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Featured Blu-ray Review: Scrooged

October 28th, 2011

Scrooged - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

Scrooged is making its Blu-ray debut this week. When it first came out more than 20 years ago, the film was a solid, but not spectacular hit at the box office, while its reception with critics was mixed. But has the film aged well since then? And if so, does the Blu-ray do it justice?

The Movie

The film begins at the North Pole in Santa's workshop. They have to work incredibly hard to get all the toys ready for Christmas and it looks like they will finish in time, but that's when they are attacked by a paramilitary force. Fortunately, Lee Majors arrives to save the day.

This turns out to be a promo for a commercial for a Christmas TV special, one of many airing on IBC, a network run by Francis Xavier Cross. The main feature for the network's Christmas schedule is a live presentation of Scrooge, but Frank is not happy with the way it is being advertised. He wants something a lot more, well, intense. He wants to make people scared to miss this special. One of his underlings, Eliot Loudermilk, objects to the tone of the new commercial and as thanks for expressing his honest opinion, Frank Cross fires him. When his personal secretary, Grace Cooley, tells him he can't fire him because it's Christmas, he also cancels Eliot's Christmas bonus.

After a weird meeting with his boss, Preston Rhinelander, that involves TV programing for pets, he runs into Brice Cummings, an L.A. Slimeball who went to school with the boss's son, so he's a threat to Frank's career. He makes Grace work late doing research on him, even though it will mean she will miss a doctor's appointment for her son, Calvin. At least she gets the satisfaction of telling Frank his brother, James, is waiting for him. His day keeps getting longer as he has a humanitarian award to pick up, and promptly leaves in a cab. And if the day can't get any longer, he gets a visit from his old boss, Lew Hayward. His old, deceased boss. Lew warns him that his life is on the wrong track and if he doesn't change his way, he'll spend eternity in hell. In order to convince him, three ghosts will visit him, starting tomorrow at noon.

As you can tell, it's an adaptation of the Charles Dickens' novel set in the world of Television instead of banking. It has a few additions, like Karen Allen playing Claire Phillips, an old girlfriend Frank has a chance to reconnect with. (There is an old girlfriend in the original, but there's no chance of romance in the novel.) And because the story takes place several days before Christmas, the three ghosts (Past, Present and Future) don't have to appear to him all during one night, so we can watch his attitude change after each encounter.

Does the film work with these changes? Yes. In fact, I would rank this film in my top five favorite Christmas movies of all time, with It's a Wonderful Life, The Nightmare Before Christmas, A Christmas Story and The Muppet Christmas Carol. This does mean I like this version of A Christmas Carol better than the 1951 version with Alastair Sim and the 1970 musical with Albert Finney, which puts me in the minority position, so keep that in mind. Bill Murray is great as our Scrooge and he can play smarmy without going too much into mean territory. You can laugh at his cruelty, but still root for him to learn his lesson and become a better person. He plays a great straight man to the first two ghosts. I especially love the more, how should I put this, hands on version of the Ghost of Christmas Present played by Carol Kane. "The bitch hit me with a toaster!"

That's not to say the film is perfect. There are some swings in tone that are a little jarring and for a comedy it gets to some dark places, which does hurt the pace somewhat. And there are a few too many ideas that don't get fleshed out and a few too many cameos that don't pay off enough. But overall, it's essential holiday viewing for me.

The Extras

On the other hand, I'm not too happy about the Blu-ray. A few years ago there was a rumored "Yule Love It" special edition DVD scheduled, but apparently the director and the star didn't get along on set, so neither one wanted to sit down for the special features, and that ended that. I guess they didn't patch things up since then, because the only extra on the Blu-ray is the trailer. As for the technical presentation, it's good, close to great. Since the film is 23 years old, I wasn't expecting great. In fact, I wasn't expecting anything better than good. However, the details are sharp, blacks are deep with only a little damaged to detail level, colors are strong, contrast is good. There's no print damage, no real issues with compression, etc. The audio is also strong with clear dialogue, while the surround sound speakers are used effectively for ambient sounds, directional effects and of course the score. Again, it's better than expected. The price is not terrible, but $17 for a catalogue title, a featureless catalogue title, is a few dollars higher than I would like to pay.

The Verdict

Scrooged is the third Christmas release in a row that I've reviewed and the second one to come out on Blu-ray this week. While it is not as good as It's a Wonderful Life, it's still a must have in my book. The Blu-ray is bare bones and is not exactly a bargain for a catalogue title. It's still worth picking up, but if they ever get around to making that special edition, it could be Pick of the Week material.

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