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Film: Scrooged

Frank Cross: I get it. You're here to show me my past, and I'm supposed to get all dully-eyed and mushy. Well, forget it, pal, you got the wrong guy!
Ghost of Christmas Past: That's exactly what Attila the Hun said. But when he saw his mother... Niagara Falls.

Scrooged is a 1988 moderately loose modern retelling of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, with the twist of taking place In a World where everyone's already familiar with Dickens' tale. Bill Murray stars as Frank Cross, a cynical, selfish TV executive who is planning a live adaptation of A Christmas Carol for a holiday special. Cross' own childhood memories of Christmas were less than fond, leaving him initially unable to appreciate the spirit of the season.

However things start to go downhill when his dead former boss smashes his way into his office to inform him that he is doomed unless he changes his ways. True to the source material he is visited by the three very strange Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.

Intended to ride on Murray's earlier success in Ghostbusters, Scrooged contains many references to the earlier (if largely unrelated) film; one of the taglines was, "Bill Murray is back amongst the ghosts, only this time it's three on one."

It's also pretty damn funny, but we shouldn't need to tell you that, right?

This movie contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parent: Frank's heartless old man, who did not buy the toy train Frank wished for Christmas, telling the kid to find work if he really wanted it, despite the boy being a 4-year-old, then proceeded to mock his young age, likening it to other "excuses" people make when they cannot go to work (like a bad back and hurting leg).
  • Alien Geometries: The first hallway the Ghost of Christmas Future sends Frank down. Also the room Calvin is kept in.
  • An Ass Kicking Christmas / Badass Santa: Featured in The Night The Reindeer Died, one of the Films Within A Film during the movie. Apparently Santa is a very Jolly Burt Gummer.
  • Art Shift: The Christmas Future visions.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Bryce Cummings (played by John Glover) seems really nice but is really gunning for Frank's job. Frank realized this almost immediately though.
  • Bland-Name Product: IBC, the network Frank runs, is directly poking fun at ABC. The promo for IBC's Scrooge says "Yule Love It"; ABC's promotional tagline for their shows in the 1985-1986 season (while the movie was being produced) was "You'll Love It".
    • Also note that, somehow, IBC is putting on a performance of Scrooge, as opposed to A Christmas Carol.
  • Blatant Lies: "I CARE!!"
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Frank at the end of the movie. On the one hand, he is in a TV studio, he is speaking into an In-Universe camera, and the closest thing to a physical fourth wall is far behind said camera, but on the other hand, he's talking to the Real Life movie audience as opposed to the In-Universe TV audience.
  • Butt Monkey: Elliot Loudermilk. Fired on Christmas Eve, sells blood for booze money (and the booze gets stolen by the Ghost of Christmas Past), gets robbed as he passes out in an alley, and ends up assaulting Frank with a shotgun in the finale. Also The Woobie.
  • Cheek Copy
  • Chewing the Scenery: Frank Cross.
    Frank: (thinks he sees a ghost) AH-HAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaa!
  • Closing Credits Cast Party
  • Completely Different Title: In order to play up the Ghostbusters angle, the Mexican title for this movie was "The Ghosts Strike Back."
    • Some dubs change the title to "The Ghosts Attack the Boss."
    • The German dub is titled a bit more creatively: "The Ghosts I Called."
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive
  • Creepy Children Singing: Danny Elfman's score features a children's choir; YMMV on whether or not it's "creepy," but it certainly isn't a nice, cheery, uplifting score.
  • Cute Bruiser: The second ghost.
    Ghost of Christmas Present: Oh! What's's a TOASTER! *SMACK*
  • Cute Mute: Calvin (see Dumb Struck, below), who finds his voice near the end to remind the reformed Cross to say, "God bless us, everyone."
  • Darker and Edgier: Frank wants to replace the Christmas Carol ad campaign with one that features drug addiction, terrorist attacks, and the threat of nuclear war.
