Christmas films have a notoriety for being sickeningly happy. Everything is sugar and spice and everything nice from the off, sprinkling the holiday season with unattainable aims and memories that are ridiculously lacking in arguments.
Charles Dickens took Christmas and made a story that stood the test of time: one that started off dark, brooding and full of greed and ended on a, moderately sweet, high note. In 1988, a reworking of this tale, ‘A Christmas Carol‘, was released, starring Bill Murray and a whole lot of jokes.
Scrooged hit cinemas with a bang on the audience front, but a lacklustre fizzle when met with the critics. At the time, Bill Murray was a comic giant: he had no competition and film was his talent show. Despite this, his efforts, and those of Scrooged itself, were torn apart shred by shred.
Scrooged follows a cynical, selfish TV executive on Christmas Eve as he is visited by three ghosts. You know the basic storyline: he starts off a baddie and ends up a goodie. However, this film takes a significantly 80s capitalist, bourgeios look at the original story.
Murray as the TV executive is inspired. His lack of humility and overflowing arrogance somehow translates as a plea to be liked on the big screen. You hate him, but you also love him, because he’s funny and he is mean but in a way that isn’t threatening. Almost like a cat with three legs would be to a fully-functioning mouse.
Two out of three ghosts are brilliant. Carol Kane as the Ghost of Christmas Present is hilarious. She is feisty, giggly and absolutely insane. Her pink fairy dress and giant frizz of red hair just contradict each other, much like her personality and her appearance. She defines this role for me.
The Ghost of Christmas Past is also a strange, yet fascinating beast. David Johansen plays the taxi-driving, foul-mouthed, cigar-smoking spectre: another defining role. When I think of the Ghost of Christmas Past, I automatically think of him. That is what defines great acting.
This film isn’t just about turning into a good man at Christmas, though. It highlights America’s inequality, something that is exhibited all too well today. Bringing the homeless shelter into the film, and the fall of Bobcat Goldthwaite as Eliot Loudermilk, demonstrates the true change that needs to happen.
America needs to change. Bill Murray as Frank Cross is the one per cent of America that holds 40% of the country’s wealth. The realisation that Murray has at the end of the film is not as shallow as changing himself: it’s the idea that America itself needs to grow with the times, or it too will crumble and die.
This may seem quite deep for a Christmas film. You may think that I am thinking too deep into this. However, it still stands that the imbalance of wealth in America is all too obvious, and this film is meant to be a wake-up call.
This film obviously has faults – it was slated by critics for a reason. By no means is it the best Christmas film, but it definitely isn’t the worse. Yes, the writing is a bit formulaic, and a lot of the jokes don’t land. Yet, it manages to put across this story, the message behind it, and characters that are memorable and well acted, with fairly significant ease.
If you’re looking for a Christmas film in this home-stretch to the big day, stick this one on. You don’t have to look at the context, or read in between the lines, but if you do: you’ll see what Christmas is all about. Celebrating together, and providing for each other.
Compassion goes a long way. Even in films.