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The One-Line Summary: Miserly, cynical television executive Frank Cross (Bill Murray) sees Christmas as a chance to make money, persuading the network to put on a live performance of the classic Charles Dickens story, A Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve, forcing everyone to work rather than be with their families, which prompts a visit from some holiday ghosts to help Frank see the error of his ways.
The Two-Line Blurb: Directed by Richard Donner, Scrooged is a dark comedic take on the popular tale with Murray as a slightly disturbed and maniacal guy who takes pleasure in the humiliation and general abuse of his staff that is only part of an overall unsettlingly gloomy and mean movie that is seriously lacking in joy for the theme it is trying to tackle. While there are some clever bits with the ghosts and some admittedly laugh-out-loud moments, they only serve to remind how far off track the rest of the script is and how much better the entire production should have been but is instead a slow breakdown leading to a preposterous ending that feels terribly forced and even a little desperate.
The Three-Line Set-up: This moment is all about the wake-up call and begins when Frank decides that the holiday television schedule is a prime spot of revenue as ratings are generally higher since people are spending more time at home. His idea of a live, extravagant Christmas gala meets with some resistance from the home office and a go-getting sneaky assistant is brought in to keep an eye on Cross’s behavior. Meanwhile, Frank has fired his timid advisor Eliot Loudermilk (Bobcat Goldthwait) after he questions some of Frank’s more peculiar thoughts on the special and then puts undo stress on his most loyal worker, his direct assistant Grace Cooley (Alfre Woodard), who has a hard family life with a son who is mute.
The Four-Line Moment: Not long before the big show is to start, Frank is alone in his office with a few drinks in him when suddenly, a macabre looking fellow appears at his bar, with decaying skin, matted hair and dusty, ashen clothes. Frank finally recognizes him as Lew Hayward (John Forsythe), a former executive and Frank’s friend and mentor and is at first convinced it is the alcohol that is making him hallucinate, but the corporeal ghost soon sets him straight and warns the nasty Cross to change his ways before he ends up like him. While Frank seems to take the moment in stride, he’s not entirely convinced of the message Lew is selling. The moment features some of the better snide remarks from Murray and Forsythe is great as the dead friend in some great make up and prosthetics, delivering smart dialogue that really highlights where the film should have spent more time.
The Five-Word Review: Sometimes funny but ultimately disappointing.