What Makes SCROOGED a Christmas Classic?

For many, the best part of Christmas is watching the same beloved holiday movies over and over again. In turn, we’re paying tribute to our favorites by breaking down everything that makes them annual must-watches, from our favorite characters and moments, to all the ways they celebrate the most wonderful time of the year. In this Classic Christmas Movie Breakdown, we’re looking at a “unique” modern re-telling of A Christmas Carol, Scrooged.

As long as Christmas movies keep getting made, so too will new versions of A Christmas Carol. Charles Dickens’ timeless tale still shapes the way we celebrate and think about the holiday, and every few years we get another big screen telling of Ebenezer Scrooge’s unlikely transformation. Most of these are faithful adaptations, but one version stands out because it took that classic story and set it in the modern day world of a greedy, heartless television executive who meets some very different ghosts than the ones we remember.

But while the setting and the main character’s name have changed, Scrooged stands as an all-time great holiday film because it captures the spirit of the season, all while being really, really funny.

Does Santa appear in Scrooged? Is he real?

He opens the film… in a commercial for a TV special starring Lee Majors. “The Night the Reindeer Died” is about Santa’s workshop being invaded by gun-toting terrorists, but don’t worry (I guess), ’cause Old St. Nick and the elves are heavily armed and ready for a war.

Genuinely surprised some studio didn’t actually make this movie in the late ’80s.

Are there any magical creatures? Do they talk?

A dead guy and three holiday ghosts who transcend time and space definitely count.

Are there any religious components in this movie?

Yes, but the movie doesn’t feel overtly religious. Tiny Tim’s classic line is still in there, and the fear of eternal damnation drives the main plot, but Scrooged never feels preachy or exclusive. Its main ideas are universal and human.

There’s also a lot of gun play, violence, suggestive dancing, and attempted murder. Not exactly a wholesome Sunday School story.

How lovable is Scrooged‘s main character?

Frank Cross is not lovable, which is the point. He used to be when he was younger, but greed and ambition sent him down a dark path. Seeing he was a good man once and then experiencing his redemption makes him lovable, even if he’s a detestable human for the majority of the movie.

On the whole he is more likable than Ebeneezer Scrooge though, because Frank is charming and funny.

How evil is the villain in Scrooged?

One of the most beautiful aspects of Charles Dickens’ story is that Scrooge is both the hero and the villain of the story, just like Frank Cross. This adaptation does give us two minor villains though. The first is his idiot boss Preston Rhinelander (played by Robert Mitchum) who wants to appeal to cats and dogs as potential viewers. However, he’s really more buffoon than villain.

Frank Cross’s detestable foil is the ambitious West Coast TV executive who constantly fixes Frank’s tie and suit, the man angling to replace him, Brice Cummings (played by John Glover). He’s smarmy and if anyone else in the movie is ever going to get “Scrooged,” it’s him. He’s a nice touch to this adaptation because his presence makes you like Frank even when Frank is evil.

How sincere or cynical is Scrooged about Christmas?

You don’t get more sincere about Christmas than A Christmas Carol, and Frank captures the idea that the spirit of Christmas should stay with you all year long during his big final speech.

Does anyone sing in this movie? Is there a big group singalong?

The big movie-ending rendition of Jackie DeShannon’s “Put A Little Love in Your Heart” is one of the most memorable musical moments in any Christmas movie ever. It’s so good it has transformed the song into a holiday track. You would never question it being included on a Christmas playlist.

If not for It’s A Wonderful Life‘s “Auld Lang Syne” ending, this might be the best Christmas singalong ever. That’s really weird since neither are actually Christmas songs. Get your act together, actual Christmas music.

What are the biggest Christmas themes and quotes in Scrooged?

The easier question would probably be which classic Christmas themes aren’t included? Scrooged touches on: goodwill towards men, greed, forgiveness, regret, love, family, friendship, “charity, mercy, kindness.” Those can all be boiled down to one simple, hopeful idea: be a good person who dedicates their life to make the lives of others better.

As Lew Hayward’s corpse says, “Mankind should have been my business!”

We’ll cover the actual answer to the movie’s most memorable quote when we get to the most emotional moment. But here are some of our favorite Scrooged quotes.

“Let’s face it, Frank, garden slugs got more out of life than you.”
“Yeah? Name one!”

“You know what they say about people who treat other people bad on the way up?”
“Yeah, you get to treat ’em bad on the way back down too. It’s great, you get two chances to rough ’em up.”

“I don’t mind you shooting at me, Frank, but take it easy on the Bacardi.”

“Here Francis, I’ve got something for you. Merry Christmas!”
“A choo-choo train?”
No, it’s five pounds of veal.”
“But Daddy I asked Santa for a choo-choo.”
“Then go out and get a job and buy a choo-choo.”

“I was a captain of industry. Feared by men, adored by women.”
“Adored? Let’s be honest, Lou, you paid for the women.”

Also, literally everything Carol Kane says and does.

What is the best scene in Scrooged?

This answer might depend on which ghost is your favorite, or whether you prefer the film’s humorous moments or it’s sincere ones. There just aren’t any bad scenes. So we’re taking the easy way out and going with the most obvious answer, the one that everyone will always remember as one of the great Christmas movie speeches ever.

What is the film’s most emotional moment?

Things get emotional when Frank sees his younger self. It’s also a little dusty when he hears his brother speaking about him so tenderly. The entire sequence during his time with the Ghost of Christmas future is crushing, as are all of his scenes with Karen Allen’s Claire. However, one specific moment during Frank’s speech stands above the rest. As Frank finishes his speech, his assistant Grace’s youngest son comes over and tugs at the bottom of his pants. Calvin hasn’t spoken in years after seeing his father shot, and we’ve already seen what his future in a mental health facility might look like.

But little Calvin has watched A Christmas Carol on TV before, and he knows Frank left out a very important message.”Did I forget something, big man?” Frank asks him.

Calvin nods, and then whispers to him, “God bless us, everyone.”

scrooged bill murray holds up a kid christmas classic movie
Paramount Pictures

They’ll never stop making new versions of A Christmas Carol, but no matter when or where it’s set, and no matter how many times we hear it, that moment will always get to us. And that’s why we watch Scrooged every year.

Originally published on December 17, 2018.

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