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Scrooged

Year: 1988
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Director: Richard Donner
Producer: Richard Donner/Art Linson
Writer: Mitch Glazer/Michael O'Donohue/Charles Dickens
Cast: Bill Murray, Karen Allen, Bobcat Goldthwait, Alfre Woodard, Robert Mitchum, John Glover, Carol Kane, John Forsythe, Michael J Pollard, Jamie Farr, Bob Goulet, Mary Lou Retton, Lee Majors, Buddy Hackett, Dana Murray, Brian Doyle-Murray, Miles Davis, Paul Shaffer, Dan LaFontaine

It's a mystery to me why I love this movie so much. Bill Murray undoubtedly has something to do with it – when the rest of the world started to be impressed with him around the time of Ghostbusters .

But over the years I've watched this modern update of Scrooge time and time again. Maybe it's the effortless way the whole Dickensian myth is told in modern day New York city complete with all the elements from Tiny Tim to Scrooge's redemption.

Maybe it's the little Robocop media break-like TV touches, where we see ads for the upcoming Scrooge special on IBC, a Bob Goulet Cajun Christmas album promo and the inner workings of the TV world, from legendary former executive Lew Hayward (Forsythe) to current clueless network chairman Preston Rhinelander (Mitchum).

Maybe it was the eclectic cast, where Murray is joined by Indiana Jones main squeeze Karen Allen as his long suffering girlfriend Claire, TV stalwarts like Jamie Farr, Lee Majors and Buddy Hackett, a screen legend like Mitchum and a dozen other faces you know.

Maybe it's the way laughs, because of both the great script ('Father Loves Beaver') and Murray's inherent sarcasm sit side by side with genuine emotion, heart and even a few scares.

Maybe it's the inventive effects, maybe it's the inspired final speech by Frank when he finds his soul, maybe it's the way every role feels fleshed out and distinctive despite their being so many of them...

It's in fact all this and much, much more, combining to make one of those rare movies that's endlessly watchable, which you can take something different away from on every viewing.

Murray has never been more perfect for a role than he is as bitter, heartless network president Frank Cross, a prototypical alpha male who's achieved everything but has nothing. Despite the way he treats everyone around him, he's dogged by his devoted brother James (real life brother Dana) and everyone else merely puts up with him because they have to.

Retreating to his ivory tower office overlooking the city in the weeks leading up to the network's live studio performance of Dickens' tale, we're not sure if Frank is hiding from the rest of humanity or missing it deep down inside. He's visited by his former boss Lew – a decomposing husk apparently risen from the grave to warn him that if he doesn't reconnect with love and mercy it'll be the death of him.

As Dickens envisioned, Lew warns Frank that he'll be visited by three ghosts who'll show him how the Christmases past, present and future have made him the man he is and wrought his cruelty on everyone around him.

Alfre Woodward is his long-suffering Bob Cratchitt, her mute son Calvin her Tiny Tim, mute since seeing his father killed. Frank will also be bought back into Claire's life after leaving her behind to make it in TV and ghosts from a Brooklyn cabbie to a ditzy but scarily violent fairy (Kane) ferry him around the underworld of New York from his childhood to the future.

It was a cynical age when adult audiences wouldn't stomach a literal adaptation, but the message of the story is still clear and the nihilistic character of Scrooge combines with Murray's sardonic wit to make a classic of several genres.

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