While it certainly is not up there with National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation or Die Hard on my holiday movie watchlist, Scrooged is still an entertaining comedy, largely due to Bill Murray's swing-for-the-rafters performance as grouchy TV station executive Frank Cross. This character is basically Ebenezer Scrooge in this loose adaptation of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." After firing a likeable employee on Christmas Eve, Cross is visited by Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, and sees his life turned upside down. The humor and accompanying drama remain relevant three decades after the film's release, and, despite the saccharine 180-degree turnaround for Murray's character, Scrooged still gets plenty of sass out of the comedic actor.
IBC Television president Cross is, of course, working on Christmas Eve, and calls a programming meeting. Unimpressed with his inferiors' presentation on upcoming shows, Cross unveils his own highlight reel, which promises doomsday threats and overpowering commercialism. Executive Eliot Loudermilk (Bobcat Goldthwait) suggests a softer approach to the schedule, which results in his prompt firing and removal from the building. Cross then returns to his office to reluctantly order Christmas gifts, which include towels for most everyone (including his brother) and a select few VCRs for important colleagues. Cross is also responsible for getting an over-the-top live performance of "A Christmas Carol" off the ground, and Cross's boss (Robert Mitchum) brings in another employee (John Glover) to help relieve some of his executive's stress. This causes Cross even more grief, as he fears a disastrous production will result in his termination.
The majority of Scrooged involves Cross meeting several ghosts, including his mentor, Lew Hayward (John Forsythe), who laments dying alone and disliked due to his similarly volatile temperament. Hayward forces Cross to re-connect with former love Claire Phillips (Karen Allen), who is concerned to hear an incoherent, ranting Cross on the phone. The Ghost of Christmas Past (David Johansen) reminds Cross why he got into the TV business; the Ghost of Christmas Present (Carol Kane), appearing as a ditzy fairy, reveals the struggles of Cross's assistant Grace (Alfre Woodward); and the Ghost of Christmas Future (Robert Hammond) shows Cross a bleak, institutionalized prospect for the remainder of his years. As expected, Cross learns a lot from this spectral visitors, and eventually resolves to change his ways.
While the ending is not unexpected, Scrooged offers plenty of classic Murray wit along the way to entertain viewers. Murray almost dances through some scenes, appearing to have such a great time being a legendary bastard that the actor cannot help but smile. This is a forward-thinking film, with its ridiculous live TV special programming and nods to happenings now not far removed from reality. However, there are a slew of special effects that are not always necessary, and the film's ending feels a little too sweet for its own good. Some reviewers found the film disquieting upon release, and I do think it does a pretty stealthy job portraying the real pains and consequences of blind ambition and overwork, which is more than one can say for most comedies. The late-game sentimentality may have been a studio play to attract more family audiences, but it is certainly less effective than the preceding material that allows Murray to shine.
Paramount recycles the same 1.85:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image from its 2011 Blu-ray for this re-release. The transfer is decent, and Scrooged looks about how you expect a 1980s comedy to on Blu-ray. Detail is generally acceptable, though some wide shots are softer. Colors are somewhat subdued but do not bleed, and blacks are inky. Black crush does obscure some shadow detail, and I noticed some minor edge halos and specks in a couple of spots. Overall, this looks a bit dingy but it's not a terrible presentation.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is decently immersive thanks to a number of action segments that benefit from surround-sound pans and subwoofer support. Dialogue is clear and largely without distortion, and is balanced appropriately with effects and score. I only noticed some minor peaks during a couple of moments of overlapping dialogue that are likely due to the source's age. A French 2.0 and Spanish Dolby mono track are included, as are English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This re-release repackages the 2011 Blu-ray and an ancient DVD release with a digital copy. The discs are packed in an eco-case that is wrapped in a slipcover. My review copy also came with a Christmas ball ornament sporting an image of Murray. The only extra is the Theatrical Trailer (2:37/HD). Your move, Shout! Factory.
Recommended if you do not own the film on Blu-ray. This re-release offers nothing new but a slipcover and digital copy. This Bill Murray holiday send-up of "A Christmas Carol" provides spot-on black comedy and only unravels into sentimentality in its final act.