Days of Future Past: Scrooged (1988)


Review by Amanda Pampuro


As the holiday season of 2013, and 2013 as a whole, come to an end this evening, we though it fitting that our last article of the year touch upon one of the most recognizable modern renditions of the a classic holiday tale, Scrooged makes the timeless tale even more timeless.

Christmas is the time when TV channels reproduce Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and make lots of money off of it. Imagine A Christmas Carol with less Victorian England and more corporate America, and Bill Murray instead of Scrooge.  An admirable metafiction: a TV show about the spirit of Christmas produced in a movie about Bill Murray being funny. Call me Scrooge, but part of me thinks Frank Cross, the Scrooge, is the most honest man in the room—he’s producing a show his own dark spin on the before mentioned holiday classic tale, but certainly not because his love for Christmas or his sense of holiday cheer (or lack thereof), rather he is charged with the task by fellow network execs, of developing the production…if he doesn’t he will be fired.  Frank takes this opportunity to spread his dismal and cynical outlook of the holiday with millions of viewers.

Still while everyone else is chockfull of holiday spirit, Cross drinks many a Vodka Tab, fires employees, and gives out bath towels for presents. To nudge him towards the right path, Cross is visited by three ghosts who show him his past, present, and potential future.

At least 24 films and 26 television adaptations of A Christmas Carol have been made, according to Wikipedia’s count—and yes, “Adaptations of a Christmas Carol” warrants its own article. If each of these versions contains a Ghost of Christmas Future, then that’s 50 Christmas predictions, and 50 premonitions of Scrooge’s death. Of these productions, A Muppet Christmas Carol has the best narrator, but Scrooged wins best Scrooge and best ghosts. David Johansen (AKA Buster Poindexter) of the New York Dolls plays a ghoulish Christmas Past cabby more interested in taunting his passengers than watching the road. As the Ghost of Christmas Present, Carol Kane gives Cross some much needed tough love… in the face.  Setting his journey of self-evaulation in motion, the curmudgeony Frank Cross receives a haunting visit from his late boss/former mentor (or what’s left of him), played by John Forsythe (of Charlies Angels & Dynasty fame, amongst numerous other works) warning Cross of his future to be, should he not see the error of his ways.  Playing opposite of Bill Murray is Karen Allen (Indiana Jones, Starman) portraying Cross’ former love interest and painful reminder of happier times in Frank’s life prior to the humbug years, as he rose up the corporate ladder of his network TV station. A notable role with Bobcat Goldthwait (of Police Academy series, and more) portraying the underappreciated and disgruntled company man that could serve as the proverbial nail-in-the-coffin of Frank, should in be too late for our protagonist, Mr. Cross, to find an inkling of kindness within himself.

Allen in Scrooged

Set in 1988, the film projects itself into 2010 to show Cross his own funeral. Whilst in 2010, we also see a cremation ceremony, in an elegant funeral parlor, where the family member sends a casket into the furnace, which is much more upscale than 6 Feet Under portrayed it. .

For the record Bill Murray is far from dead—he has been reported in recent years to be into party crashing and picking up bar tabs.

If you’ve been skimming this review, thinking most superiorly to yourself that A Christmas Carol isn’t sci-fi:  Call 911, your mind is about to be opened. The story contains explicit time travel—to the past and future—as well as ghosts. Whether ghosts belong in the science-fiction umbrella, or under horror may be up for debate, as is whether they are actually spirits or Walter Bishop’s encounters with other dimensions.

This movie highlights how Christmas is used by the media to sell fear and ideals to its viewers. In the end, Frank Cross interrupts the show, urging the audience to turn off the TV and go outside. Unlike many Christmas movies, Scrooged  is good any time of the year, like Vodka Tab—it’s not just about the holiday, so much as Bill Murray being awesome.

vodka tab

Hope everyone had a Murray Xmas Dorks!  Happy 2014!!

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