A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is a work that has been the subject of many holiday movies. Some follow the story without adding a whole lot. Others keep the basic story, but use already established characters to fill the roles from the book, for example Mickey’s Christmas Carol or The Muppet’s Christmas Carol would fall into this category. The movie I’ll be looking at today takes things a bit differently.
Scrooged is a more contemporary spin on A Christmas Carol, at least as contemporary as 1988 is to today. The role of Scrooge is played by Bill Murray, and is a TV producer named Frank Cross, who dislikes people and uses and abuses anyone in his path. His overworked assistant, Grace, fills the Bob Cratchit role.
Now the setting for the events of Scrooged take place a bit before Christmas, with most of the action going on during various parts of Christmas Eve. The action centers around a live production of A Christmas Carol in the movie. This deviates from the book, since Scrooge’s visitations all happen late during the night on Christmas Eve. This version has the visitations going on throughout the day having Frank reappear at various places during the day, and making it look like he’s cracking under the stress of making this live production work.
While Scrooged seeks to be a modern retelling of A Christmas Carol it is also a bit of a twisted version as well. If you go into the movie expecting a family friendly version of the tale, you’ll be sorely misled. This is more for the adults. Even then a lot of what makes the original story so enjoyable is somewhat absent here.
Instead of the ghosts being kind or jolly, they are rather harsh, cynical, and in the case of the Ghost of Christmas Present, rather abusive. About the only one that remains roughly the same is the Ghost of Christmas Future, but even then his creepiness is upped as well. While this often adds to the humor of the story, it creates a much different tone.
The resolution of the story is also a bit underwhelming. In the original story, you actually get to see the change of Scrooge’s character by his actions on Christmas Day. In Scrooged, all we get is a monologue and a sing-a-long to “Put a Little Love In Your Heart.” It just lacks the same gravitas.
Does all of this mean that I didn’t like Scrooged? I wouldn’t say that I didn’t like it at all, it’s just not what you might expect for being a modern take on A Christmas Carol. It can be funny if you like physical humor intermingled with a bit more adult humor, but it’s a strange monster. One one hand it seems like it is trying to force you to understand the connection between the movie and A Christmas Carol even going as far to having a live version being part of the story. On the other hand though, the rather cynical tone and adult humor creates some dissonance between forcing that connection so much.
Overall I’d say that Scrooged is a funny modern adult take on A Christmas Carol. Not everyone will appreciate or even get the humor in it, but it can be funny. Just really don’t expect the same kind of tone or mood of the original. The basic message still lies in the midst of the movie, but the surrounding atmosphere reduced the impact of that message, at least for me. If you’re looking for something a little different than your average Christmas movie, then I’d say Scrooged fits the bill. If not, then it’s probably a movie you can skip.
(Also just as an aside, I do realize it is February now, but I did really watch this movie before Christmas. That’s just where I am in getting through writing about what I’ve watched.)