Sunday, December 4, 2016

25 Days of Christmas: SCROOGED

Welcome to Day 4 of our 25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS series, where we will be taking a look at holiday classics each day in the lead up to Christmas. Today, I'll be reviewing the 1988 Richard Donner film, SCROOGED starring Bill Murray.

Well, Scrooged is a mixed bag. On the positive side, for the time (1988), the effects are really good. The practical ones, like the ghost of Frank's old boss, A.K.A Jacob Marley, and the VFX used will not pull you out of the movie, like a lot of other older films that rely on special effects, but don't hold up. Bill Murray is great in the role of Frank Cross, A.K.A Ebenezer Scrooge. He is wonderfully mean for most of the movie, and he gives a great physical performance here. Also, I really liked the stuff with Alfre Woodward's character and her family, who take on the roles of Bob Cratchit and co. They are, in my opinion, the heart of the movie, and boy does this movie need them, because the biggest problem with Scrooged is... It lacks a lot of heart.

I am currently studying A Christmas Carol for English Literature, so, I know that book now like the back of my hand, and I know, even though it is a dark book at times, it can be spooky, and Scrooge is portrayed as a very nasty man... But the book still has heart. Dickens' writing is inviting, warm, whilst still portraying the ugliness of Scrooge, yet Richard Donner's take on the classic book, feels hollow and deeply mean spirited.

And believe me, I love gallows humour. Black comedies, laughing at others, that's my bag, but I don't think A Christmas Carol, was the right book to adapt into an 80s black comedy. Maybe Great Expectations, or Nicholas Nickleby, or perhaps they should have just taken the idea of, one changing themselves for the better of them and others, and made up an entirely new narrative.

And also, I am never one of those people who say "It should have been more like the book", and I never will be. The film medium and the book medium are totally different, yet with A Christmas Carol, it is much easier to adapt faithfully, because it is only 84 pages long. In-fact, the script for this film is 97 pages, which is longer than the source material. And I do encourage filmmakers to adapt books to film, and do their own thing, but there isn't a lot to do different with A Christmas Carol, and Donner did keep most of the key essential elements. But he, and screenwriters Mitch Glazer and Michael O'Donoghue, missed the mark on the warmth and the heart of A Christmas Carol, which is, in my opinion, the biggest key essential element. This is because you have to have that warmth to change Scrooge's, or in this case, Frank's, mind. Yes, he sees himself in a casket, going off into the burning flames, but the reason why Scrooge changes his mind is because he wants to become a better person, save Tiny Tim's life, etc. But in Scrooged, Frank basically changes his mind, so he can live, and get the girl. It felt hollow.

My final take away from the film is Danny Elfman's score, which is very good. Now that captured the feel and tone of a Dicken's novel. I listened to that score, and in my mind, I was transported to 19th century London, on Christmas eve!

So all in all, Scrooged is okay. The effects hold up, the score is great, Bill Murray gives it his very all, Alfre Woodward's character and family are the emotional glue, but unfortunately, it did not stick with me. The tone is misguided, the jokes, for the most part, don't land, and it misses the message of Dickens's classic novel. The film is mean spirited, the book is not. Ebenezer is, but the book is not, and for what one would assume to be such an easily adaptable book, even putting it into a modern setting could have worked, Donner and Co, somehow, missed the mark.

I think I'll toss this aside and watch The Muppets Christmas Carol for the 100th time!

Sammy's Score: 4/10

Be sure to stay tuned throughout the rest of the month! We're posting a new Christmas review every day, both old and new! Check back to see what movie we'll have you singing carols next!

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