It always amazes me that there are a lot of people (including the critics) who don't like "Scrooged", primarily because Bill Murray's character is a mean bastard. Call me crazy, but isn't that what the original Charles Dickens story "A Christmas Carol" was all about? A greedy guy, who'd sooner spit in your face than give you a shilling, gets visited by three spirits who show him the error of his ways. This adaptation of Dickens' story isn't a huge departure from that plot, it's just a modernized version of it with one hell of a funny cast. All these things combined make it one of the greatest Christmas movies of all-time and it's definitely something that you should make a point to watch come December each year. But perhaps some of you need more convincing, or even a simple jogging of your merry memory banks. No problemo, I'm no scrooge and am more than happy to give you ten shining examples of why I think this movie is such a true Christmas classic. So let's step under the mistletoe to do the tongue tango with my "Scrooged" list:
#1: Lou Hayward Plays Through!
We all know that the story has to begin with somebody to deliver ol' Scrooge a warning, and what better way to do that than to have a visit from his greedy boss who was killed on a golf course? Sure, most people don't think of golf as a dangerous sport, but then again, most people don't have a Titleist embedded in the bat of their craniums. But even with the ball, and accompanying mouse who has taken up residence in his noggin, Lou Hayward is more than able to deliver the warning to his former protégé, Francis Xavier "Frank" Cross (Bill Murray).
After realizing that plugging a few holes in his undead boss isn't gonna do anything but ruin some perfectly fine booze, Frank soon learns that Lou is here to deliver a message about the three ghosts who are going to come visit him. After a few too many sarcastic remarks from Frank, Lou gets fed up with trying to make him listen the easy way. Instead, he picks up Frank and uses his undead voodoo to push him through the window of his office. He dangles him outside of the window and as Frank panics, Lou's brittle old arm starts to tear apart and Frank soon plummets to the earth. It's always been a truly memorable scene in my mind because it's the first time that we realize it's not purely a comedy flick, but there are elements of real horror in it too. So here's to you Lou, keep playing the field old man and just know that you'll never be alone as long as you've got that mouse living in your head.
#2: The Solid Gold Dancers!
If there's one thing you can say about IBC (the fictional TV station, not the root beer company) it's that they know how to put a different spin on a classic holiday tale. In the case of "A Christmas Carol", not only did they have Mary Lou Retton as a highly acrobatic Tiny Tim, but they also had the Solid Gold Dancers. This was actually the final televised appearance of the Solid Gold Dancers, who had been dancin' their asses off on TV since January of 1980. The basic idea behind the weekly "Solid Gold" show was having the Solid Gold Dancers dancing to the top musical hits at the time. It had a fairly long run, but the show was already canceled by the time Scrooged hit theaters, so it was good that they had one last hurrah by appearing in a big hit holiday movie like this. And what a hurrah it was, what with their extremely risqué outfits that the censor lady had issues with:
Censor Lady: "You can see her nipples!"
Frank Cross: "I want to see her nipples."
Censor Lady: "But this is a CHRISTMAS show!"
Frank Cross: "Well, I'm sure Charles Dickens would have wanted to see her nipples."
Carpenter Guy: "You can barely see them nipples."
Frank Cross: "You see? And these guys are REALLY looking!"
You can't argue with that logic. Well, I'm sure the censor lady could've argued with it some more had she not been hit in the face with a large pipe that one of the carpenters was carrying (one of the great running gags in the movie, I might add). Honestly, I don't see why the censors would have a problem with the Solid Gold Dancers appearing on the show considering what else they were airing on the IBC channel that season. Which brings me to my next point:
#3: Frank's "Scrooge" Trailer
After seeing the trailer for the family friendly movie that the network has lined up for the holidays, Frank wastes no time telling everybody how much he thinks it sucks. Fortunately, he's got a trailer prepared for his own vision of what the story of Scrooge should really be about. What follows is a beautiful cornucopia of violence and depravity that would even appease the overmedicated youth of today who've been raised on Grand Theft Auto. Men and women screaming, drug use, planes exploding in the air, innocent commuters being blasted in the face with a shotgun... it's almost everything you could want in a Christmas special.
