Wednesday, December 07, 2011

80s Revisited: Scrooged

Scrooged (1988)

Directed by Richard Donner; produced by Richard Donner & Art Linson; screenplay by Mitch Glazer & Michael O'Donoghue

The way I generally remembered this movie was as a high concept, high profile late 80s failure. I remember a big marketing push being involved with this movie, but I remember it being referred to as a flop and ending up playing on cable, seemingly on repeat, for a couple of years. It must have made some cash, though; I see it was number one the weekend it opened and went out to make $64 million, which doesn't seem too terrible for 1988. All I know for sure is that my Dad and I went to see Ernest Saves Christmas instead, and that was around the same time we went to see Oliver & Company, The Land Before Time, and The Naked Gun. I also know, actually, that my Dad LOVED this movie when it was first on cable, and watched it a number of times. I even remember seeing parts of it with him, but never really being able to dig on it the way he did.

Maybe you need to be older. Maybe you need to be more versed in A Christmas Carol, which has become my favorite Christmas story over the last 15 years, one that I've read a number of times and continue to delight in. I never had a high opinion of this flick or a need to sit and watch it again, but Becca and I ended up sitting down and watching it the other night, and we both loved it.

It helps, of course, that I like Richard Donner movies and Bill Murray is a genius. He's the right person to play a modern, cynical version of Scrooge, because Murray's stock in trade is how sincerely insincere he is. He doesn't need to sell his comedic persona, he just comes out, does it, and sometimes it's only on repeat viewings that you realize just what his magic is. It's not that he acts like he doesn't care, it's that he does it so completely that it doesn't seem like an act. That's a big part of what makes classic comedies like Ghostbusters and Stripes so classic, and gems like Where the Buffalo Roam so underrated, and What About Bob? so weirdly, endlessly re-watchable.

And, honestly, there are points where Scrooged comes across a little too obvious, a little too on the nose to really be a successful parody of the TV business. I think some of the critical reactions to Scrooged that I've read were hard on it for not being satirical enough (especially with Mr. Mike as one of the writers), and instead just being a sincere, modern, occasionally breezy take on a Christmas classic. Also, I think in the end Bill Murray's not entirely believable as the reformed Frank Cross; oh, he's good, and he sells it, but cynical Frank Cross takes less effort to believe. He seems to be more comfortable in that persona, perhaps because it's more inherently comic and probably more fun to play. Still, I believe anyone would be willing to change just to let Karen Allen into their lives. Every time that genuine smile of hers lights up the screen... Please, Karen, come back to us full time.

All in all, though, I dug it. It's highly enjoyable, the ghosts are funny (I can't even remember a time when I didn't love Carol Kane), John Glover is always awesome, and Bill Murray is excellent. You could do a lot worse at Christmastime.


Caffeinated Joe said...

You know, this is one of those movies I just have never seen, for some reason or another. Maybe I will rectify that this year! Carol Kane is always awesome. :)

Devilham said...

I saw it in the theatres when it came out with an old girlfriend (oddly enough years and years later, she married my brother, and now they are getting divorced, crazy world), I remember after that it was on HBO constantly, in like, July.....nevertheless, I love this movie, I just think the ending goes on a bit long, but other than that, I thought it was great....whatever happened to Bobcat Goldthwaite?

Daskaea said...

Oh man, I now demand you make 80s Revisted a regular feature. I love this movie. (In spite of my Jewness, mostly due to Bill Murray) *^_^*

SamuraiFrog said...

Caffeinated Joe: Give it a spin! I hope you enjoy it; I was pleasantly surprised.

Devilham: Crazy world, indeed! Bobcat's been writing and directing movies lately; he had a movie out with Robin Williams called World's Greatest Dad which was bleak but excellent.

Daskaea: Click the tag; it's a semi-regular-but-not-really feature ;)