Impressions: Scrooged

Well, it’s Christmas week, so I thought I would do this Impressions on Scrooged, an adaptation of A Christmas Carol from 1988. A lot of people have seen this whacky comedy, with honestly a few horror antics thrown in, but some might not have. Others still might be like me and haven’t revisited it in a long time. It’s… an interesting adaptation, so with that.

Scrooged is a story about Frank Cross (Scrooge), played by Bill Murray, who is a greedy TV executive that of course, is all about making money, ratings, and is more than a bit uncaring. The first act we see him doing is to replace a TV spot about a live showing of A Christmas Carol with an over-the-top “the world is going bad, so tune in” spot that includes people dying and planes blowing up. Lovely. He also fires one of the other executives and just a lot of general “Scrooge” like things. He is visited by an ex-boss, Lew, who warns him about being visited by ghosts and prompts him to call his ex-girlfriend, Claire.

We then get the “standard” A Christmas Carol happenings with a lot of loud 80s comedy mixed in. Both the ghost of Christmas past and present are played by known comedic actors who are a bit more abrasive and in your face than other adaptations. Carol Kane (present) is in fine form as a violent fairy decked in magic dust. Sprinkled in is Frank’s clear breakdown over these events and his struggles with both wanting his do-gooder ex back and being angry at being confronted with who he is.

The employee that Frank fired, Bobcat Goldthwait, makes a return in a rather dramatic fashion, and Frank is confronted with the future. His assistant’s son, who has been mute since the loss of his father, has been locked up, Claire has turned into an uncaring snob, and of course, Frank dies alone. Frank wakes up, and he makes his dramatic speech, though this time on TV, encouraging people to embrace the meaning of Christmas.

It’s pretty faithful to the larger moments of A Christmas Carol, just doing its own thing with the modern spin and the 80s comedy styling. For the most part, it’s a pretty decent adaptation. A greedy TV executive is not hard to imagine for Scrooge. And sadly, the issues of poverty that were a theme in A Christmas Carol fit right in with the 80s.

I also greatly appreciated, as I said at the start, the more horror vibes this movie brings. A Christmas Carol, by its nature always lent itself to be inspired by the genre and this one takes some freedom and leans in. There are a lot of great effects with Lew and the Ghost of Christmas Future. You also get some pretty terrifying moments as Frank is breaking down, like believing he is the only one seeing a man on fire.

Even the non-horror-themed effects are pretty decent. It was 1988, and the movie wanted to show off some cool tricks, and they are fun to see and serve many purposes. Some comedy, some in cuts from scene to scene, and some I said with the more creepy elements.

What I was less a fan of was the comedy style. It is not bad. In fact, there were some moments I laughed out loud, and Bobcat’s character in the entire ending sequence is just plain hilarious, although darkly so. However, it is a loud kind of raunchy 80s comedy with a lot of slapstick. I normally like slapstick, but this movie pushed it a little for me. I will say, though, that this feels like a result of taste more than failings of the movie.

I also feel like a few of Frank’s “bad choices” are a bit over-represented. On the one hand, he is an unbelievably rude man who is clearly in the wrong in many instances. On the other wanting to actually spend time with his boss or believing that Claire’s volunteers should be able to do their own work doesn’t feel as bad to me as the movie wants you to think? These moments especially pale in comparison to some of the outright horrible things he does and the emotional impact of his toll on others around him, such as Herman (being vague intentionally).

The ending is pretty interesting. It is both darkly humorous as well as what you would expect from this movie. Frank’s speech is a bit cheesy at times but the dark comedy peppered in helps it from feeling too out of place from the rest of the movie. Also, Frank, either annoyingly or well done – depending on how you see it – is stumbling over himself almost the whole time. It can weaken the delivery of the message a bit but is more believable for a man who just went through a life-changing experience and suddenly wants to tell the world.

I said at the start that it’s an interesting adaptation, and that’s where I am sticking. I like parts of the movie and just don’t care for others. The cast is incredible, and I really do like that they tried something different. It’s just a lot to do with not being my personal taste in comedy overall.

Bottom line? If you like 80s comedies, you will most likely enjoy this movie. It shares a lot of style with other comedies of the time. Also, if you enjoy A Christmas Carol but would like to see a bit of a different spin on this, you’ll probably be like me and appreciate, although not love it. If you don’t like that kind of comedy and aren’t looking for a new take on the Dickens’ story, I would say go with another more traditional version this holiday season. I’m personally glad I revisited it, but it’s not going to go on the list of movies I watch every year, maybe every couple few.

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