It ends with a mushroom cloud and Bill Murray saying "Now, more than ever, it is important to remember the true meaning of Christmas. Don't miss Charles Dickens' immortal classic, Scrooge'. Your life just might depend on it." in unison with the trailer as he stares at the screen like an archetypal evil mastermind. Naturally, his employees think he's insane for wanting to show something so twisted on Christmas. His madness is only accentuated when he finds out that his Scrooge promo gave some old lady a heart attack. He then celebrates it because of the publicity it will surely generate and orders to have the promo run every half hour. Somebody knows what the Christmas spirit is all about, and his name is Frank Cross.
#4: Bob Goulet's "Old Fashioned Cajun Christmas" Commercial!
Bob Goulet's Old-Fashioned Cajun Christmas? If you don't understand why the commercial for this special is one of the greatest moments not only in Scrooged, but in the history of movies, then your soul is truly dead and you should throw yourself to the gators now, you useless sack of flesh.
#5: The Ghost Of Christmas Future!
Frank's ex-boss might've been a mix of humor and horror, but the Ghost of Christmas Future was 100% pure nightmare. While the other ghosts were total jabberboxes, this big guy just stood there silently. There have been a lot of reaper-esque characters in movies before, but this guy takes the cake in my opinion. He might not be talkative, but he still has plenty of sounds coming from within that giant, rotting black cloak of his. And just what's making those sounds?
Why the tortured souls who are imprisoned within his ribcage, that's who! These poor bastards are just dying to get out. Frank Cross has to do a double-take the first time he looks behind the cloak because he can't believe what he just saw and can only hope that it was something that the people from IBC's makeup crew did. No such luck, Frank.
As if the ghost's undigested hell souls weren't enough, there's his face... or lack thereof I should say. Instead of having just a plain old skull face, he has a TV monitor that is constantly flickering about as if Satan himself was fucking with the horizontal hold. It shows everything from skulls to flashes to Frank's face to combinations of all three. Screw the Nazgûl, I say this ghostly badboy looks far more terrifying than they ever did.
But even with the 99.9% horror that accompanies the Ghost of Christmas Future, they still find a way to make him family friendly in the end.
At the end of the movie, once Frank has redeemed himself and discovered what the meaning of Christmas is all about, we see a glimpse of all the ghosts who visited him cheering him on. This includes the Ghost of Christmas Future, and his once tortured souls are now celebrating Christmas inside his ribcage instead! One has some holly and an ornament, one has a little present and a bell in his hand, and one is enjoy a big fat candy cane. I think there's a lesson to be learned here: if demons can get into the Christmas spirit, then surely you can too.
#6: TV Programming For Cats!
Ever had an idiot boss, or someone who simply has more power than you at your place of employment? Of course you have... everybody has (though let's be honest, if you're one of the regular readers on this web site, chances are your place of employment is a lemonade stand in your parent's yard). But just what is it that makes your superiors so damned idiotic? After all, they are in a higher position than you, right? Well they got there by making idiotic suggestions to other idiots. Idiots don't understand good ideas, they only understand bad ones from idiots like themselves. Hence, they think those bad ideas are actually good ideas. Beware the idiots, for they know not what they do.
Case in point, the head honcho at IBC read a study that suggests that pets are starting to watch more television. So what's his bright idea? He wants IBC to start programming for these pets in the hopes that they'll become one of their core target demographics 10-20 years down the road. Way to think ahead! In an attempt to appease his boss, Frank finds a way to work a few dormice into the Scrooged story by putting antlers on their heads (using glue, not staples). Sure enough, when the Christmas Carol special premieres on TV, the head honcho's cats are glued to the screen during the dormouse scene. So maybe it wasn't such an idiotic idea after all, eh? Maybe we're the idiots for thinking it was?
Hmm, I'd better not take any chances. I'm gonna set up a new section on I-Mockery dedicated to Catnip, just to make sure I'm covered for when our feline friends start frequenting the site. Better safe than sorry.
#7: Zrbtt Eliot Loudermilk!
Most people seem to be on the fence when it comes to Bobcat Goldthwait - they're not sure if they love him or hate him. Personally, I've always liked the guy and his trademark trembling voice with the potential to explode at any given minute. When you see his portrayal of Eliot Loudermilk in Scrooged, you'd think the part was written for him and him alone.
Loudermilk gets fired by Frank Cross on Christmas, his wife leaves him, and now he's on the streets with nowhere to go. So what does Eliot do? He does what any person in this situation would do... he sets out to get stinking drunk as quickly as possible. Too bad for him that his string of bad luck hasn't ended, because every time he gets his hands on some booze, he loses it before he's able to take a swig. It's one of those running gags that just makes the movie all the more enjoyable.
