Reinterpretations of Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” are almost as old as the original story itself. Indeed, it’ll crop up in various forms three or four times before The Craggus’ Christmas Countdown comes to an end. By lucky dip, we’re starting with one of the best riffs on the theme, 1988’s “Scrooged”.
Bill Murray stars as Frank Cross, a callous, misanthropic television executive who sees Christmas purely in terms of potential audience figures for his network’s elaborate seasonal broadcast extravaganza. But one night, his deceased boss appears to him in his office and warns him to expect visits from three ghosts…
Aside from the modern day setting in the world of television, it’s actually a pretty straight retelling of Dickens’ classic tale. The vitality of this version comes from Richard Donner’s assured direction and the masterfully deadpan performance from Murray. Both are fortunate to be working from a tremendous script which weaves moments of real power and emotion amongst the well observed digs at modern life and especially the bloated, superficial priorities of Christmas TV.
Karen Allen is superb as Claire, Frank’s once and future love and the final catalyst for his change when he sees how living his way of life changes her. Alfre Woodard assumes the Bob Cratchit role as Frank’s long suffering secretary while her elective mute son fulfils Tiny Tim’s part in the proceedings and his whispered “God bless us, everyone” is as saccharin as it is utterly effective. Even though I know it’s coming and I’ve seen the film countless times, I still well up at that moment. Every single time.
Robert Mitchum and John Forsyth have great fun in their roles as the bosses past and present while Jon Glover is glibly, cheerily Machiavellian as the west coast hot shot after Frank’s job. Throw into the mix Bobcat Goldthwait as a fired employee out for revenge, terrific turns from David Johansen and Carol Kane as the ghosts of Christmas Past and Present, a gruesomely realised spectral Ghost Of Christmas future and a whole host of cameo appearances as part of the network’s Holiday schedule (I’m still annoyed they never actually made “The Night The Reindeer Died” starring Lee Majors – maybe somebody should tell Robert Rodriqguez) and you’ve got an effervescent, intoxicating Christmas cocktail which while free of syrupy sentimentality, isn’t afraid to drive home a message about the true meaning of Christmas.