By J.D. Cook
Our #2 Christmas Film
Released: November 23, 1988
Directed by: Richard Donner
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The George C. Scott version of A Christmas Carol is the definitive version of Charles Dickens classic. So why is Scrooged higher on this list? Bill Murray! It seems that in the eighties paring Murray with ghosts was a recipe for success! This version of A Christmas Carol isn’t truly an adaptation of Dickens but a modernization. It takes the DNA of Dickens classic and infuses it with some good old fashioned American comedy. Interestingly the subplot of the film is about a television corporation adapting A Christmas Carol in horrible fashion…with half naked dancers, and a Tiny Tim who does flips. It’s like the film is poking fun at itself and showing audiences how bad a modern adaptation of A Christmas Carol can be while delivering a great one.
The plot follows Frank Cross (played by Bill Murray) the Ebenezer character of the film. He is estranged from his brother and his former love interest Claire (played by the fantastic Karen Allen). His Bob Cratchet is his secretary Grace Cooley (played by Alfre Woodard). Her son Calvin (played by Nicholas Phillips) replaces Tiny Tim and has not spoken a word since his father passed away. So far this film seems fairly close to the original but with the modern update; correct? Well I haven’t gotten to the ghosts! The first is the lead singer of the band the New York Dolls David Johansen who plays The Ghost of Christmas Past. He is a New York Cab driver who takes Cross back to his past as an actor in a dog suit for a television show along with various other happy memories gone by. The Ghost of Christmas present is played by Carol Kane who is a veteran of various comedy films such as Transylvania 6-5000, and The Princess Bride. She beats up Cross while showing him all the things he has missed in the present including Calvin. The Ghost of Christmas future is shockingly spooky and the scene in which Cross is trapped in his own burning coffee really provides a huge contrast to the moment in which he realizes he can still change.
The final scenes of the movie are perhaps my favorite as Cross is outrageously happy with his life. He gets an employee he laid off who had returned to the office to kill him and convinces him to help him take over the broadcast of his networks version of A Christmas Carol. They tie up the man trying to replace Cross and wreak hilarious havoc across the set. The film ends with Cross and Claire reunited and with Calvin talking for the first time in many years as he reminds Cross to say ‘God Bless us everyone’. So I suppose it’s probably a matter of taste for this film. If you are looking for a completely faithful adaptation then you would prefer the 1984 George C. Scott version of this story but if you are anything like me and you like your Christmas with a little more modern American twist and Bill Murray then you will see why this film deserves to be the second best Christmas film on this list!