Gonna have to go with the minor classic…
Scrooged (1989). Directed by Richard Donner. Written by Mitch Glazer and Michael O’Donoghue. Starring Big Bad Bill Murray.
We’re now in week four of Christmas. Really. Christmas Day is officially December 25, right? Somewhere along the line, someone (probably someone who owns a shopping mall chain) erased the numeral specific, and turned all of December into Christmas.
Actually, that’s too generous. I started hearing Christmas music in stores on November 1st this year. November 1st! They can’t cross the Halloween threshold but Thanksgiving doesn’t have identifiable tunage, so they can stampede right over that one. I know how these corporate coyotes think – people hear Christmas themes and they start buying like crazy.
You don’t have to agree, but I’m calling it like it is. The day after Thanksgiving is a shamefully, even despicably, early time for the major corporations to start pummeling the universe with Christmas songs and broadcasts. The day after Halloween – that’s legitimately criminal. Is it about the religion or the spirit anymore, or is it about selling CDs? Gross. I like the Christmas season mighty fine, but I have to admit that at just about this time every year, I’m just a little bit looking forward to December 26th.
However, as long as they slip Bill Murray’s Scrooged into the programming every once in a while, I know I can make it through another day of that god-awful Paul McCartney song.
People who know what they’re talking about, when it comes to Bill Murray movies, usually point to Quick Change as the most underrated Bill Murray movie. And they’re right (but that‘s another story), but I would also submit this one for consideration.
Scrooged isn’t as thoroughly hilarious as it might be, mostly because Bill Murray plays it so MEAN for much of the movie (‘course he is basically playing Ebenezer Scrooge after all), and there are a couple genuinely creepy moments (which I won‘t spoil if you haven‘t seen it yet). But mostly Bill keeps things real damn funny. No one plays the detached sardonic cynic with secreted reserves of sensitivity better than Bill Murray. He also does a pretty decent Richard Burton impression, which is very random.
Also, I love the supporting cast. It’s got Karen Allen, the coolest lady in all of 1980s cinema. She was the voice of sanity in Animal House and the indisputable greatest girl Indiana Jones ever met, and she’s really lovable in all her scenes with Bill Murray here. The rest of the ensemble is filled out by weird, memorable cameos and surprising supporting turns from unexpected places. And best of all, this movie even has room for the eternally badass Robert Mitchum as Bill’s boss. (Which makes sense. How many other actors could fill such a role?)
But moreover, this is a crucial showcase for the greatest working film comedian.
He gets misunderstood so often as strictly sardonic or detached or cynical in his approach, but I’d maintain that there’s always at least one passing moment of authentic humanity in any Bill Murray comedy performance, no matter how out-there the surrounding film (yes, even in the elephant movie). That’s why he’s one of the all-time great film comedians, and certainly why he’s my personal favorite.
So this December 25th, put it on the second half of a double-feature with another brilliantly sour Christmas movie, Bad Santa. Just make sure to remember that Scrooged got there first.