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This came out in 1988. I first saw it on TV at some point in probably the late 80s or early 90s. I'm writing this after seeing it for the second time, on DVD, in 2017. I know I liked it a lot the first time I saw it, maybe even loved it. I certainly loved it this time, and I'm really glad to have finally seen it again. It's a really funny movie, of course, but I'd say it's also genuinely touching. It's... very, very 80s. That is to say, 1980s. And I think in a way, that kind of helps... I mean, updating the familiar story. I think, however timeless the original might be, putting it in the present (or what was the present when this was made) makes it a bit more relatable. You know?
Anyway. It's about a guy named Frank Cross (Bill Murray), who is president of the IBC TV network. (Watching this now makes me think of IBC root beer, which I haven't had in a long time.) Frank is overseeing his network's Christmas lineup, the centerpiece of which is a live broadcast of "Scrooge," starring Buddy Hackett in the title role, and various other famous people, including Mary Lou Retton as Tiny Tim. Frank is basically a dick to everyone, but he is under a lot of pressure, because of the necessities of the job itself and because of his boss, Preston Rhinelander (Robert Mitchum). And of course, as we know Frank is going to be getting "Scrooged," he's obviously made some bad decisions in his past, which contributed to his misery in the present. Most notable is breaking up with his girlfriend, Claire Phillips (Karen Allen), like fifteen years ago. Anyway, Frank has an assistant named Grace Cooley (Alfre Woodard), who is obviously the Cratchit to his Scrooge. And she has a number of kids, the most important to the plot being Calvin (in the Tiny Tim role), who hasn't spoken in years. Also Frank has a brother named James (played by Bill Murray's real brother, John), who fills the role of Scrooge's nephew. And James is married to a woman named Wendie (Wendie Malick). And there's a guy named Eliot Loudermilk (Bobcat Goldthwait) who works at IBC, and whom Frank fires on Christmas Eve. And there's a guy named Brice Cummings (John Glover), who Preston hires to "help" Frank with the production of "Scrooge," though he could end up being a replacement for Frank at the network.
Anyway... Frank is visited by the ghost of Lew Hayward, his former mentor (in the Marley role), who I'd say is probably the most creepy version of Marley I can recall seeing in any incarnation of "A Christmas Carol." But creepy in a funny way. And Frank is later visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past. (I thought he looked sort of familiar, but I couldn't place him. I sort of wondered if it was Alex Rocco, who played Al Floss in "The Famous Teddy Z," but I doubted it, and I was right to do so. I just had him on my mind because of a Christmas episode of that show with Floss in the Scrooge role. In fact, this ghost was played by David Johansen, whom Wikipedia informs me that I knew as Buster Poindexter; I'm pretty sure looking things up for this review is probably the first time I was ever aware of Poindexter's real name.) He takes Frank back to several points in his past, including when Frank was four years old. (His father is played by another of Murray's brothers, Brian Doyle-Murray.) But most of the points in the past involve Frank's relationship with Claire. Later, he is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present (Carol Kane), who I must say I absolutely adored. And... later, of course, he's visited by the Ghost of Christmas Future. And predictably, after all of these things, Frank changes his ways. He interrupts the live broadcast of Scrooge to deliver a heartfelt message, which culminates in everyone singing "Put a Little Love in Your Heart." (For many years now, this ending and the ending of Ghostbusters II have reminded me of each other, though at this point I have no idea which movie I saw first.)
And I am leaving out a lot of plot points, some more important than others. But it's happy in all the ways the end of "A Christmas Carol" is always happy, plus one other way that is perhaps unique to this version of the story, which I won't spoil. And... now I'm checking IMDb again to see if I've forgotten any familiar actors... And yes, that's right, Rebeca Arthur (whom I know from Perfect Strangers) had a minor role. And that might be it, I'm not sure. Anyway, it's a very fun movie in a lot of ways. And I don't know what else to say. I feel like I'm not saying enough, but I probably am. Oh yeah... God bless us, every one.
Films: Scrooge (1951) * Scrooge (1970) * Mickey's Christmas Carol * Scrooged * The Muppet Christmas Carol * A Christmas Carol (2009) * The Man Who Invented Christmas
TV movies: The Stingiest Man in Town * A Christmas Carol (1984) * A Christmas Carol (1999) * A Christmas Carol: The Musical * Karroll's Christmas * A Christmas Carol (2019)
TV episodes: see Holiday Parody Episodes