Bill Murray is at the top of his game as the coldhearted, "bah humbug" television executive Frank Cross in 'Scrooged.' The filmmakers build on a simple, very familiar plot, one that closely adheres to Charles Dickens's original tale, except in a different century, but its success rests on the shoulders of Mr. Murray. He makes the horribly cynical and callous Cross into a believable money-grubbing corporate jerk. After journeying through his life thanks to three helpful spirits, he ultimately turns into a lovable a-hole who discovers his long-lost Christmas spirit. And that sudden conversion feels genuine because Murray convinces the audience there's always been a good soul beneath the scorn.
The rest of the cast also provides wonderful support and charisma, which terrifically adds to the film's overall warmth and somewhat maudlin conclusion. Murray has great rapport and quick snappy comebacks with the likes of John Forsythe as Cross's media-mogul mentor and the incomparable Robert Mitchum as the network's owner. Karen Allen is absolutely adorable as Cross's compassionate and overtly-generous opposite, and Alfre Woodard keeps up the pace as his overworked, very family-oriented assistant. The jester-like goofiness of Bobcat Goldthwait and David "Buster Poindexter" Johansen of The New York Dolls fame keep everything jovial and lively while the movie touches on a few serious matters. Of everyone, Murray has the best comedic timing with the very funny Carol Kane as the Ghost of Christmas Present, who's into the rough stuff.
Coming off the success of 'The Goonies' and 'Lethal Weapon,' Richard Donner helms this holiday favorite with the same facetious sense of humor and energy as the previous two. At times, his direction can seem a bit restrained and even aloof, but it's with good reason. He places much of his trust in the creative twists and dialogue of the script by Mitch Glazer and Michael O'Donoghue ('Mr. Mike's Mondo Video') to move the narrative forward. This allows his actors, especially Murray, to have complete reign of their characters and be as zanily cartoonish as they wish. With brilliant musical accompaniment by the equally madcap Danny Elfman, Donner ensures that it all comes together effortlessly and with a heartfelt resolution that doesn't overstay its welcome.
Nearing its 25th anniversary, the film continues to inspire an earnest magical note about the holiday season and what it truly stands for. The story has a light universal charm to it, not only due to it being an adaptation of a classic tale but also in how it pokes fun at modernity. As the youngest executive in television history, Cross knows what contemporary people want in their holiday programming: action, violence, and fear. As funny as it may sound, there is a sad truth hiding behind the movie's exposition sequence, something which can still be seen today. Later, he finally admits his drive to succeed in corporate America clouded his judgment over what's really important in life, which is love, friends and family. As corny as that may sound, there's little arguing that small truth.
Revisiting the film every time, it remains just as funny as ever, with a pithy, succinct pace that's engaging and energetic. Wildly imaginative and magical, 'Scrooged' comes with a winning cast which allows Bill Murray to shine in a memorable performance as a modern-day Ebenezer Scrooge. Over the years, it has attained a devoted following, making it a favorite watch during the Christmas season. Admittedly, there are probably finer, more polished choices for celebrating the yuletide, but Donner's darkly edgier take offers much-needed relief when surrounded by the overwhelming cheer while still delivering the same merry message. It's definitely grown into a must-watch for the holidays in this household. And we get a good laugh from it every single time.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Paramount Home Entertainment delivers 'Scrooged' in time for the holidays on a BD50 Blu-ray disc. It's presumably Region A locked as it didn't play on my all-region player even though the usual message that informs viewers of such didn't appear. The disc comes inside a blue eco-case with a cool lenticular cardboard slipcover. At startup, it goes straight to the main menu with a picture still and music.
Like opening an early Christmas present, 'Scrooged' arrives with a great 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (1.85:1) that's miles better than the previous DVD release.
There are some very minor signs that the picture has been cleaned up somewhat, but it's nothing intrusive or likely to ruin one's enjoyment. Definition and resolution are stronger than ever, exposing every pock mark, scar, and blemish on Bill Murray's face. Costumes and set designs are wonderfully distinct with excellent fine object detailing throughout. Contrast is comfortably bright and stable for the most part, allowing for plenty of visibility of background info. A couple scenes lose a bit of their sharpness and appear somewhat dull, but easily excused as inherent to the age of the source material. Blacks are surprisingly rich with good shadow delineation, providing the image with an attractive cinematic appeal. Primaries are quite bold and lively while the rest of the palette adds some warmth and charm.
In the end, the high-def transfer for an 80s comedy favorite is a terrific improvement over past home video releases, and fans should be more than happy.
Like the video, the holiday movie also comes with an excellent audio upgrade that keeps much of its original design.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is mostly a front-heavy presentation as it should be, spreading nicely across the soundstage with warmth and great fidelity. The few bursts action display marvelous, fluid balance between the channels, creating a wide, open space that's welcoming and attractive. Dialogue reproduction is remarkably clean and precise, allowing listeners to enjoy every hilarious line and Murray's snappy comebacks with aplomb. The mid-range is expansive, delivering sharp differentiation in the music and all the violent silliness. Low-frequency effects are responsive and healthy though nothing that will or ever could compare to modern recordings. The rears are reserved for Danny Elfman's fantastic score as many of the notes lightly bleed into the back and generate an enjoyable soundfield, making it a first-rate lossless mix for a fun holiday flick.
Sadly, Paramount has not bothered to collect a better set of supplements, offering only the original Theatrical Trailer (HD), which is the same as the DVD.
Fantastical, quirky, and overall hilarious, 'Scrooged' is a wonderful and memorable modernization of Charles Dicken's classic tale of Christmas redemption. Starring Bill Murray and an excellent supporting cast, the comedy has grown into a favorite watch during the holiday season, adding an amusing edge to the festive cheer. Nearing its 25th anniversary, it remains just as funny as ever, full of energy and spirit for the whole family. The Blu-ray features a much-improved picture quality and a better audio presentation. The only drawback is in the supplements, where even a short retrospective or vintage making-of featurette would have been a nice welcome. Still, for fans, it makes great upgrade and for those discovering for the first time, I suspect "Yule love it!" Based on the film, and the reasonable MSRP on this release, 'Scrooged' comes recommended.