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Thursday, December 22, 2005


Welcome to Blog's Top Four Xmas Movies - Number Three: Scrooged

There's roughly 300 million film versions of Charles Dicken's "A Christmas Carol." "Scrooged" is probably the only one where the main character turns into an even bigger jerk after a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Future.

Or maybe "jerk" isn't the right word. After watching a prophetic vision of his long lost love turning into a stone cold bitch and briefly experiencing what it's like to be cremated alive, Bill Murray's Francis Xavier Cross instantaneously mutates into, well, the most obnoxious jackass in the history of the world. A kind and benevolent obnoxious jackass but an obnoxious jackass nonetheless.

I watch this movie every year and after Murray falls out of the elevator, assaults Bobcat Goldthwait with a raspberry to the belly and spends the next ten minutes guilt-tripping everyone in sight, I want to reach into my TV screen, slap him and say "Hey, your heart's in the right place, pal but could you take it down a thousand notches?"

"Scrooged" should have ended with Murray promoting Goldthwait, giving everyone raises and encouraging his secretary’s son give up his vow of silence before wandering off into the streets of Manhattan arm in arm with Karen Allen. Instead the audience is forced to listen to him address the camera with an over-long and overly sincere monolog worthy of a "Save the Children" ad. There's a time and a place for this sort of thing and it isn't at the tail end of a black comedy.

I've always wondered what happens to Murray's character after the credits roll. Would he eventually calm down and find a comfortable balance between Evil Corporate Television Executive and Unbearably Cheerful Philanthropist? Or, after the shock of witnessing his own death, would he become mentally stuck in Christmas Cheer Mode and drive everyone around him nuts with an endless series of badgering suggestions to take to streets "find someone who's having a hard making their dream happen, give them and blanket and say 'HERE!'"

Maybe the character's overwhelming generosity and good will would turn his entire staff into mini-Scrooges themselves, forcing the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future to work overtime the following year, turning them too into bitter wretches. With the ghosts out of commission and slumped on their sofas in front of "Caroline in the City" reruns and unavailable to deliver their annual holiday guilt trips to the first world's most powerful curmudgeons, the planet's charities would be driven out of business, filling the streets everywhere with the disadvantaged and creating to a worldwide economic collapse on Christmas morning.

There might be a sellable screenplay somewhere in that mini-tirade. If you're in a position to do something with it, by all means, have at it.

With the exception of the last ten minutes, "Scrooged" is a pretty damn good riff on the holiday classic. Murray is great as a TV exec that thinks nothing of promoting a Christmas special with horrifying images of people dying in freeway shoot-outs. The entire sequence with a cab-driving Ghost of Christmas Past is fantastic and watching Murray come to terms with the fact that his memories of childhood have become blurred with sitcoms is both hilarious and gut-wrenching at the same time. And the line "you left Claire for Frisbee the dog?!!" actually brings an annual tear to me eye, bucko.

I've seen "Scrooged" every December since it was released and I still can't figure out the answers to the following questions:

  • Why is Paul Schafer in this movie? He has a blink and you'll miss it cameo as a street musician.

  • What's with the sign in the hallway near Murray's office? The one with the definition of the word "cross"? Sure, his character's last name is cross but is it meant to immediate all who enter his domain? Fine, I just answered my own question.

  • Is "Scrooged" Bobcat's finest moment?

  • Why do the homeless trio at the shelter confuse Murray with a Hollywood actor (sorry, can't remember the name) from the '60s? And why does he go along with it?

  • Why is Carol Kane's Ghost of Christmas Present a sadist?

  • Was there actually a time when a top of the line VCR was considered a great Christmas present? They sell for $20 bucks at Target these days.

  • Why does Robert Mitchum's character have so many damn cats in his palatial Manhattan penthouse?

  • And, really, what's with all the little bald demons hiding beneath the Ghost of Christmas Future's cloak? And if they're writhing in a gastrointestinal limbo where do they get the candy canes at the end of the film?

  • As long as TNT continues to air it nearly everyday during the month of December, these questions will continue to dog me for many a holiday season to come.

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