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Scrooged

Scrooged




Rated PG-13
Director: Richard Donner
Starring: Bill Murray, Karen Allen, Carol Kane, Robert Mitchum, John Forsythe, Bobcat Goldthwait
Running Time: 1 hour, 41 minutes
Theatrical Release Date: November 23, 1988
4K UHD Release Date: November 7, 2023 (Amazon.com)


READER RATING:   


Plot Summary

A selfish, cynical television executive is haunted by three spirits bearing lessons on Christmas Eve. (from IMDB.com)


Film Review

Although Bill Murray had become one of my favorite actors in the 80's due to his role as Peter Venkman in Ghostbusters, it may come as a surprise to some to hear I actually never saw Scrooged until a couple holiday seasons ago. With its PG-13 rating, and my age at its release still several years away from the appropriate target audience, it was just one that had escaped me. Since finally watching this bizarre Richard Donner-directed (Superman: The Movie, The Goonies) spin on A Christmas Carol, I found that it was a Christmas movie that definitely wasn't one I had been missing out on.


I've watched Scrooged a couple times since my first viewing, and each time I go to watch it, I hope I'll like it more than the last time. That hasn't quite happened yet, unfortunately. Again, I love Bill Murray in certain roles, but he feels miscast here as Frank Cross. Sure, he can play a jerky "Scrooge" kind of character well, but he very clearly overacts in this movie. His humor, when subtle, has always been my favorite. However, when he's painting the humor in such broad strokes as he does here, it's all over the place. It's actually kind of hard to believe that the same director who gave us Superman and The Goonies, and the same actor from movies like Ghostbusters and Lost in Translation, created this end product. Yet, while it's an odd one while you watch it, there's still enough different about this take on A Christmas Carol to make it tempting to revisit in future Christmas seasons. But Scrooged is a pretty strange mix of screwball / slapstick comedy, and borderline cynical, dark comedy. It... almost has a charm to it? But in many ways, Scrooged misses the mark in capturing an appropriate Christmas vibe. In fact, Scrooged feels more like a parody from a team sick of Christmas movies than anything else.

The story revolves around a television studio exec named Frank Cross who has clearly forgotten any fathomable meaning of Christmas. To him, his idea of success is giving his station's viewers the world's worst FOMO by making them scared to miss their Christmas programming. Forsaking the last bit of humanity he has left, he fires some of his most loyal employees on Christmas Eve and makes the remaining employees work on the holiday in order to get a live version of A Christmas Carol - complete with scantily clad dancers - on the air. As Frank tries to pull this off, he's visited by his late boss, Lew, who had died from a heart attack while on the golf course. As a womanizer and heartless fortune seeker himself, his boss wants to warn Frank of his own impending doom... just like ole Jacob Marley had done for Scrooge. So, in a "universe" where Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol exists, Frank is now really living out the story for himself. He's soon visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past, then Present, and of course Future, who all try to show Frank where he'd gone wrong. These are, for certain, the zaniest versions of these characters to be put to screen, in what becomes one really bizarre update of the beloved classic.


Filling in as Frank's lost love - much like Scrooge had - is Raiders of the Lost Ark's Karen Allen, who does a nice job playing a sweet and down to Earth love interest for Murray's character. While I wouldn't have thought to pair these two up, I think they have enough chemistry to make it work. But even as Frank is at his most despicable in the "present," Claire still seems to love him, which is especially surprising. Like I said, Murray's take on the character is a tough one to like, seeming even more cynical and crass that Ebenezer did in some ways.

When Frank experiences his inevitable turnaround, given a new lease on life, and begins overflowing with love and gratitude towards others and life itself, it does warm the heart some, but something feels a bit off. Perhaps it's Murray's waaaaay over-the-top performance or the material itself, but in a way, it kind of doesn't feel genuine. It's sad, but it almost feels forced... like the true heart of the movie was everything we had seen up until Cross's transformation. It's as if the ending was tacked on... just because they had to.


