Plot: Francis Cross (Bill Murray) has risen to power in the television world like no one ever had before, ascending to the top at an unholy rate. Now he rules over his network with an iron fist, cutting costs whenever possible, treating employees poorly, and firing anyone who disagrees with his decisions. His work is his life, as he gave up his family, social, and romantic lives to pursue power and wealth, goals he reached beyond his wildest dreams. As Christmas approaches, he has produced an epic live television broadcast of Charles Dickens’ Scrooge, a massive undertaking to say the least and his stress levels are sky high. So when he sees his deceased mentor in his office, telling him to cut back on work and live life, he dismisses it as a stress related hallucination and assumes the promise of three more ghosts is just in his imagination. But is this just a mix of stress and alcohol, or has Cross been chosen to receive an intervention of the paranormal kind?
Entertainment Value: A dark, more modern take on A Christmas Carol, Scrooged is a one of a kind holiday experience. As you’d expect, Bill Murray is hilarious and up to his usual comedic tricks, but the script here is much more mean spirited than his usual projects, to say the least. Cross is a cruel, sarcastic character who likes to throw intense shade even as he finds enlightenment, trying to burn hearts, not just warm them. I think the end result is a lot of fun, though I can understand why it might be a little too dark and sadistic for some holiday cinematic marathons. I do think it falls apart toward the finale and forces the emotional schmaltz a little too hard, but the journey to that point is a hell of a ride. Murray is on point and embraces the asshole nature of Cross, giving us a lead we love to hate, just as the material needs. He is able to balance the scales between doing sadistic things and being likable, when a lot of even talented performers would have dropped the ball. He is surrounded by a wealth of gifted supporting players as well, with Carol Kane, Robert Mitchum, Karen Allen, John Forsythe, Alfre Woodard, Bobcat Goldthwaite, David Johansen, and of course, the colorful cast of the movie within the movie, Scrooge. Mitchum is even able to steal a few scenes from Murray here, which is no simple task. A great change of pace from the normal Christmas fare, Scrooged is a skilled, constantly hilarious take on the holidays. I do wish the finale was a little more polished, but even so, the movie is highly recommended.
A small amount of nipple is visible in one scene, which is played perfectly for laughs and not for erotic purposes. No blood. Murray does endure a lot of abuse from Carol Kane, but it is cartoon style violence, so it isn’t graphic. But it is still fun to watch such a sweet, perky ghost unleash a torrent of violence, right? The dialogue here is excellent, with a constant flow of smart, hilarious exchanges and lines. Murray nails all of his material with laser precision, though he does lose steam when the tone shifts from cruel to more kind. I also think he is able to play off the rest of the cast well, with all of the interactions elevating the performances on both sides, so Murray is on his game here and really shines in the role. I also have to mention Mitchum, who has a small role, but makes the most of it and really knocks his lines out of the park. The conversation about cats and television is a personal highlight. In short, this one is packed with hilarious, memorable, and quotable dialogue. In terms of craziness, Murray’s over the top sadism, Kane’s vision of violence, and the general wackiness of the material earns a couple points, but it never goes totally off the deep end.
Overall Insanity: 2/10