoulish creature with a television for a head. He unveils Frank’s future, showing him dying alone and unloved. Faced with this horrifying future, Frank decides to mend his ways – through the miracle medium of live television.

Produced and directed by Richard Donner (The Goonies, Lethal Weapon), Scrooged did moderately well at the box office, thanks to Bill Murray’s drawing power and a wonderful supporting cast that included all three of Murray’s real-life brothers. And the years that followed have been kind to this quirky version of the timeless classic. Although it might not be the most traditional telling of A Christmas Carol, the film is simply a fun ride from beginning to end.

Do you count Scrooged as one of your favorite holiday films? We’d love to hear your thoughts in our comments section below, as we tip our hats to a holiday film that dared to be different.

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