Well, folks, reporting from the gateway to my Christmas countdown, I must admit excitements are high this morning. If we were a Dr. Seuss story, my writing desk would be covered in a thin layer of frost right about now. The coffee would be comically frozen on its very edge and I’d be sporting horizontal pig tails. However, luckily most of us are having a jolly, old time next to the fire on boring planet Earth. Sit tight with your gingerbread latte and let the magical words of wisdom carry you to the land of film. As promised, the kick start to all twelve reviews is going to be an all-time classic retelling of Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol”.
“Scrooged” follows the skeletal structure of the tale you know and love, but wraps it masterfully with an eighties layer of hairspray and glitter. Starring the unmissable Bill Murray, a comedy legend of the modern day, and directed by Richard Donner, a.k.a. that dude who brought us “The Goonies” and a bunch of Superman flicks you’re probably too young to have seen, I would personally classify this film as a national treasure.
The humbug is back, only this time not as a slouched, old man, but rather young and reputable Frank Cross, the sole director of an influential television studio. His unsympathetic and heartless way with others quickly becomes evident, largely through the relationship he holds with personal assistant Grace. On the verge of Christmas Eve, a golfing pal from the past comes back for a tall glass brandi and an eerie warning of trouble. I find it necessary to mention said buddy is long deceased and fashions a cute, white mouse in the crevice of his skull. He speaks of visitors who are to change Frank’s sculpted and selfish attitude to life. That night marks the beginning of a spiritual journey through time and space, which shakes the producer’s hard-earned beliefs and position. We embark on an adventure along the poor and wealthy New York City, where festivities are in the heat of the Christmas season. First comes a mysterious slash reckless taxi driver, who is in desperate need of a Colgate intervention. Second, we’re met with a crazed, quirky fairy whose voice rings higher than Santa’s signature sleigh bells. Do enjoy her healthy dose of slaps and tugs, however, as those made me laugh the hardest. Third and last we encounter Death, who points with bony fingers towards the forlorn consequences of an egocentric existence. A grim picture indeed, full of loneliness and tears.
Murray is superb in the role of a cold scrooge. It directly juxtaposes his portrayal of Venkman – ghost busting professional and sarcasm extraordinaire, which warmed spirits a mere four years before this picture’s release. His dry humour sticks to your teeth like grandma’s moist fruit cake, and his hair forces you into a cringe fit every time it’s fully framed. But you know what, we enjoy every living second of it, sheerly out of appreciation for the art of old humour. Lord knows comedy has evolved a lot throughout the years from snappy, relevant, well-written comebacks to Adam Sandler’s purely magical fart noises. Frank becomes a well-rounded character we comfortably distaste and later admittedly care for, blurring mistakes of the past through fresh, Christmas hope.
Claire, played by Karen Allen, is his festive counterpart and long-time romantic interest. She volunteers at a homeless shelter and enjoys hobbies such as bringing soup, hitting people with convenience shop doors and appearing in places really, really fast. Needless to say, the two belong with each other despite their vast, almost unbridgeable differences. However much it pains me to say this – Bill and Karen have close to no chemistry and the entire affair falls somewhat flat. The hard-drilled idea of their love from the original roman resurrects the efforts partially, but not fulfillingly.
Alfre Woodard, who you might know from the controversial programme “True Blood”, is clever and quick-witted personal assistant Grace. Her financially unstable family is a lovable bunch of jolly kids and a young outcast, who holds a heavy personal story. They are a ‘modern’ equivalent of the Cratchit household, which manages to trigger Frank’s deeply buried sympathy. A performance convincingly divided in equal parts hopefulness and despair, truly balanced between the gloomy past and the opportunity of a brighter future.Alfre creates the significance behind her kin’s crossroads in a manner that leaves us no choice, but to care.
All in all, here’s the verdict – a cult Christmas classic, which supports the original themes and characters of “A Christmas Carol” whilst modernising them in a believable way. The words Bill Murray, eighties and sarcasm should drive you to the sofa by themselves. However, if you need a gentle nudge, I guarantee a rollercoaster of laughter, sorrow, astonishment and disgust all in the frame of one-hundred and four minutes. As far as festive film lists go, this is a must-watch.
Now sit back with a bowl of marshmallows and enjoy!