The content for Scrooged is a pretty stiff PG-13. There is frequent profanity, many of it being God's name in vain, with several uses of the "S" word, "h*ll," "S.O.B," and many others. There are some suggestive remarks in the movie, as well as a scene where Claire gives Frank a Kama Sutra book and comments on all the positions he's familiar with in it. There's also some partial nudity when some scantily clad dancers are shown, with one having part of the very top of her nipples starting to show. There's also a surprising amount of violence, including the partially decomposed ghost of Frank's boss who, at one point, hangs Frank by the neck out a window, and when Frank claws at the ghost's forearm, he causes the bones and flesh to break off. There's also a moment where the back of the ghost's scaly skull is focused on, and a mouse pushes its way out, along with a golf ball. Later, a character tries to kill another character by chasing them around an office, using a shotgun to blow holes in various things around the room. And, although slapstick, the Ghost of Christmas Present gets a kick out of abusing Frank by hitting him frequently, and in various ways. And, lastly, the Ghost of Christmas Future is briefly shown under its robe to have three super creepy puppet creatures hiding behind its spine.

With the movie being 35 years old now, I'm sure there's some sentimentality to it. So if you were a fan of the movie then, you're likely still a fan now. However, Scrooged, while entertaining at times and certainly unique in its presentation, feels far too mean-spirited to really work as an uplifting Christmas movie. However, if you're a fan regardless, this brand new 4K UHD transfer is pretty impressive. The color is vibrant, the picture pretty crisp, and the details sharper than ever. If you're looking to upgrade, Paramount definitely did a nice job reviving this one.

- John DiBiase (reviewed: 11/26/23)

 

4K UHD Special Features Review


This new release includes the remastered film in sparkling 4K Ultra HD, access to a Digital copy of the film, as well as over 50 minutes of never-before-released special features.  The full list of bonus content is below:

  • Commentary by director Richard Donner
  • A Christmas to Remember
  • Updating Ebenezer
  • Bringing the Ghosts to Life
  • The Look of Scrooged
  • On the Set with Bill Murray 
  • ShoWest Clips with Bill Murray

 

