My number three is a non-conventional adaptation. While it does deviate quite far from the text, it remains one of my favorites. I feel that it has aged rather well. Set in a more modern time frame, it updates every aspect of the man of business and moves it from the gaslit world of Dickens’s England to the high rises and towers of the Gotham of Manhattan.
#3 – Scrooged -1989
The film has a meta nod as the whole story unfolds around the live production of A Christmas Carol for the IBC television network. Bill Murray plays our Scrooge, Frank Cross, the youngest head of a system in the TV industry. He is ambitious, cynical, cruel, affable, and amoral. It’s hard to hate him as he’s Bill Murray, but we see his cold nature when he fires an executive (Bobcat Goldthwait) for speaking his mind on Christmas Eve, he takes his assistant’s bonus and gives her a towel set instead, he laughs when he finds out a woman dies from watching his Scrooged promo, etc.
The film focuses its lens on the cynicism that surrounds the holiday and how we all share in it. Whether it’s poking fun of the cheap and trite attempts to cash in on holiday, the focus on the trappings, and the film never loses sight of how we miss out by not applying the lessons of Christmas to our lives.
Taking liberty and playing with the nature of the ghosts, Scrooged has fun with this part of the story. The obnoxious cabbie Ghost of Christmas Past played by David Johansen, the violent fairy Ghost of Christmas Present played by Carol Cane, taking over for Jacob Marley, John Forsythe plays Frank’s mentor, Lew Hayward, all turn the ghosts on their ears.
While far from the traditional take, it succeeds in illuminating the need for all of us to act compassionately and how are choices echo through time. Whether it is Frank Cross refusing to buy a cup of coffee for Herman, Cross’s dad, Earl, gifting his son veal on Christmas eve, or Lew Hayward bringing Frank under his wing, everything is connected.
This amusing repackaging of A Christmas Carol works on different levels. It brings laughs, depth, and real emotional gravity with all its twists on the original story. The scene with Herman and Frank in the sewer always gets to me. It’s definitely worth watching and rewatching.
I will be back tomorrow with my number two pick.
What do you think of Scrooged? Have you seen it? What are your thoughts? Do you have a favorite version?