It’s December! Christmas is officially here and along with it comes about a million Christmas themed films, mini series’ and TV spots: the perfect accompaniment to stuffing your face with festive goodies. It’s okay, you’re just training for Christmas Day and I’m sure you’ll work it off in the new year. I don’t know about you, but I always watch the same stuff when the holidays roll around. For me, it’s not Christmas until I’ve seen The Muppet’s Christmas Carol, what I understand to be the best adaptation of the popular Dickens novella. Not that I’ve tested this myself, refusing to watch any other version since there are way too many to watch them all. But I’ve finally acknowledged that this is a strange prejudice and in this season of goodwill I really should be more open to change. So that’s how I finally ended up watching Scrooged. As a modern adaptation, I figured it would be different enough to be engaging instead of the same old story and with Bill Murray at the helm, it looked to be a good call. How wrong I was…
So what happened? What made this supposed comedy something to be endured rather than watched? Let’s review the plot: Scrooge is replaced by young TV executive Frank Cross (Murray), the meanest man in business, as he oversees the production of a live play of A Christmas Carol set to air on Christmas Eve. He sends IBC towels to colleagues and loved ones for Christmas and advertises Christmas specials with explosions, guns and death. Instead of being visited by the Spirits on Christmas Eve night, Frank is visited mostly during the day, the exception being former employer (now deceased) Lew Hayward who replaces Marley in the traditional story. Between each Ghost, Frank flits between changing for the better and and staying a miserable git until the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows him his own mortality. The now reformed Frank then uses his live broadcast to spread a message of love and happiness by singing “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” while aiding his assistant’s mute child to speak again. Christmas sure is a time for miracles.
There are a myriad of problems in Scrooged but I think I can identify the main one: Frank is too young. Maybe the writers thought it would relate to those going through mid-life crises or something, or perhaps they thought the character needs time to redeem his life but it just doesn’t fit, not for me. Then there’s the character’s development. Okay, so he thinks about redeeming himself occasionally between Ghosts but it’s the thought of his own demise that supposedly changes his tune, like I’m meant to buy that he’s totally good now and wont revert back like he has throughout the goddamn film! It doesn’t even feel like he’s sad over the lack of mourners, just the fact that he dies sometime in future. We all die some day Frank. No amount of do-gooding will change that.
Why Frank is surprised by any of the visions being shown to him – his assistant’s family life, the teasing/ gossiping of others, his own, sad mortality – I don’t know, since he obviously makes the connection between the classic tale and his own experiences early on given the heavy handed play-within-the-film gimmick.
The only good thing about this film is Grace (Alfrie Woodard), Frank’s burdened assistant. While her storyline borders on being overly sentimental, and her family life is a bit cliché – single mum, dead husband, a large handful of children – she was the only character who seemed rounded and believable. As the Bob Cratchit stand-in, Grace has to be a moral yet loyal core of the story. The change to make that character female, and black, was a welcome one, a small redeeming feature in an otherwise awful film.
So I’m sticking with my original theory: The Muppets Christmas Carol is the only adaptation worth watching. If you disagree and can suggest a different one, feel free to leave a comment but you’ll never convince me Scrooged is anything other than cold and soulless, lacking Christmas cheer and failing to raise so much as a smile. Awful film.