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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 11.76%
Just Average: 19.61%
Pretty Crappy: 23.53%
Sucks: 3.92%

3 reviews, 33 user ratings

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by Jack Sommersby

"The Great Bill Murray Gives This Xmas Botch Some Class"
2 stars

Uneven and overscaled, it's a botch, yet Bill Murray manages to make it tolerable.

Bill Murray is hysterically funny (and admittedly spectacular) as Frank Cross, the president of a television network in the 1988 comedy Scrooged. Despite uncreative writing and subtle-as-a-jackhammer direction, Murray manages to cut quite the profound cinematic figure of Cross, a detestable, egotistical man who's about as pleasant to be around as a tax auditor in December. Having gotten near the top of his profession at a relatively young age, Frank has wasted no time in openly and profanely professing his megalomania to his subordinates. He loves demeaning people -- it stokes the internal fire that helps fuel a weak inner superiority complex -- and does so with such ferocious elan that it's no wonder he's all but a literal terror to come in contact with. Yet, in a lot of ways, he's irresistible to movie audiences, because Murray plays him with such utter and complete conviction, with so many subtle nuances of irony, that you find yourself responding to him on numerous emotional levels; he makes for the darndest, most despicably detestable Everyman ever to grace a saccharine, feel-good cinematic Christmas fable. When Cross mercilessly fires an employee on Christmas Eve, the only thing that makes him tingle with joy more is having his secretary call down to Accounting to stop the man's bonus; and a bit later, when in a rush to get to a humanitarian awards ceremony, he's all but ecstatic over swindling a little old lady out of her cab on a cold night -- he even points up his accomplishment by flipping her the finger as the cab departs. Murray's at the top of his game -- he clues you into the humaneness lurking somewhere deep down inside this human monstrosity, minus the insufferable mawkishness that a genuinely naive actor might soil the proceedings with -- and he provides the film with a lot more panache than the filmmakers know what to do with.

Scrooged is as uncouth and bombastic a comedy as ever projected onto the silver screen, and it's little wonder that critics and audiences alike didn't take to kindly to it during its theatrical release. The main reason for this, chiefly, is the indifferent handling of director Richard Donner, who proved a year before with the miraculous Lethal Weapon that he had all the makings of a first-rate filmmaker. But that was with the action genre, not comedy. Scene after scene comes off as overscaled and underjudged, as if the director were wading around in unfamiliar artistic waters too deep to get a proper toehold on. When the comedy was lightly stressed in Weapon (like, for instance: Mel Gibson's insistent smoking in the police car; Danny Glover's wiseacre comments over his wife's pathetic cooking) it fused agreeably with the violent aspects of the goings-on; but in putting the comedy center stage in Scrooged, Donner proves himself as obtuse at setting up a gag as fellow maestro Brian De Palma did in Wise Guys and The Bonfire of the Vanities. The unsuccessful gags don't just misfire -- they thud as loud as the ringing bells of a clock tower. With the big budget and lavish special effects, it should come as little surprise that filmmaking tact takes a backseat to sensationalism; so, keeping in mind the spectacular production design (Cross' office interior is particularly stunning) and evocative cinematography by the great Michael Chapman (the lavish big-city exteriors have a glitzy tactility to them), it's little wonder that we don't respond to the film as anything more than an exercise in style-over-coherence. Oh, Scrooged isn't painful to sit through. The first-rate array of supporting performances are all one could ask for (even when Carol Kane pushes too hard with determined eccentricity as a spunky angel, there's Murray's real-life brother, John, appealingly playing his kind-hearted on-screen brother), and when the story lurches and threatens to keel over, it's never unforgivably boring because there's always something interesting (regardless of whether or not it's organically relevant) going on in the center or periphery of the action.