    • The film itself plays up the Black Comedy possibilities of the story compared to most adaptations. In this version, "Marley" drops Frank off a building, a homeless guy freezes to death, the Ghost of Christmas Future has shrieking demons inside his ribcage, Frank witnesses his love interest become as cynical and miserable as he did, experiences his own cremation instead of merely seeing his grave, and the story caps off with an employee chasing Frank with a shotgun only to be recruited into taking hostages so Frank can deliver a message of holiday cheer. A Charlie Brown Christmas this ain't.
  • Defrosting the Ice King
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: The Ghost of Christmas Present. Yikes.
    • She actually likes it when Frank threatens her with violence if she touches him again.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Played for laughs near the end, when the Standards and Practices woman pounces on a tied up Bryce Cummings and kisses him. It's not rape, but it's definitely assault.
  • The Driver / Drives Like Crazy: The first Ghost.
    Claire Phillips: Taxi! Can you get me to the IBC building in three minutes?
    Ghost of Christmas Past: Which floor?
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Elliot tries to do this after losing his job, but a Roadside Wave wets the paper bag holding his booze and causes it to fall out. He tries again later, only for the Ghost of Christmas Past to drive by and steal his booze.
  • Dumb Struck: Calvin hasn't spoken a word since witnessing his father's murder five years earlier.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Cross is driven to tears when he sees his mother in a vision of one of his first Christmases. The Ghost of Christmas Past had earlier mentioned even "Attila the Hun cried" when he saw his own mother.
    Ghost of Christmas Past: Niagara Falls, "Frankie Angel."
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Frank genuinely does love his brother James. He's the only person aside from Claire that he isn't a flat-out jerk to. Nevertheless he keeps his brother at arm's length.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Though Frank is a self-centered creep, there were some redeeming factors to him prior to the climax. Before he sees the ghost of Christmas past, he dumps water on a waiter, thinking he was on fire. It was merely an illusion by the ghost to get him outside. The thought counts, though. Afterwards he makes some friends with the homeless people, even singing with them before the big "Bah Humbug parody." Lastly after seeing the Ghost of Christmas Present, he was devastated that one of the homeless men he met was found dead in the sewer he landed in. He even berates the guy for not staying at Operation Reachout where his ex-girlfriend Claire works.
    Frank Cross: You moron! You jerk! Why didn't you stay at Claire's? Why didn't you stay with Claire!? She would have taken care of you! You would've eaten! You would've been warm! You might be alive! You'd be a prettier color, I'll tell you that!
    • At one point he is surprised by the show's Ghost of Christmas Future coming out of the elevator, believing it to be the real one and immediately pushes Grace away in a very rough manner in a misguided attempt to save her from the ghost.
    • When he sees a future version of Claire, where she's more cold and heartless than Frank ever was, he realizes its his fault.
    • He's really more of a Jerk with a Heart of Gold. All the ghosts really do is make him aware of various bad things happening and in practically every case he immediately says he wants to fix it.
  • Expy
    • Ebenezer Scrooge - Frank Cross
    • Bob Cratchit - Grace Cooley
    • Tiny Tim - Calvin
    • Fred (Scrooge's only nephew) - James (Frank's only brother)
    • Alice (Fred's skeptical wife) - Wendie (James's skeptical wife)
    • Jacob Marley - Lew Hayward
      • Who also does double duty as Fezziwig: he may have been a money-grubber, but he threw bitchin' Christmas parties.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: A lot, though the crowning example has to be Frank's vision of his own funeral by cremation - from inside the coffin.
  • Flipping the Bird: Frank does this to the old woman after stealing a ride from her.
    • He took said cab to a Humanitarian of the Year awards.
  • Gatling Good: Lee Majors wields a minigun in The Night the Reindeer Died.
  • Genre Savvy: Frank knows the whole Scrooge thing, he has A Christmas Carol In Prose produced for TV right then. Not that his Genre Savviness helps him, since just because he can call it before it happens doesn't mean he can do anything to avoid it.
  • The Grinch: Frank, at first.
  • Groin Attack: "The Ballbreaker Suite", indeed.
  • Heel-Face Turn: Frank.
