Scrooged

 
(i)

 

Dated comedy is part Ghostbusters, part Dickens.
  • Review Date: October 2, 2009
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Horror
  • Release Year: 1988
  • Running Time: 101 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Frank learns some valuable lessons about what is important in life. The humor focuses on the shallowness, greed, and sensation of commercial television.

Positive role models

Frank Cross/Ebeneezer Scrooge does indeed revert to being a nice guy, regretful of the bad choices he's made. Minorities are represented by Frank's hardworking black secretary (and her mute son) among the stand-ins for Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim.

Violence

Cartoonish gun violence, as a disgruntled, drunken employee goes crazy with a rifle. Frank shoots a spirit, causing puffs of dust and mice to exit the wounds. Machine-gun bullets, incendiaries, and explosions at the North Pole, in a parody of an action-hero Christmas show. One rotting, zombie-style ghost with detachable eyes and other body parts, including an arm that snaps off creakily. Frank is kicked in the crotch, tossed around, dropped out a window, and generally bullied by ghosts. Peripheral characters hit by falling props and stage sets. In hallucinatory visions a man catches fire. Another character is found frozen to death.

Sex

Non-explicit flashback scene of heroine Clair in a bathtub, with the attendant revelation that she and Frank lived together (and discuss the Kama Sutra together) without benefit of marriage. A busty beauty on a Christmas TV show, with comments about being able to see her nipples. Reference to prostitution, AKA "paying for women," and a double-entendre gag about "beaver." A very mild homosexual innuendo.

Language

"Damn," "goddamned," "bitch," "hell," the s-word, "butt," "bastard." 

Consumerism

Tab soda drink shown. Real-life products and entertainment icons mentioned, including Ginzu knives, Ovaltine, The Six Million Dollar Man, "Little House on the Prairie," "Gilligan's Island," etc.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Alcohol in abundance, in restaurants and at banquets. A ghost cabbie drinks and drives. Heavy executive-boardroom drinking (on which Frank blames a lot of his ghost visions). Mention of drug problems and cigarette smoking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this horror-comedy takeoff on Charles Dickens has strong language, violence (bloodless, even with loads of ammunition spent), some sex talk (but nothing really shown), and drinking. Some disturbing imagery for the very young includes a dusty ghost of the decayed-zombie variety and a tall, creepy, skeletal Ghost of Christmas Future. Jokes about the Kama Sutra and its positions will almost certainly lead to embarrassing questions from young children. Kids will likely need a lot of explanation for the dated cultural references (Spago restaurant, Mary Lou Retton, the Six Million Dollar Man, etc.).

Parents say

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What's the story?

It's Christmas in New York City, and Frank Cross (Bill Murray), selfish, workaholic, hard-drinking, miserly, and manic president of a mythical American TV network, is overseeing, among other outlandish broadcast projects, a live Christmas Eve performance of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (the tale is called "Scrooge,' throughout, rather than its original title). Thinking only of money and ratings, Frank vulgarizes the classic plot with showgirls and mice (based on a theory that cats are developing TV-watching habits), shrugging off a Christmas-dinner invite from his brother and firing the one programming executive who questions him. Then, in the evenings leading up to the big show, Frank is himself visited by real-life Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future, who try to show him the error of his ways before it's too late.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

SCROOGED is a head-on crash of two family faves, A Christmas Carol and Ghostbusters, neither one quite winning out. Some early SNL folk worked on it -- Bill Murray most obviously, but also writer Michael O'Donahue, whose style of humor was often brutally dark. It's a strange, mood-swingy blend of mistletoe and graveyard mold that doesn't hang together gracefully. A good comedy-fantasy with some heart for the holidays may repose here, but the movie is heavily-tinseled by expensive production values, epic gags, and special effects that tend to go against Dickens' poignancy. The script eagerly does literal yuppie-bashing, as Frank Cross is physically pummeled and tortured; even with isolated genius moments (Christmas Past is a Yellow Cabbie in a time-travel taxi), you feel this property is exactly the sort of  gaudy and violent entertainment Frank Cross would air at Christmas. Murray himself, at his best underplaying, mugs hysterically. Kids might like that, but when he unintelligibly impersonates Welsh actor Richard Burton or quotes the plant from Little Shop of Horrors, it's funny stand-up but don't fit the character well.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about all the different variations on A Christmas Carol ever since Dickens wrote it. Tell kids that while Dickens was alive he HATED copies and stage versions (there being no movies in his Victorian era). What would Dickens have thought of this one?

  • Ask kids what their favorite renditions of the Scrooge story are, and why.

  • Much of the humor here focuses on the shallowness, greed, and sensation of commercial television -- yet this was before "reality TV" and prime-time game shows, which brought new levels of exploitation (couples taking lie-detector tests over infidelity; celebrities fighting drug addiction; women trying to marry for money; etc.). Is TV today worse than when Scrooged was released?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 23, 1988
DVD release date:November 9, 1999
Cast:Alfre Woodard, Bill Murray, Bobcat Goldthwaite, Carol Kane, John Forsythe, Karen Allen, Lee Majors, Michael J. Pollard
Director:Richard Donner
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Genre:Horror
Run time:101 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:Parental Guidance

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Quality

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  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 10 years old February 5, 2011
 

LAME

I don't think this movie should be categorized as "horror". No offense Bill Murray, but you didn't do the best job.
Kid, 11 years old July 17, 2011
 

Not scary

This movie is not even scary except for the main character of this movie looks behind the Ghost of Christmas Future's clothes, revealing something scary!

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