Released in 1988 and directed by Richard Donner, Scrooged was a modern retelling of Dickens' classic story A Christmas Carol with Bill Murray as a particularly grouchy TV producer who is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve.
This marked a mini-comeback for Bill Murray after The Razor's Edge failed to make a dent at the box-office and despite Scrooged not sitting well with the likes of Roger Ebert, it's enjoyed something of a cult status since its release. This was certainly not the Scrooge re-imagining anyone was expecting as it's far stranger and more mean-spirited than you'd think, which might explain some reviewers' reservations. The tone throughout yo-yos between creepy and goofy so when the inevitable uplifting climax happens, you might find yourself too weirded out to really buy it. Perhaps part of the problem is that Murray sells his character's meanness too well so his 360 switch to "happy mode" needed more work to be convincing. The Ghost of Christmas Future usually packs the biggest emotional punch of the story when Scrooge comes face to face with his own mortality but here, it feels somewhat rushed so that also contributes to the ending falling a bit short.
The film's darker tone, however, also adds an element of fun to the whole thing. The black humour along with the macabre (and very good) practical effects give Scrooged an almost Halloween-friendly feel and a playful Danny Elfman score certainly underlines that. You've got Bobcat Goldthwait pursuing Bill Murray with a shotgun, a golf ball popping out of a dead man's head, Lee Majors starring in a violent Santa-themed action movie, the Ghost of Christmas Present relentlessly hitting our Scrooge in the face, it's all pretty wacky but it means you're never bored: there's always something amusingly odd around the corner. Murray is as lively as ever and Karen Allen was a perfect choice to play his love interest, even though their romance is somewhat underwritten. As a modern re-vamp of A Christmas Carol, Scrooged ticks most of the right boxes even if it maybe could have done with a sharper script and more heart.
It may have only half-succeeded in bringing the Christmas spirit but Scrooged remains an enjoyably moody and bizarre comedy that breathes some new life into one of the most familiar stories out there. It's funny, random and the perfect antidote to some of the cheesier Christmas movies out there.
Humbug? I think not.