  • Hellevator: Frank meets the Ghost of Christmas Future here. At the bottom is the funeral noted up in Family-Unfriendly Death.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Ghost of Christmas Future gives off this vibe. For one, it has a TV for a head that is constantly flickering. And inside its robes is what seems to be Hell itself.
  • Improv: Half of Frank's lines; the entire closing sequence.
    • A common one for Bill Murray as he's known to ad-lib and improvise a great deal in most of his movies.
  • Invisible Holes: Frank's old boss, Lew Hayward, caused by Frank repeatedly shooting his reanimated (and decayed) corpse. Lew didn't mind though until he shot the drink he was pouring himself.
  • Meaningful Echo: "Scrape 'em off, Claire. If you want save somebody, save yourself."
  • Meaningful Name: Lampshaded.
    Poster in Frank's Office: "Cross: (n) a thing they nail people to."
  • Meet Cute: Gave rise to Frank's pet name, "Lumpy."
  • Moral Guardians: The Standards and Practices lady. She gets into ahem the spirit a little too much upon seeing Bryce Cummings tied up with garland.
  • Murder by Cremation
  • Neck Lift: Frank Cross's ghostly previous boss Lew Hayward does this to him before pushing him through a building window and letting him fall.
  • Not My Driver: The Ghost of Christmas Past is a borderline psychotic taxi driver.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different
  • Poke the Poodle: Most of what Frank does outside of canning Elliot, but especially:
    Stagehand: I can't get the antlers glued on to this little guy. We've tried crazy glue but it don't work.
    Frank: Have you tried staples?
    Stagehand: Staples!?
    • For some reason, Claire starts bitching out the stagehand even though he's just as horrified by the idea.
    • There's also a moment when his boss kicks his own cat.
  • Pun-Based Title
  • Roadside Wave: Elliot Loudermilk gets an impromptu bath, which simultaneously ruins the liquor he was hoping to drown his sorrows in.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Elliot Loudermilk's M.O. on Frank just before the visit with the Ghost of Christmas Future. One epiphany later, Frank joins him in derailing the live show going on downstairs.
  • Setting Update
  • Show Within a Show: A TV production of A Christmas Carol is going on while Murray is meeting the ghosts.
  • Shout-Out: Murray shouts out "Feed me, Seymour!"'' in the Closing Credits Cast Party, to encourage the audience to respond to his hilariously over-the-top ad-libbing.
    • The Ghost Of Christmas Present describes Grace's son's inability to speak as a result of seeing his father died, and that he "Drifted away, like Sleeping Beauty." Carol Kane played one of the good fairies in the Faerie Tale Theatre rendition of Sleeping Beauty, so this is also an Actor Allusion.
  • Smug Snake: Bryce Cummings, the slimy West-Coast producer called in to "assist" (read: take over from) Frank.
  • Toilet Seat Divorce: What we see of Frank and Claire's original split comes off like this. While presumably there were problems before that, we go right from seeing them both quite happy, to her dumping him because the President of the network invited them both to dinner (something that could massively advance his career) and it would have meant canceling a dinner with friends.
    • Except even there, Frank is shown to be really rather selfish and egocentric. Granted, it's a big opportunity for him, but the way he talks down to her over something they've had planned for months, apparently, is rather blatant foreshadowing that he no longer really sees the point of Christmas and is more interested in what television can do for him.
  • Tranquil Fury: Frank, after hearing future Claire's Meaningful Echo of his own words. Uniquely, the rage is directed fully inward at himself, and all he can manage is a broken, whispered apology for turning her into someone just as cold and heartless as he is.
  • Turn the Other Cheek: Claire.
  • Unnecessary Time Precision: When Frank leaves a message for Claire.
    Frank Cross: "I know it's been... *checks watch* ...15 years since we've talked but..."
  • Verbed Title
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Again, Claire.
  • Workaholic: Much like the original Scrooge, Frank sees himself as a young man laboring through Christmas while trying to ignore a roaring office party.
  • Yet Another Christmas Carol

Scream (1981)Ghost FictionSťance
Scrooge (1970)Christmas Movies IndexA Diva's Christmas Carol
ScarecrowsFilms of the 1980sThe Serpent and the Rainbow
Scooby-DooRoger Ebert Most Hated Film ListSex and the City

alternative title(s): Scrooged
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