Parental Guide: Content Summary


. Sex/Nudity: We see a promo for a show where a character says, "If I know you’re father, he's out chasing beaver" and then an announcer announces that the show is called "Father Loves Beaver"; Lew mentions how he got women because of his success and Frank replies that Lew paid for his women; We briefly see the dark areola of a woman's nipples just barely peaking out from her cleavage-revealing dancing outfit, while one of the production workers complains that you can see her nipples; The dancers show lots of cleavage in their skimpy outfit; A woman is shown at a party handing out photocopies of her butt (clothed with panties); Claire is shown from behind while reclining in a tub (her bare legs are focused on); After she gets out of the tub, she's wrapped in a robe and gives him a Kama Sutra book. He opens it and we sort of see images of statues. He then points to them and says "Did that, did that, a buddy of mine did that" as Claire laughs. He then says "Supposedly there’s a place that makes a woman bark like a dog." Claire jokingly barks at him in; In the past, Lew is planning dinner after work and invites his secretary because his wife is out of town; Frank threatens to rip The Ghost of Christmas Present's wings off and she says "You know I like the rough stuff, Frank!"; Frank says to Loudermilk, "Are you glad to see me or is this a shotgun in your pocket?"; While taunting Preston, Frank says about Loudermilk "he never felt that way about a man before but he really likes you!"; While on the air, Frank tells Claire about a position he thinks they can do.
. Vulgarity/Language: It's hinted at that a character was going to use the "F" word when his wife suddenly puts her hand to his mouth to stop him from finishing "What the--"; 6 "S" words, 4 "g*dd*mn," 1 "J-sus," 1 "Oh J-sus," 1 "Chr-st," 1 "For Chr-st's sakes," 1 "Oh L-rd," 10 "Oh G-d," 1 "p*ssy," 8 "h*ll," 1 "S.O.B," 4 "Oh my G-d," 3 "d*mn," 3 "G-d," 1 "cr*p," 2 "a" words, 2 "b*tch," 2 "b*stard," 1 "suck," 1 "For the love of G-d," 1 "My G-d"
. Alcohol/Drugs: In a commercial, we see various dark imagery, including talk about drug addiction; Cross drinks a lot while in his office; Loudermilk opens and sniffs a bottle of alcohol in a bag but drops it; Cross pours himself a drink in his office; The ghost of Lew drinks alcohol and it pours out of holes in him; Frank drinks from a glass; Frank and his boss Preston order drinks in a restaurant; Loudermilk goes to drink again but a ghost takes it out of his hand; People are drinking in an office party; Frank pretends to drink a bum’s beer and just pours it out; Frank is shown drinking in his office again; Preston requests and is seen with a beer at home watching TV; Loudermilk talks about being "blind, stinking drunk."
. Blood/Gore: Lew Hayward, Frank's ex-mentor, is shown as a ghost who looks like a decomposing dead corpse. A mouse and golf ball crawl out of the back of Lew's skull; Lew grabs Frank by the throat and pushes him through a glass window. Frank struggles to grab at his arm and it breaks off. We see the bones and some flesh on both pieces of the arm as Frank falls; Frank sees a dismembered human eyeball in his high ball glass (with some red around the back of it); Frank opens The Ghost of Christmas Future's cloak and you see three disturbing creatures behind his skeletal frame.
. Violence: The movie opens at the North Pole. Elves panic as unseen objects fall from the sky and crash land in the snow. It turns out to be soldiers with machine guns. Santa and the elves all grab guns, and then actor Lee Majors comes to the rescue with a chain gun. We see more soldiers shooting as Majors mows them all down; In a commercial, we see various dark imagery, including people screaming, a plane exploding, talk about drug addiction, etc; Frank's office shakes and something unseen bangs on the door, causing dents in it, and then explodes it. Cross grabs a gun from his desk; We see a partially decomposed ghost; Frank shoots Lew's ghost several times, but also misses and hits glass cups behind him; Lew grabs Frank by the throat and pushes him through a glass window. Frank struggles to grab at his arm and it breaks off. We see the bones and some flesh on both pieces of the arm as Frank falls; A woman is accidentally hit in the face with a prop lamp; Cross grabs a little boy by his sweater collar (in a rough way) and threatens him; Sets crash down and hit/land on people; Frank sees a man’s sleeve on fire and he then sees the guy totally on fire, but in actuality, he isn’t. Frank ends up throwing water on the man, thinking it would put him out; A car goes head-on into another car, but passes right through it; A car rear-ends another; A door hits Frank in the head; Loudermilk walks out of a blood donation trailer and falls backwards into a pile of trash bags; The Ghost of Christmas Present waves a wand and tosses it and you hear something break; The Ghost (She) kicks him in the crotch and grabs him by the tie. She then slaps him in the face and hits his forehead, then pulls his ear; The Ghost punches him, knocking him over, and slaps his head; She keeps hitting and zapping his head. Then she razzes his chest and punches him. He falls down a flight of stairs. She pulls him by the tie again. They shove each other and she head-butts him, then hits him in the face with a toaster. He then falls into a sewer where he finds that one of the bums from earlier had frozen to death; Frank rams a locked door in the sewer and ends up on his set, bumping into people. He accidentally hits a barrel that rolls into the previously injured assistant; Loudermilk fires a shotgun into the ceiling, and then shoots at Frank twice; Loudermilk fires into a cubicle wall twice; Loudermilk continues to shoot at Frank; Frank opens The Ghost of Christmas Future's cloak and you see three disturbing creatures behind his skeletal frame; Frank tries to stop a coffin from going into a flaming crematory. Suddenly, he's inside the coffin and panics as his legs catch fire; A door hits a man in the face; Loudermilk points his shotgun at people in the TV station's control room; Preston kicks a cat off screen; Loudermilk accidentally shoots a window.

 

Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.

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