Christmas movie review: Scrooged

20 December 2011

Written by: Matthew Smith

Surrounded by rum balls, mince pies, presents and houses lit up like some ‘Open’ sign on the front of a Thai massage parlour, it’s hard to forget that traditionally Christmas is about giving.

Giving was the sentiment behind Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol. It may have been written in the late 19th century, but movies inspired by it such as Scrooged can still drive home the point of the novella.

The 1988 film is a modern adaptation of the well-known story where Bill Murray (Ghostbusters, Lost in Translation) plays Frank Cross — a modern Ebenezer Scrooge — who is visited by three ghosts to help him discover the true meaning of Christmas.

When we first meet Cross he is a power-hungry television programming executive, turning his nose up at the holiday and forcing his entire staff to work on Christmas Eve. He becomes more unforgivable as he proceeds to fire an employee and send his only brother a towel in the season of giving.

To keep it short, Frank Cross is a royal jerk and the very personification of capitalism. That is, of course, until he is visited by his deceased mentor and media mogul, Lew Hayward (John Forsythe — Dynasty, Charlie’s Angels), in this contemporary telling.

Hayward warns Cross that the ghosts will visit him showing him the past, present and future to make it clear that his current course, soaked in selfishness, will bring more harm than good.

What made this movie a classic for me — when I was kid and probably couldn’t understand most of the themes — was the interaction between Cross and the Ghost of Christmas Present played by Carol Kane (Annie Hall, The Princess Bride).

Resembling a fairy adorned in glitter and pink, the ghost gives Cross a look into the lives of those closest to him on Christmas Eve. As Cross ridicules his brother and assistant (who lives in near poverty), he is blown away by the amount of affection they have towards him despite his heartless behaviour.

The fairy-ghost-like representation of the present also has a penchant for hitting Cross in the face with a toaster or fist and kicking him in the balls. Together they bring slapstick to a script already ripe with wit.

As Cross revisits the past, present and finally future there is a glimpse that as a whole he is not such a bad person, but instead his quest to climb the corporate ladder tarnished any kindness in his character. It is not until he is faced with possible death when met by the Ghost of Christmas Future that he instantaneously recovers his compassion.

The film is funny, dark and — keeping in the Christmas spirit — over the top. Watching it again over the weekend only brought to light that the holidays are not about getting that perfect gift and spending volumes of cash to conjure gratitude, it’s about telling those in your life that you appreciate them, probably one of the best presents worth giving.

Meghan Lodwick is a graduate of the Master of Global Communications at La Trobe University and a former editor of upstart. You can follow her on Twitter: @mlodwick.

upstart is reviewing Christmas movies in December 2011. Full details for contributing and a list of Christmas movie reviews are on this page.