Mean-spirited television network president Frank Cross (Bill Murray) is a slick yuppie who cares only about money and ratings for his network, IBC – which, this year, is producing Christmas shows like The Night The Reindeer Died (starring Lee Majors) and Robert Goulet’s Cajun Christmas.
He has just sacked a member of staff – the unfortunate Eliot Loudermilk (Bobcat Goldthwait) – on Christmas Eve for disagreeing with him and has alienated himself from his brother who still insists on inviting Frank to Christmas dinner despite him refusing to go every year (Frank hates Christmas).
However, Frank is forced to learn the true meaning of Christmas when he’s visited by three ghosts in this holiday film which melded MTV sensibilities with the classic Charles Dickens novel, A Christmas Carol.
Alone in his office with a Stolichnaya and Diet Coke, Frank is visited by an apparition of Lew Hayward (a mummified, decaying John Forsythe), his (deceased) predecessor at IBC.
From this point on, he begins to see things that others don’t – which is bad news because network boss Preston Rhinelander (played with a touch of dementia by hard-boiled Robert Mitchum) has imported breezy, sleazy Californian Brice Cummings (John Glover) to assist the overworked network president.
The Ghost of Christmas Past (David Johansen as a cab driver with a terrible dental plan) takes Frank back to his abused TV-dominated childhood and through his meeting and budding love affair with the idealistic Claire (Karen Allen) before yielding to the ditsy gossamer-winged Ghost of Christmas Present (Carol Kane as a pushy accident-prone sugar plum fairy who enjoys inflicting pain). The big Ghostbusters-style effects arrive with the huge, monstrous Ghost of Christmas Future.
The modernising of the venerable classic is extremely well done, and the film shares a lot of its concerns with Dickens – including themes of homelessness, poverty, the struggles of being a single parent and the perils of becoming so engrossed in your career that you lose sight of everything else of importance.
Scrooged abounds in comic ideas, gags, and storylines and Murray is at the top of his game, delivering a big, brash, caustic – and finally, emotional – performance that only occasionally crosses over into bathos and bombast.
Ghost of Christmas Past
Ghost of Christmas Present
Ghost of Christmas Future
Michael J. Pollard
Mary Lou Retton
Al ‘Red Dog’ Weber
Jean Speegle Howard
Mary Ellen Trainor