In the end, Frank re-hires Eliot to kick off his newfound Christmas spirit, but first he lifts up Eliot's shirt and starts blowing on his stomach (a trick he picked up from the Ghost of Christmas Present). Eliot tries to stifle his laughter, but he can't suppress it as Frank continues to blow on his stomach. It's absolutely hilarious watching two grown men behave like that and it's always been one of my favorite moments in the movie.
Now, it took me forever and a day to find out what the term for this act is, but I finally found it! When you blow on somebody's stomach to make a sound reminiscent of flatulence is called a "ZRBTT". Apparently on an old episode of The Cosby Show, the following took place: "Cliff described it as the act of pressing one's lips on a person's stomach or soft area of another person's flesh and blowing, producing a tickle feeling and a noise similar to that created by flatulence. From that point on, zrbtt became an action on the show, i.e. 'I zrbtt you.'" So there you have it, Zrbtt is a variant of the Bronx Cheer. Any movie that features multiple zrbtts is aok in my book.
I ZRBTT YOU ALL!
#8: The Ghost Of Christmas Past!
I'll come right out and say it: David Johansen is the man. They couldn't have picked a better person to play the role of a maniacal New York City cab driver ghost. His unique face, his voice, his attitude... it's all too perfect for the role. Let's not forget that this is the same guy whose alter-ego is Buster "Hot, Hot, Hot" Poindexter. Playing the role of the Ghost of Christmas Past, it's up to him to remind Frank Cross of his younger days. And what better way to do that than to take Frank back to when he wasn't a big television network executive, but a guy who dressed in a dog suit for a children's television show called "Frisbee the Dog".
When the mailman brings a giant bone wrapped in a bow, Frisbee the dog can't guess what it could be. So all the kids in the crowd start yelling "it's a bone!" and the Ghost of Christmas Past is all too happy to join in too. This is pretty much the best way to describe him, he may be a ghost, but he's just a kid at heart and it's hilarious watching him get far more enjoyment out of the show than the rest of the kids there. "It's a bone, ya moron!"
#9: The Ghost Of Christmas Present!
For many people, Carol Kane's priceless performance as the Ghost of Christmas Present is their favorite thing about Scrooged... and it's easy to see why. From her exaggerated high-pitched fairy princess voice to her affinity for all things violent, it's impossible not to love her. Unlike the Ghost of Christmas Past, who mainly teases Frank to get his point across, she uses physical assaults to get him to listen to what she has to say. Punching him in the face, grabbing his lips, kicking him in the nuts, smacking him in the face with her fairy wings and more. Of course, none of her blows do more damage than this...
"The bitch hit me with a toaster!" those immortal words of Bill Murray will continue to echo in the halls of Christmasdom until the end of time. Note to Hollywood: more movies need beatings involving toasters.
#10: The Night The Reindeer Died!
What can I say, I know it's odd that my favorite thing about Scrooged was the first thing that came on the screen at the start of the movie. It's a fake trailer for one of IBC's upcoming holiday movies entitled, "The Night The Reindeer Died". In his home at the North Pole, Santa and all of his elves (some of whom look more like glam rockers and circus freaks rather than elves) are happily working on making toys for Christmas when, all of a sudden, a shooting star starts heading right towards them. They quickly realize it's no shooting star, but some artillery crashing down at Santa's house. Yes indeed, his workshop is under attack... by NINJAS WITH GUNS no less! Oh but it gets better...
Mrs. Claus opens the door to a big closet filled with AK-47 assault rifles, but even with such an arsenal at their disposal, you can see that Santa and company are really panicked about defending their home. And that's when one man steps in to save the day... Lee Majors, or as most people remember him, the Six-Million Dollar Man! He's also armed with a gatling-style minigun to tear all those marauding ninjas to shreds. But before he goes to town on the bad guys, Santa looks Lee straight in the face and proudly tells him, "You've been very good this year!"
To this day, I still think they missed out on a major cash cow by not actually making this movie. There are few fake trailers out there that have made me wish the movie really existed as much as "The Night The Reindeer Died" did.
And there you have it... my ten favorite things about Scrooged. Go zrbtt yourself.
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