December 15, 1988

Scrooged

In most of Bill Murray's movies, you get the sense that he doesn't like other people very much. Whether he's suffering from an inferiority complex or just plain impatient with stupidity, it's always there, bubbling under the surface (this rule does not apply to Caddyshack, obviously.) Murray puts his dyspeptic and bitter persona to its best use as Frank Cross, a autocratic network TV executive in Scrooged, one of hundreds of Christmas Carol remakes.
Murray and the screenplay make us believe that Cross still has a heart under all that bitter shellac, and we can understand how his ambition caused him to toss aside true love with Claire (Karen Allen) to go for the brass ring. Years of loneliness in his executive suite have made him bitter, betrayed by the hollow victory in the business of television, the hollowest profession of all.
The Standards & Practices lady has a problem with the Solid Gold Dancers' low-cut costumes...
Lady: You can see her nipples.
Frank Cross: I want to see her nipples.
Lady: But this is a Christmas show.
Frank: Well, I'm sure Charles Dickens would have wanted to see her nipples.
Stagehand: You can barely see them nipples.
Frank Cross: See? And these guys are REALLY looking.
I really enjoy this movie every Christmas. The television theme is out of fashion in the 21st century, and the three ghostly visits make the movie inherently episodic, but it's chock full of fun and heart. The final set piece, Frank's heart-exposing monologue on live TV, gets me in the heartstrings every time.
What distinguishes my memory of seeing this movie as a "in the theater" memory is watching Bill Murray's character talk to the audience during the credits. The lights had come up and half the crowd was gone at that point.