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Why Bill Murray's 'Scrooged' is the most underrated Christmas movie

As we approach the end of December every year, there's always a discussion to be had about which movie in the American film canon can truly claim to be the best Christmas movie.

But there's also been some chatter on social media over the last few days about which film can claim the title of the most underrated Christmas movie of all time. Which sampling of yuletide silver screen storytelling doesn't quite make its way into discussions alongside such offerings as "It's a Wonderful Life," "Elf," "A Christmas Story," and "Home Alone"?

The definitive answer to this question is the 1988 cult classic "Scrooged." The film is a retelling and reimagining of Charles Dickens' immortal classic "A Christmas Carol." In the place of Ebenezer Scrooge is Frank Cross — a modern television network executive out to make a buck and a name for himself with a live special on Christmas Eve.

Cross is immediately hateable for his selfishness and indifference to his employees and his own family, but the role does not merely put Ebenezer Scrooge in a new suit. It's through Murray's humorous take on Dickens' immortal protagonist that the real depth of Frank Cross' brand of fast-talking, sleazeball wretchedness is revealed

And, because he’s portrayed by Bill Murray, in the man's classic debonair style, he remains hilariously despicable all the way through to his final Christmas epiphany, which takes the form of an impromptu monologue on live national television.

Murray's portrayal also brings a relatability to the transformation of the cold-hearted figure at the center of the narrative. The cigar-smoking, cab-driving ghost of Christmas past shows us the lovable, more innocent Frank who cut himself off from the world and the joy of Christmas itself through a rags-to-riches media career that gives the viewer somebody to sympathize with, where Scrooge's Victorian-era boarding-school-to-banker trajectory can be harder to identify with.

Featuring some of Murray's best comedic work, the movie is also a rich slice of 1980s American film and culture. This is seen in everything from the interior design of Cross' Manhattan office to the placement of former Olympian Mary Lou Retton and the Solid Gold dancers in the selfishly scheduled Christmas Eve live television special.

And while it's a comedy, there's definitely enough fear to do homage to Dickens' original Christmas ghost story. The Marley's ghost character shows up decomposing and dressed for a round of golf, and after absorbing a few rounds from the pistol in Cross' desk, he dangles Cross out of the skyscraper window for dramatic effect. The ghost of Christmas future trades a headstone for a lonely cremation, but shows eerily cold visions of a world without Cross' repentance.

Finally, there's also some action to boot. If you don't happen like Bill Murray's work but still wish to join in the viewing with family and friends, there's always the consolation of watching him get beaten senseless by Carol Kane's fairylike spirit of Christmas present or chased around the floor of his office building while dodging shotgun fire from a disgruntled employee.

"Scrooged" may never regularly be mentioned among the heavyweights, and it's probably not something you'll want to put on before the younger kids are off to bed, but it's indeed hilarious and definitely an underrated chunk of Christmas cinematic gold.

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