My “Rosenberg” last name speaks to my Jewish heritage, but that’s never stopped “Scrooged” from being one of my favorite holiday movies. I can’t remember the first time I saw this one. I might’ve been in a theater, but it could just as easily have been on cable. Doesn’t matter. It’s a brilliant send-up of Charles Dickens’ classic story of Ebenezer Scrooge and his ghostly pursuers, “A Christmas Carol.” And it stars Bill Murray. So it’s pretty much perfect.
Here’s the setup for you unfortunate souls who haven’t yet witnessed the hilarious delights of “Scrooged.” Murray stars as Francis Xavier Cross, a high-powered TV network exec who’s… well… kind of a jerk. His faithful receptionist gets shower curtains for Christmas, instead of a VCR (this was before the age of DVD). His brother too. He makes employees take down hand-drawn pictures from their children. He fires employees for disagreeing with him, even when there’s a good point being made. Like I said, jerk.
So it’s Christmas Eve and Frank is being his usual jerky self when strange things start to happen. The desiccated corpse of Frank’s workplace mentor and predecessor shows up to warn him of the coming of three ghosts. If you’re familiar with “A Christmas Carol,” the you know — generally speaking — how the story goes from here.
Really, the joy is in the details. For example, David Johansen (Buster Pointdexter!) plays the Ghost of Christmas Past, a reckless, filthy cabbie spewing cigar smoke and profanity in equal amounts. Then you’ve got Carol Kane as the Ghost of Christmas Present; she’s sweet, she’s dressed like a fairy godmother and she’ll happily whack you in the face with a metal toaster if you’re not paying close enough attention.
“Scrooged” is an irreverent Christmas story, released in a time when such things were unusual. The writing is hilarious, Richard Donner’s direction is spot-on and the endless list of cameos — everyone from Miles Davis to Murray’s three brothers, Brian, John and Joel — doesn’t fail to disappoint. You’ve got a young Alfre Woodard, an old Robert Mitchum and a post-“Police Academy” Bobcat Goldthwait-gone-postal. It’s a glorious work of film, and one of the most entertaining holiday movies out there.
As an added note (and thank you to Wikipedia for educating me on this fact), “Scrooged” goes by some vastly different names outside of this country. Names like “The Ghosts Strike Back” (Brazil), “The Ghosts Attack the Boss” (Spain) and — most oddly — “S.O.S. Ghosts” (Italy). If anyone knows where to find any Italian posters for “Scrooged,” hook a brother up. Make sure you check the movie out this holiday season if you never seen it before. And if you have… well… you already know, don’t you?