I always say with comedies you either think something is funny and laugh or you don’t. Comedy is so subjective and I’ve had too many experiences to count where I thought something was hilarious and shown it to a friend and get only an awkward courtesy laugh from them in response. You’d think what is humorous would be more universal but I have found that to be almost never the case.
So here we have the most comedic take on Christmas Carol, the anti-Carol, you might say- 1988’s Scrooged staring Bill Murray. I think it is a very funny movie. It lags in a few spots but it keeps me laughing consistently for a hearty recommendation. If you don’t find it funny there isn’t much else to recommend about the film.
This movie has some of the most hilarious cameos of any movie I’ve seen. Some of the best laughs are people not on the official cast list.
|Bill Murray as Francis Xavier “Frank” Cross|
|Karen Allen as Claire Phillips|
|John Forsythe as Lew Hayward|
|John Glover as Brice Cummings|
|Bobcat Goldthwait as Eliot Loudermilk|
|David Johansen as the Ghost of Christmas Past|
|Carol Kane as the Ghost of Christmas Present|
|Robert Mitchum as Preston Rhinelander|
|Nicholas Phillips as Calvin Cooley|
|Michael J. Pollard as Herman|
|Alfre Woodard as Grace Cooley|
|Mabel King as Gramma|
|John Murray as James Cross|
|Wendie Malick as Wendie Cross|
|Brian Doyle-Murray as Mr. Cross, Frank and James’s father|
|Joel Murray as Guest|
Scrooge: Bill Murray plays Scrooge who goes by the name of Frank Cross in this and he is great as always. He pulls off the grumpy corporate executive probably better than the more tender scenes but his deadpan delivery is very funny.
Differences- This is definitely a lose adaptation designed to get laughs but there is 3 spirits, a Marley figure, a grumpy Scrooge character and a beleaguered assistant, so some elements remain in the story.
John Forsythe is actually pretty creepy as Lew Hayward with some decent special effects. They use the elevator very cleverly in the movie and Murray is filming a telecast of Christmas Carol while his own version is occurring, which brought some good laughs. My personal favorite scene is when the censor objects to a wardrobe in the telecast. Then there is a running gag where she gets hit in the head by various items and as someone who finds Hollywood’s attempt to censor itself with the MPAA to be a total joke I found it very funny.
Christmas Past is a cab driver played by David Johansen and he is nuts but in a humorous way.
Christmas Present is my favorite played by Carol Kane and she finds ways of injuring Scrooge both on purpose and by accident. Haven’t we all wanted to slap Scrooge in the face in one version or another? And it’s always funny when someone who sounds sweet and looks cute actually has a temper. She talks all sweet and then slaps him as hard as she can and that’s just funny.
Karen Allen from Raiders of the Lost Arc plays the Belle character who wants to serve others while Frank only thinks of himself. They had good chemistry together and I bought them as a couple.
Christmas Future isn’t an actor but a prop from the production going on that ends up in the elevator. He has Ignorance and Want inside his belly in a creative way.
In this version Fred is actually Frank’s Brother John and Alfre Woodard (who I always like) is the Cratchit character named Grace Cooley. She has a son who is a mute and refuses to talk to anyone.
But my favorite performance is Bobcat Goldthwait as Eliot Loudermilk. He is fired by Frank after offering some timid criticism of his rather grisly Scrooge promo. He comes back to get vengeance on Frank and it is hilarious. It feels like a rif on Die Hard but that came out the same year so I guess it is just making fun of all the over-the-top action movies of the 80s.
Strengths- As I said the interweaving stories of the production and Frank’s visitations are very clever. Most of the gags made me laugh so I guess that means it’s a successful comedy!
Eliot Loudermilk, Carol Kane, Alfre Woodard, David Johansen and John Forsythe are all great fun.
Murray is a funny as always and it’s all directed competently by Richard Donner of Superman fame.
Weakness- I guess a weakness is it doesn’t really give much to enjoy if you don’t find it funny but not all movies can be everything. It’s definitely non-traditional and a few of the jokes are more designed for an 80s audience and are perhaps a bit dated.
Other than that I really enjoyed it. So bah humbug and have some good laughs!