Borders Line: SCROOGED Is The Greatest Christmas Movie Ever

Let me guess: you think DIE HARD is the greatest Christmas movie ever? Well, Meredith’s here to illustrate all the ways in which you’re wrong.

YOUR LIFE MIGHT JUST DEPEND ON IT. You should know that in the special, Buddy Hackett plays Ebeneezer and Mary Lou Retton is an acrobatic Tiny Tim who “throws away the crutches, vaults a lamppost and double-somersaults back into one of these things.”

Y’all, I would watch the shit out of that movie. Despite his  indisputably brilliant ideas, Frank is under significant stress at work. Ratings are down and his crazy old boss, a hilarious Robert Mitchum, wants Frank to develop programming with “pet appeal” for the millions of cats and dogs in America. You know, birds and squirrels and “lots of quick, random action.” More worryingly, his boss has hired a sleazy upstart to help oversee the production of Scrooge, and Frank’s position at the International Broadcasting Company is starting to feel a little precarious. Oh yeah, and that sleazy upstart? Played by JOHN FUCKING GLOVER.

Cross fires a flunky—Bobcat Goldthwait!—at Christmas, shoves little old ladies out of cabs, wants to staple antlers on a mouse and gives his sweet younger brother a corporate logo towel for Christmas. (Scanning his gift recipient list: “Towel, towel, towel…most of these are towels.”) Frank treats his impassive, long-suffering assistant Grace (Alfre Woodard in the Bob Cratchit role) like dirt and downs Stoli and Tab for breakfast. So when his late boss Lew Hayward—John Forsyth as a Bacardi-swilling Jacob Marley—appears as a crusty corpse preparing Cross for the visitation of three ghosts, the man is in serious need of a change.

At the heart of Scrooged is the romance between Frank and Claire, the ever- adorable Karen Allen. Allen is responsible for a healthy portion of the charm of Scrooged; her performance is, as always, warm and appealing. Claire is Frank’s benevolent ex-girlfriend, long ago left behind in the wake of his inexorable journey toward earthly success. As Frank is faced with the ghosts of his past, present and future, he comes to realize what Claire has always meant to him.

Ahh yes, the ghosts. David Johansen is pretty fun as the crude, cigar-smoking cabbie of Christmas Past, and the cloaked Ghost of Christmas Future is duly creepy, although sparsely used.  But Carol Kane is a true delight as the bubbly, ball-breaking Ghost of Christmas Present.

The effects in Scrooged are cheesy but inventive, with a singular, cutesy quality that still delivers today. Danny Elfman’s score is, well, a Danny Elfman score: gothic and playful. One of the most charming aspects of Scrooged is its fully 80s essence. The movie’s an utter time capsule with its Tab and Solid Gold Dancers, Chernobyl and Richard Pryor jokes, VHS recorders and Ginsu knives.  The humor, however, remains totally fresh. When a Standards and Practices drone complains about the revealing costumes of the dancers in the live TV special, a crew guy helpfully offers, “You can hardly see them nipples.” Frank: “See! And these guys are REALLY looking!” Murray’s dry delivery is flawless throughout the film; the supercilious waiter is the only actor in the entire movie capable of upstaging him.

With the current humor and wacky effects in Scrooged, the formidable lines lifted directly from Dickens resound all the more in comparison. Frank is incredulous that Lew, a leader of business, should feel that he wasted his life, and Lew thunders, “MANKIND SHOULD HAVE BEEN MY BUSINESS!” Chills, people! And when Murray finally gives his inevitable “bah humbug,” the delivery is subtle yet potent. It sticks, is what I’m saying.

The last ten minutes or so get a little corny with the group singing, breaking of the fourth wall and the total Star Wars ending (ghosts waving at the hero from the sky!), but what the hell. This is a Christmas movie, right? Even Die Hard gets a little corny at the end. I watch Scrooged once a year and never fail to tear up when Grace’s little boy finally gives us that long-awaited “God bless us, every one.” Scrooged is hilarious and snarky and weird, but it’s also earnestly warm-hearted. If it’s been too long, give Scrooged a watch this holiday season. You’ll enjoy the dickens out of it. The DICKENS out of it—nobody gets me!

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