“The Jews taught me this great word: ‘Schmuck’. I was a schmuck, and now I’m not a schmuck!” – Frank Cross
One thing you don’t see Hollywood doing enough is making modernised retellings of old stories and literary works. When you think about it, the concept is genius and the results are often surprisingly good…
- Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’ set in modern-day California among valley girls? You’ve got ‘Clueless’
- Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ adapted to the Deep South in the 1930s? That’ll be ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’
- William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ played out by the Latino gangs in New York? ‘West Side Story’, and of course there’s the more obvious, but still brilliant, MTV-style adaptation ‘Romeo + Juliet’ by Baz Luhrmann too.
- And another of Bill’s classics – ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ – ended up on celluloid as the well-loved high school drama ’10 Things I Hate About You’.
It’s surprising, then, that it took until 1988 for someone to take a punt at a modern-day retelling of Charles Dickens’ festive masterpiece ‘A Christmas Carol’. But I’m ever so glad they did. Doubly so because some clever clogs thought about casting Bill Murray in the ‘Scrooge’ role.
I love Bill Murray. He’s one of only two actors* on the planet that I would watch in anything, literally anything – regardless of the plot, cast, or director. To me, Bill Murray is like cheese – he will instantly improve any movie just by being in it, the same way cheese will make any meal better regardless of how good or bad it was before. And he is on top form here, bringing his usual brand of low-brow sarcasm and wit to the role, whilst somehow making you feel SORRY for his completely loathsome yuppy TV exec character…
‘Scrooged’ plays out like some glorious hybrid of ‘A Christmas Carol’ ‘An American Werewolf in London’, and ‘Ghostbusters’ and is helmed by Richard Donner (‘The Goonies’, ‘The Omen’, ‘The Goonies’, ‘Superman’, ‘The Goonies’, ‘Lethal Weapon’, and ‘The Goonies’), and throughout he manages to coax some truly wonderful, almost pantomime-esque performances from the cast. My personal favourite was always Carol Kane as the Ghost of Christmas Present – an obvious nod to Glinda, the Good Witch of the South from ‘The Wizard of Oz’. Only on crack.
Characters like her, however, are offset by the delightful heartfelt performances from other cast members, notably the ‘Bob Cratchit’ character – a sassy black PA who is a widow and a mother of four – and her purposefully mute son, Calvin, in the ‘Tiny Tim’ role. (Calvin is also the proud owner of quite possibly the finest ever delivery of the line, “God bless us, everyone!”. It’s so good, you don’t even mind the cheesy closing monologue or the musical number that rolls till the credits…)
So, please, Hollywood, would you think about looking at a few more literary classics and using them as inspiration and source material and not just lazily churning out endless, generic, repetitive sequels and remakes of films that were mostly guff to start with?
Otherwise, you’ll DEFINITELY be getting the towel for Christmas and not the state-of-the-art VCR…
* The other is Paddy Considine. If you don’t know who he is, just be thankful I’m not within 5 yards of you right now, throwing his entire back catalogue in your face. Seriously. Get on it.