Picks and Pans Review: Scrooged

updated 11/28/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/28/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

Bill Murray, you nut, you've pulled it off. This screwball update of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, with Murray as a stingy s.o.b. of a network TV president, is a sidesplitting comedy smash. W.C. Fields would have approved of Murray's Frank Cross: A sign in the exec's office defines "cross" as "a thing you hang people on." When one yes-man, comedian Bobcat Goldthwait in short hair and—yikes—a suit, makes a tiny criticism of Cross's planned TV special on Scrooge, the boss has his secretary (Alfre Woodard) fire the poor sap on Christmas Eve. Cross has hired Buddy Hackett to play Scrooge, scantily clad Solid Gold dancers as typical Londoners and Mary Lou Retton as Tiny Tim. "She won't just throw away her crutches," he brags to corporate bigwig Robert Mitchum, "she'll do a double somersault." Cross is the kind of millionaire who sends his brother (Bill's real-life sibling John Murray) a towel for Christmas, throws the mute, fatherless son of his secretary off the set and advises the foolish woman (Karen Allen) who loves him to stop trying to help the homeless. "Scrape 'em off," he snarls. Right now, Cross has two problems: 1. A "piece of L.A. slime," smartly caricatured by John Glover, wants his job. 2. The decayed stinking body of his dead boss (John Forsythe) has materialized with a warning: Change your evil ways or three ghosts will scare you into sweetness. David ("Buster Poindexter") Johansen as the cab-driving Ghost of Christmas Past and the delicious Carol Kane as the sadistic Ghost of Christmas Present head a supporting cast of howlingly comic loonies. We'll save the Ghost of Christmas Future and the rest of the plot as a surprise. But hats off to director Richard (Lethal Weapon) Donner and writers Mitch Glazer and Michael O'Donoghue, Saturday Night Live vets, for making a movie that seems like a party you don't want to end. Murray's clowning has never been so inspired. He even gets away with the hokey ending. As the promo for Frank Cross's TV Scrooge says, "Yule love it." (PG-13)

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