"Scrooged" Talkback (Spoilers)

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
Joined
Jan 19, 2004
Messages
33,931
Location
Framingham, MA
Scrooged

Yeah, I know it's not Christmas. I felt like watching it, I bought it, and now I'm reviewing it. Deal.

It's easy to see why that movie is so polarizing. It has its share of fans, but there are people out there who think it sucks. Roger Ebert famously claimed back in the day that there was nothing comical in the movie. And I saw that again in the blurbs and I was like, "That is a VERY serious allegation to hit a Bill Murray comedy with." Whatever else you want to say about Bill Murray, outside of Ghostbusters II and the Garfield movies, he has very few career regrets. He's made more solid career choices than any other actor alive. You can throw Space Jam in my face if you must, and that IS a terrible movie, but Bill Murray is the best thing in it. I sincerely doubt he regrets that fact.

So I went in wondering if Ebert was right that the movie wasn't funny. He claimed the tone was one of anger and pain, which is a weird feeling to give a Christmas story, even a Christmas Carol homage. These were all things I took notice of and watched out for.

The verdict? I didn't laugh once. It's not funny. I don't know if the humor is dated or what, but if Roger Ebert claims he didn't laugh back when the insular pop culture references like Mary Lou Retton and the Solid Gold Dancers were relevant, I actually believe him. In fairness, Bobcat Goldthwaite, if not quite crossing the threshold of laugher, at least made me smile with the "Hello Wabbit!" and "You better watch out..." bits. And while Carol Kane's physical abuse of Murray isn't really funny, it's definitely bizarre, which is almost as good.

And I'm thinking about the fact that this movie isn't funny being the thing to have Roger Ebert give it a Thumbs Down. Personally, I think Roger Ebert might be missing the forest for the trees there. Honestly, 2022 has taught me that good satire doesn't have to be funny. In fact, if it's good, it's probably depressing instead. What good satire has to be is truthful. Is this movie truthful as far as satire goes? Let me put it this way. Frank's insane rant at the end is definitely polarizing and definitely something that will turn people off the movie. Do I think it's bad? Not even. It's not great, but Murray seems sincere in his pure insanity. And maybe the satire doesn't work because the movie turns earnest at the end. Me? I don't disapprove of earnestness. At all.

It's interesting, the bizarre cold opening and the various TV ad spoofs aren't funny, and somehow feel even dumber than the stupidest bits from UHF. But what I think Ebert is probably missing is that a movie starring Bill Murray is not obligated to make a person laugh. That is too narrow-minded a viewpoint, even for a movie billed as a comedy that isn't all that funny. This was before Bill Murray starting stealing scenes in legit dramas so I understand if Ebert's expectations of what makes a good Bill Murray movie changed over the course of the rest of his life.

The rant at the end is disturbing to me because it's clear Frank has not been redeemed in the same way earlier Scrooges were. The night drove Scrooge a little batty too, but Frank Cross has a full-on public meltdown that it almost feel indecent to intrude upon. Earnest, heartfelt, and not funny in the least. And yet the sing-along ending to "Put A Little Love In Your Heart" is for my money one of the most insanely uplifting endings to a movie you could imagine. It hits every sweet spot in the wishlist for the characters and their futures, and it relentlessly optimistic, even if Frank's rant seems more insane than revelatory. It's a feel-good ending to a movie that's spent an hour and a half making you feel bad. So you appreciate it all the more for that reason.

But I don't like Bill Murray breaking character at the very end to talk to the theater audience. Mostly because he makes a random "Feed me, Seymour," joke which will make absolutely no sense to anyone seeing this for the first time in 2022. Whatever else Scrooged is, good and bad, timeless isn't one of them.

As far as honesty goes, there were parts of the movie I felt stretched credibility. Mostly because Frank knows the Scrooge story and understands what is happening. I find it very disingenuous in the novel that Scrooge is mystified who the unloved bastard buried in the pauper's grave was. It's why The Muppet Christmas Carol's Michael Caine is the best Ebenezer Scrooge of all time, because he actually knows the score, and knows whose name is on the grave. He does the bargaining stage of grief for a bit, and insists the future can be changed, but Muppet Scrooge knows exactly where the moral of the night was leading him. And it's such an amazing moment that I was always shocked Dickens never played it that way himself. Scrooge is a loathsome scoundrel but we are never led to believe he's stupid. The grave being a surprise doesn't track with that. And it especially doesn't track for Frank, who actually knows and recognizes the specific tropes he has found himself in. I can sort of excuse earlier Scrooges than Caine's for being dumb. Plot-related stupidity is pretty much the oldest writing trope there is. But there's no excuse for Frank Cross to share it based on the premise. He should already know the moral.

I'll tell you an unique thing about this adaptation that I found interesting (but that I don't love) that I haven't seen done before or since. But the Future Scenario actually checks in on Claire, and we see she's been corrupted by Frank's last words to her, and is basically an unfeeling ice queen now. I'm not sure that was the right move for the story. To suggest Claire's entire benevolent philosophy and mindset could be so drastically changed by a fleeting quip by a guy she's practically given up on, is almost antifeminist in the amount of power it gives Frank over her destiny. It adds extra stakes and pathos the original story doesn't have, but those specific things make me think less of Claire. And who knows? It's possible every future vision WAS a lie on every level. The future can be changed. I also believe it's possible the Ghost of Christmas Future can show Frank any damn thing he pleases, whether it's an actual potential future or not.

Does a Bill Murray comedy absent laughs have value? Is anger and pain an appropriate theme for a Christmas movie? Is it at least an interesting one to see play out? I think the answer to all three of those questions is probably yes. A question the movie left me with that I can't answer affirmatively about is if benevolence and insanity are the same thing. I don't agree with that notion, but it's certainly interesting to watch, and the idea gave Murray a good speech to chew on and spit out. I won't give the film a rave, or a grade higher than three and a half stars, but as disturbing as this movie's portrayal of a man's escalation to madness masquerading as a redemption arc is when boiled down its essence, there is something raw and honest about the fact that Frank is insane and sincere in equal measures. It's a weird moral, but then Scrooged is a very weird movie. ***1/2.
 

Hanshotfirst1138

Morphinomenal!
Joined
Jul 25, 2006
Messages
15,224
Location
Livonia, MI
I think this was a colossal misfire. Donner’s totally manic style of direction is entirely at odds with Murray’s deadpan brand of humor. The result feels loud, noisy, and overbearing. Groundhog Day is an infinitely better movie that plays with almost exactly the same themes.


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Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
Joined
Jan 19, 2004
Messages
33,931
Location
Framingham, MA
I think this was a colossal misfire. Donner’s totally manic style of direction is entirely at odds with Murray’s deadpan brand of humor. The result feels loud, noisy, and overbearing. Groundhog Day is an infinitely better movie that plays with almost exactly the same themes.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
It's definitely polarizing and not actually funny. But I can't quite hate it either. It's interesting as hell.
 

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