Still, Bill Murray is best when playing an all-out, unredeemable bastard, and Donner isn't enough of a character-oriented director to help the actor blend the character's newfound 'goodness' in with his other emotional levels like director Harold Ramis aided Murray with in the wonderful Groundhog Day. When Cross finally transforms into a caring human being, the strain definitely shows, and Murray (usually one of the most alert of performers) is simply unable to convince us of the transformation due to the sitcom-like character development -- it leaps forth rather than progressing fluidly; Murray suggests more valid humaneness at the onset when submerging it than blatantly revealing and showcasing it later on. Sure, he's a joy when dictating his last-minute Christmas list to his secretary while downing highballs (the lucky recieptents getting either a towel or VCR), but when he wraps his arm around an impoverished inner-city child at the end while singing a carol, you can't help but realize the filmmakers have totally misunderstood what makes Murray such a valuable commodity among his contemporaries: his uncanny ability to deliver a gag while, at the same time, skewering its implications with lyrical cynicism.

Not a holiday film worth reveling in.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=2836&reviewer=327
originally posted: 04/17/03 19:50:53
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User Comments

3/28/18 Suzanne This film is my guilty Christmas pleasure. 4 stars
2/12/17 morris campbell boring 1 stars
1/29/11 Josie Cotton is a goddess Funny and inventive Dickens parody 4 stars
2/17/08 Pamela White modern adaptation of Christmas Carol done well 5 stars
4/12/07 David Pollastrini Not great not terrible 3 stars
4/05/07 Anthony Feor This is the worst Bill Murray movie. 0/5 1 stars
12/29/06 Austin Wertman HILARIOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
12/16/06 Dave G You have to watch this movie...its a federal law actually and you have to uphold that law 5 stars
3/27/06 Brian Meyer You don't get through December without watching this. It's a sin! 5 stars
12/09/05 R.W.Welch Has some flashes of wit but not much of the original's charm. 3 stars
8/16/05 ES A personal favourit, this and groundhog day, and Ghostbusters have Murray at his best 5 stars
2/27/05 Jeff Anderson One of the saddest excuses for a Xmas comedy I've ever seen! Murray is the main STANDOUT!!! 2 stars
9/03/04 T.B. Laugh at the whole movie! 5 stars
1/24/04 Elena Meh... I just saw it recently. It would have been more funny when it first came out. 4 stars
12/25/03 your worst goddamn nightmare it's become my all time favourite christmas movie now... 5 stars
11/29/03 john one of the best christmas movies 5 stars
11/25/03 MelissaNYC X-mas or not, I watch this movie whenever I can. It's too funny to miss. Classic! 5 stars
8/31/03 Kitty B. still luv ya bill 5 stars
7/06/03 dan i dont care what you all say. the speech at the end gets to me every time. 5 stars
6/08/03 Ripper The northpole shoot-out at the beginning is worth the price of renting it. 4 stars
12/28/02 Jack Sommersby Murray stealing that old lady's cab is a scream! 2 stars
11/22/02 CVJ Great updated(comedy) version of Dickens Brilliant tale 5 stars
10/28/02 Charles Tatum Does anyone NOT know this story by now? 2 stars
5/17/02 Rosa Zared Story's a downer; making it a comedy just misfires; Carol Kane's a snotty witch in it. 2 stars
10/15/01 Andrew Carden Pretty Funny Movie, A Very Well Done Spoof. Carol Kane Is Great. 5 stars
9/05/01 Butterbean The best version of an otherwised "done to death" story 4 stars
8/09/01 Mr. Hat Good movie. 4 stars
8/08/01 E-Funk Kick-ass X-Mas movie. One of Bill Murray's best performances. 5 stars
12/24/00 But These Are Good Things Bill Murray overacts like a maniac, and his climactic speech is shamelessly mawkish 5 stars
12/04/99 Phreezer Hold up a sec. Not the worst movie Bill Murray did that was Caddyshack 2 3 stars
11/04/99 Karahde Khan The worst Bill Murray flick this side of Farrelly. The jokes were unfunny. A travesty. 2 stars
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  23-Nov-1988 (PG-13)



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