It’s Christmas Eve and we’re at the North Pole.
Santa and all his little elves are scrambling around trying to get last-minute toys ready to be
delivered. A gang of terrorists spring out of nowhere and start firing away. Lee Majors arrives at
the scene. He’s the only one who can save Christmas.
Robert Goulet is rowing a boat singing Christmas carols.
Buddy Hackett is slouching in a chair in the living room, looking morose, bitter. “BAH HUMBUG!”
Mr. Frank Cross, head of IBC Network, played by Bill Murray, sits at the head of the table.
He glowers at his associates waiting in anxious anticipation to hear his verdict on the promo
screening. He holds his face in his hands and cries out in exasperation. “We have spent forty-
million dollars on a LIVE TV show. You’ve got a promo of America’s favorite old fart reading a book
in front of a fireplace. Now…I have to kill all of you.”
Would you believe Put A Little Love In Your Heart by Al Green & the Eurythmics is this film's theme
I’m the Ranting Usher. Let me talk you to your seat.
If you think this is all over the top ridiculous, then you’ve captured the tone of Richard Donner's
1988 classic "Scrooged", a dark sardonic comedy interspersed with slapstick antics and a few
heartwarming moments sprinkled in for good measure.
While Bill Murray is excellent at capturing the role of Scrooge in Richard Donner’s apparently
demented vision, very little exposition is given to explain why Frank Cross is such a jerk. That
question is never fully answered, only hinted at. The Ghost of Christmas Past (David Johansen)
takes Frank back to 1955 to show him as a kid at home with his Mom and Dad. Frank’s father Earl,
played by Brian Doyle Murray who is in fact Bill Murray’s older brother, is just as abrasive.
Disappointed with the five pounds of veal Earl gives him for Christmas, Frank cries about wanting
a “choo-choo,” Earl offers a sneer and says. “Then why don’t you get yourself a job and buy a
Audiences can only assume that Frank Cross grew up to be just like his father.
How did Cross ever get to be an IBC president in the first place? Again, we’re provided with only
clues as to how a cruel, cynical, selfish person rose to power. During a scene in which Frank’s
boss engages him in conversation, we discover he can be quite charming when he needs to be.
Surely, it takes more than being a smooth-talker to climb the corporate ranks.
Frank is even presented with an award. Although for what, the movie never really says. “I’m
always going to cherish this,” he says, “and all of you.”
Oddly enough, he leaves the award sitting in the back seat of a taxi-cab. Does he really cherish
Later on, Cross’s old boss, Lew Hayworth, played by John Forsythe, comes back from being dead
seven years and blasts his way into Frank’s office with a shotgun. Frank retaliates by reaching
into his desk drawer, pulling out a pistol and fires back. Where did Frank get that, I wonder? Who
gave him that gun? What kind of moron would ever give this guy a gun?
Where did the dead guy get a shotgun from for that matter?
Frank’s decomposing, Bacardi drinking boss warns him that he must change his ways before
ending up “a worm-feast.” He also warns him, as the story goes, that he is going to be visited by
three ghosts. Frank tries cajoling his way out of the deal. Lew lifts him off the floor by his throat
and pushes him through his office window which is several stories high. Although where or how a
dead man managed to summon the strength to do something like that is anyone’s guess.
Frank clutches onto Lew’s rotting hand only to have it break it off. Frank falls to what appears to
be his death. Except that we find him screaming on the floor of his office moments later. Was he
dreaming? Did he hallucinate?
This is one of many awkward transitions.
Frank then reconnects with an old girlfriend, the sweet, loving Claire Phillips, played by Karen
Allen. Claire brings out the softer side of Frank if only so that he can revert back to his usual
cruel self, resulting in an on-off relationship. Their character interactions tease viewers, making
them more and more eager for Frank to see the error in his ways.
Perhaps the Ghost of Christmas present, a fairy with an affinity for violence can set him straight.
She slaps him in the face and punches him. She even kicks him in the balls. “Sometimes the truth
is painful,” she says.
It’s obvious from the first time she says it. Other than to achieve the slapstick humor aspect that
Richard Donner intended, even though it is very funny, there’s really no reason for the Ghost of
Christmas Present to keep reminding us of her purpose. Then again, she is dealing with Mr. Frank
Cross so maybe she has every right. It’s only fitting that she closes out their time together by
smacking him across the head with a toaster, knocking him into a whole new scene, literally.
While all this is going on, the Charles Dickens Classic "Scrooge" is playing out in the IBC studio,
and it’s actually paralleling what’s going on with Frank Cross, which is quite cleverly done. It’s
rare to see two entirely different versions of a similar story unfold within the same movie. Yet
they seldom overlap one another. Although, seeing as how the studio version is moving at
relatively the same pace as the major plot-line, it does lend a certain degree of predictability. It is
announced, for instance, that Scrooge has yet to be visited by the Ghost of Christmas Future and
that he must confront his worst fears.
Frank fears that, after telling Claire to ”scrape them off, if you want to save somebody, save
yourself,” she turns out to be as callous as he is. That his associate’s son who hasn’t spoken a
word since his father died years before has been committed to a psychiatric ward.
Worst of all, Frank faces the threat of being burned alive. One would think that that would be
enough to set him straight, but does it? Does it really?
As an aside, I noticed that the Goonies theme, no, not the Cindy Lauper song but the other theme,
plays during the "Scrooged" trailer. It’s almost as if Richard Donner was trying to remind viewers
of a movie he previously directed. Also, Anne Ramsey, who played Mama Fratelli, a strong
supporting character in "The Goonies," has a cameo in "Scrooged" as a homeless person. These
small touches are random and whimsical, but I thought they were worthy to point out.
I enjoy "Scrooged" very much and watch it every year around the holidays. I’m the Ranting Usher.
Let me be the first to wish you a very merry Christmas.
Do you agree with my review? Do you know someone like this and if so, do they deserve a second
chance? Let me know in the comments section.
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