Francis Xavier Cross (Bill Murray) is many things to many people. To his employees at the IBC television network, he's a heartless, controlling bastard. To his bosses, he's a young, energetic and successful programming executive. To his family, he's a distant man who hasn't been to Christmas dinner in years. To his ex-girlfriend Claire (Karen Allen), he's a guy who used to be sweet, funny and caring until he decided to put his career in front of their relationship. So for all intents and purposes, Frank Cross is our Ebeneezer Scrooge in this loose adaptation of Charles Dickens' popular A Christmas Carol, delivered with all the pros and cons a 1980s-era Hollywood picture is capable of. Scrooged spices up the formula with black humor and Murray's trademark sarcastic wit...and for the most part, the mixture works pretty well. It's not your father's A Christmas Carol, but that's usually a good thing.
After firing the well-meaning Eliot Loudermilk (Bobcat Goldthwait) on Christmas Eve for (gasp!) offering some constructive criticism about IBC's holiday programming, Frank Cross turns down his brother's Christmas dinner invitation again and forces his secretary to work late. All that's on his mind is the company's live broadcast of A Christmas Carol...but back in his office, Frank is visited by the ghost of his former boss, Lew Hayward. From here, our story switches gears to a slightly more predictable version of Dickens' holiday classic. Three ghosts? Check. Visions of Frank's past, present and future? Check. Adorable kid saying "God bless us, every one"? Check. Solid Gold dancers, slapstick comedy, gratuitous Tab drinking, destruction of the fourth wall and an ex-employee with a shotgun? Check.
Despite the film's occasional shortcomings (pacing problems, a reliance on special effects and an over-the-top ending), Scrooged is still entertaining holiday fare. Bill Murray---as in most other roles---plays "Bill Murray" here, though it's a slightly more bipolar version. His pitch-black behavior is suitably cynical for the Scrooge character, though his giddy Christmas reformation doesn't quite hit the mark. Those familiar with Murray's back catalog will probably compare it to the superior Groundhog Day...but in that story, the happy ending works because it's subtle. In Scrooged, we're treated to a claustrophobic, ten-minute speech about Frank's new outlook on life...and more often than not, it's as slightly awkward now as it's always been. Luckily, the story that comes before it doesn't have to try so hard.
In any case, Scrooged is still an enjoyable Christmas adventure that plenty of Murray fans have grown to love during the past 20+ years. It was a fairly expensive production by 1988 standards, but most of the money seems well-spent: the special effects hold up pretty well and many of the set pieces are quite nice. Unfortunately, Scrooged didn't do very well at the box office, but years of home video sales have softened the blow. Fans reluctantly accepted a 1999 DVD release with solid A/V quality and no extras...and a special edition was promised five years ago but never arrived. Now on Blu-Ray, it's more of the same: we get a great-looking and great-sounding disc, but that's about it.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Paramount gave us a fine visual presentation on Scrooged's original 1999 DVD release; in fact, it's taken them 12 years to beat it. Presented in a slightly modified 1.78:1 version of its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer looks pretty darn good for a 1988 comedy. The film's color palette holds up quite well, image detail is solid and textures are well-represented. Digital problems don't seem to be an issue, not even DNR. In all honesty, this is above and beyond what most people should be expecting for a catalog release, and it really helps make up for a few other shortcomings.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is equally satisfying: Scrooged wasn't a cheap film to make, and it looks like a good portion of its original budget went towards a quality sound treatment. The film's score benefits the most from this lossless presentation, while dialogue and sound effects are also crisp and well-rendered. Rear channel and LFE activity are notable at times and a few instances of directional activity can also be heard along the way. Optional French and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 dubs are included, as well as subtitles in English, English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese and French.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Packaged in a standard Blu-Ray keepcase with a lenticular slipcover, Scrooged
features simple menu designs and easy navigation. This 101-minute film has been divided into just over a dozen chapters, no obvious layer change was detected and this Blu-Ray appears to be locked for Region "A" players only.
Aside from the film's Theatrical Trailer (1080p, 2 minutes)
, there's absolutely nothing
here...and after the cancelled 2006 "Yule Love It!" Edition
---which, despite the stupid name, promised an assortment of new extras---that's pretty disappointing. I'm really
hoping we don't get suckered into a double-dip for the film's 25th Anniversary in two years. Until then, at least Scrooged
looks and sounds exceptional.
Scrooged isn't Bill Murray's best film, but this adaptation of A Christmas Carol serves up refreshingly black humor and plenty of solid performances. It's certainly a little dated in appearance and delivery, but those looking for atypical holiday fare should give it a spin. Paramount's Blu-Ray looks and sounds excellent, but the continued lack of extras---especially ones that apparently exist and have not been released---is somewhat frustrating. Either way, the strength of the movie and its technical presentation make Scrooged worth buying on Blu-Ray, though new viewers should rent it first. Recommended.
NOTE: The above images were obtained from promotional outlets and do not represent this release's native resolution.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects, teaches art classes at a local gallery and runs a website or two. He also enjoys slacking off, telling lame jokes and writing stuff in third person.