Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Scrooged Blu-ray Review

Celebrate Christmas past, present and future with an uproarious and contemporary take on Charles Dickens’ classic tale when Scrooged made its Blu-ray debut on November 1, 2011 from Paramount Home Entertainment.  Starring Bill Murray as a television executive with a heart of stone, the film takes viewers on a darkly comic adventure populated by an all-star cast including Karen Allen (Raiders Of The Lost Ark), John Forsythe (“Dynasty”), Bobcat Goldthwait (Shakes The Clown), Carol Kane (The Pacifier), Robert Mitchum (The Big Sleep), Alfre Woodard (“Desperate Housewives”) and Jamie Farr (“M*A*S*H”).  A network TV president is perhaps the most cold-hearted man ever, but his holiday spirit is given a painful booster shot by three vengeful ghosts.  In this comedic update of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, Bill Murray portrays Frank Cross, an evil, crass executive who caters to the lowest-of-the-lowest common denominators while firing people at will for the flimsiest of reasons.  To change his cruel and tasteless ways, Cross is taken on a trip through his past to his future so that he can achieve redemption.

Film (4 out of 5 stars) 

Scrooged is a modern update of A Christmas Carol with Bill Murray at his brilliantly conceited best as Frank Cross, a cynical television executive who has sacrificed personal happiness for his successful career.  That ruthless determination cost him the love of his life Claire Phillips (Karen Allen) and alienated his family, especially his brother James (John Murray).  Much like Scrooge, Frank is going to learn the error of his ways thanks to some visiting ghosts that impart some important life lessons.  Frank’s poor treatment of other people includes his employees as he overworks his poor assistant Grace (Alfre Woodward).  Thanks to Frank’s constant demands, Grace’s relationship with her family is strained since she can’t follow through on her promises to them.  As bad as Frank treats Grace, it’s not as bad as he treats Eliot, a meek yes man who dared to criticize Frank’s commercial which gets him fired on Christmas Eve which sends him on a downward spiral of desperation.
Life begins to imitate life when Frank is tasked with with producing a live Christmas Eve broadcast of A Christmas Carol right before he’s visited himself by the ghost of his  former mentor Lew (John Forsythe) who died awhile ago during a gold game.  Lew warns Frank to change his ways before he suffers the same fate as him and to let him know about the impending visitation of some more ghosts.  Frank is already freaked out but when his boss Mr. Rhinelander (Robert Mitchum) hires a weaselly assistant named Brice (John Glover), things get even worse.  As predicted, Frank is visited by three ghosts, the first being the Ghost of Christmas Past (David Johansen) who appears to him a cab driver and takes Frank back to his distant past.  Their first stop is back in 1955 during Frank’s childhood, and then they’re off to 1968, 1969, and 1971 where we see Frank take his first step to into becoming the man he eventually turned out to be when he picks his job as “Frisbee the Dog” over Claire.
The second ghost to visit him is the Ghost of Christmas Present (Carol Kane) who not only shows Frank what’s he’s missing with his family, but also delights in physically abusing him.  During their tour, Frank sees just how poor Grace and her family are thanks to the low salary he pays her and just how much his brother James misses him.  In between these ghostly visits, Eliot’s depression has gotten so bad that he’s gotten drunk and plans to hunt Frank down and kill him.  As is that wasn’t bad enough, Frank is visited by the last specter as the Ghost of Christmas Future shows Frank his terrible future where Claire has become just as unfeeling and callous as him and that no one other than his brother James and his wife care about his death.  Frank finally understands how his selfishness and indifference to others has resulted in this bleak future and that he’s missed out on the best things in life: love, family, and friends.  Determined to correct the error of his ways, Frank runs down to his live broadcast to try to fix all of his mistakes.
This version of Charles Dickens’ classic tale is the most comedic of all of the various retellings, but it doesn’t dilute the main lessons from the original despite being modernized.  This is still a story about a man who places his own happiness before others’ and the journey he takes that shows him how much misery his presence has caused for the people around him.  The core focus of the story is how one man sees the results of his actions and voluntarily makes changes for the better which improves his life and the lives of the people in his life.  Bill Murray is perfect for this kind of role and he plays all of the different facets of Cross well.  Karen Allen is also good as always and it’s a shame that she didn’t get more work after her excellent work in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Starman, and this movie.  This movie was something of a change of pace for director Richard Donner, but he balances the tone and comedy of the movie well.

Video (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

The movie has an excellent 1080p (1.78:1) transfer that is quite an improvement over the previous DVD release.  This transfer has a lot of fine detail on display that really allows you to notice small details that you may not have noticed before.  Colors are well balanced although the overall palette is fairly dark, but when a splash of color makes an appearance, it looks great and pops off the screen.  Black levels are solid and suitably inky while the flesh tones look realistic and natural.  For an older catalog title, this looks really good and fans of the movie should be pleased.

Audio (4 out of 5 stars) 

Scrooged features a great DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless mix that does the job fairly well.  The dialogue is clear and understandable at all times and the music is well balanced with the overall mix.  Directional effects are excellent and accurate and well distributed across all of the channels.  There’s some nice ambiance as well that helps draw the viewers into the movie.  For a comedy, this is mix offers more of a punch that would normally be expected which is just another reason why you should pick up this new edition.

Special Features (1 out of 5 stars) 

For some unknown reason, the only special feature to be found on this disc is the film’s trailer.

Final Thoughts (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

This is a funny movie that still manages to impart the life lessons that were a part of the original novel.  Bill Murray and the rest of the cast are great in the movie and are well cast.  The much improved video and audio quality of this Blu-ray make it easy to recommend purchasing it even if you already have the DVD.  It just a shame that a movie this good is lacking special features which would have been very welcome.
Order your copy today!

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