Bill Murray and Carol Kane in Scrooged (1988)

Put a Little Love in Scrooge's Heart

What have Patrick Stewart, Seymour Hicks, Michael Caine, Alastair Sim and Kelsey Grammer all got in common? They have all played Ebenezer Scrooge in adaptations of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. But whilst each brought their own touches to the character of Scrooge Billy Murray brought something very different when he starred in "Scrooged" the 80s re-imagining of Charles Dickens' classic story. Murray's character may have been called Frank Cross instead of Ebenezer Scrooge but the story of "Scrooged" follows Dickens' original with Cross being visited by the ghost of his old mentor before then encountering three ghosts who show him the error of his ways. And despite now being over 25 years old "Scrooged" is still a crowd pleaser with witty dialogue, a memorably musical climax and of course the energy and sarcasm of Bill Murray to make it work.

Frank Cross (Bill Murray - Ghostbusters) is a TV executive who is well known for his mean and brutal ways as well as an uncanny similarity to Ebenezer Scrooge, which is quite apt as Frank's big Christmas TV production is a modern day reworking of "A Christmas Carol". But Frank's curmudgeonly ways are brought into check when on Christmas Eve he is visited by the ghost of his former mentor Lew Hayward (John Forsythe - The Trouble with Harry) who warns him that a series of ghosts will be visiting him to show him the past, present and future and force him to take a long hard look at his life.

Karen Allen and Bill Murray in Scrooged (1988)

"Scrooged" is definitely one of my favourite versions of "A Christmas Carol" and whilst it is an all round family friendly movie I have to say it probably holds more charm for those who were introduced to it as teenagers back in the 80s. What made it so good then was that it took Dickens' story which most often had been made as a period piece and re-imagined it by placing it into a modern setting. Don't get me wrong as I like the previous more traditional versions of "A Christmas Carol" but to adapt the basic story into a modern setting made it all that more appealing especially with the emphasis switching to comedy.

What that meant then and still means now is that "Scrooged" works because pretty much every scene has something funny going on, be it a cleverly worded joke which will make adults laugh or some visual gag which will have children laughing. And the majority of the humour sticks in your mind from the rotting corpse of Lew with a golf ball in his head to Frank suggesting they staple antlers to a mouse's head, it stays as fresh in your mind as the first time you saw it.

But whilst "Scrooged" is played for laughs it doesn't ignore the original premise of Scrooge learning the error of his ways so we watch as Frank is guided through his past, present and future by some memorable ghosts such as Carol Kane as the naughty Ghost of Christmas Present and coming to realise the mistakes he has made and the people he hurt along the way. All of which culminates not only with the memorable song "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" but Frank's hilarious plea to the cameras for the former love of his life to return with mention of certain moves from the Kama Sutra.

What this all means is that "Scrooged" is a movie which thrives off of Bill Murray and the style of sarcastic comedy which he was king of back in the 80s. It is why "Scrooged" is so memorable and still popular because Bill Murray as Frank Cross is an unforgettable character full of witty put downs and comical nastiness. But yet whilst a nasty guy because it is Bill Murray there is also something appealing about Frank especially when we are taken on the humorous journey through his past guided by the cigar smoking cab driver played by David Johansen.

Whilst Bill Murray is the man who makes "Scrooged" so much fun he is certainly aided by some great supporting performances from Bobcat Goldthwait who as Loudermilk gets sacked by Frank on Christmas Eve to the late John Forsythe as the rotting Lew Hayward. There is even a small part for Hollywood great Robert Mitchum as the current boss of the TV network. But it is the women in "Scrooged" who make the big impact be it Alfre Woodard as Frank's assistant Grace or Karen Allen as love of his life and Kama Sutra buddy Claire. Although both these are outshone by Carol Kane who is one of the best and most mischievous Ghosts of Christmas Present ever to grace "A Christmas Carol" movie.

What this all boils down to is that "Scrooged" is a wonderful Christmas movie full of humour which updates the classic Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol to a much more modern setting without loosing the moral message. Whilst it will probably be appreciated more by those who watched it in their younger days it is still as much fun for all the family today as it was when originally released even if certain aspects of it are now dated.

Tags: Christmas Movies, A Christmas Carol