Charles Dickens is one of the most celebrated of Western authors and A Christmas Carol is arguably his most widely known work. Bill Murray is one of modern Hollywood’s most beloved actors, especially back in the 1980’s when he rarely starred in a bad movie. Dickens and Murray come together in Scrooged, a remake of the Dickens classic and one of the best holiday films made in recent memory.
Murray stars as Frank Cross, a high-up television executive who has worships at the Church of Better Ratings. He has given up all of his personality and personal life for his work, spending long hours at the office and demanding those around him to do the same. This Christmas Eve, his station IBS is broadcasting a large-scale, live version of A Christmas Carol starring Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton as Tiny Tim, the lad with a limp. Because of its big budget and the pressures that come with going on live, Cross is under a lot of stress and as such spreads it to those around him.
When the humanity in Cross is all but gone, he is visited by the ghost of his old boss. He brings on three ghosts that will visit Cross over the night with hopes of changing his rotten ways. In true Dickens fashion, Cross is taken on a journey to various Christmases past, present and future to show how his bad attitude affects him and those close to him.
The standard interpretation of A Christmas Carol is that it must be taken very seriously. Scrooged takes the comedic path, updating it for a more modern crowd who might not relate to a man getting angry for his workers using too much coal to stay warm or why it might be a big deal for someone to steal a dead person’s sheets. Instead Scrooged is an update done right. It reflects and expands on the themes that are still applicable today instead of those that are irrelevant. The main one is devoting too much time to one’s work. It’s no secret that the corporate ladder is not normally a fast-moving place. It can be but chances are it will require long hours. For many today the prospect of making it to the top and staying there is motivation enough to become a workaholic, devoting your life to the desk and computer rather than maintaining a healthy home life. In A Christmas Carol, Ebeneezer Scrooge was the poster child for workaholics. That’s all he did other than sleeping and eating. Cross is much the same. And it has been so long since he lived a ‘normal’ lifestyle that he thinks everyone should be working long hours with him. While Cross may be greedy, the most condemning aspect of his personality is the way he treats others and how his devotion to higher ratings will very soon lead to his downfall.
Murray is a natural to play Cross. He has a natural scowl that makes his deep seeded anger seem natural. He also has a knack for making the perfect reaction to whatever comments are sent his way. Sometimes they’re big, other times more nuanced, but chances are they’re going to be funny.
Directed by Richard Donner and adapted by Mitch Glazer and Michael O’Donoghue, Scrooged brings Dickens up to speed for a modern crowd. Although it’s a smidge cruder and more crass, Scrooged nevertheless maintains the heart of the story and proves that remakes and new visions of old material need not be redundant.