I can tell you a thousand things that Scrooged, director Richard Donner's 1988 updating of A Christmas Carol, gets wrong. It features Bobcat Goldthwait, for one example; it's silly and sketchy and has the attention span of a fruit fly, for another. Carol Kane's Ghost of Christmas Present is amusing for a millisecond and annoying for every moment thereafter. The script veers between brilliance and bathos, there's at least four too many sub-plots and the film is littered with those little Donner touches -- left-leaning posters as set dressing, acting in his own film -- that mark Donner as one of the more competent and terrifying hacks of our time.
But there's one thing that Scrooged gets right -- and indeed, it gets that one thing so right, that moment of perfection turns it from a diverting cable standby to compulsory holiday viewing. Mitch Glazer and Michael O'Donoghue's script gives a modern makeover to Dickens's classic story, and also mocks the Scrooge tale even as it re-enacts it. Frank Cross (Bill Murray), the youngest network president in the history of television, is harried and hateful as the holiday approaches; his network's spending $40 million on a live production of A Christmas Carol (which, for some reason, the film calls "Scrooge") that'll run Christmas Eve. The live shoot is going to be a mess: Buddy Hackett's playing Scrooge, and isn't great with his lines, at one point asking in dress rehearsal "Why am I surrounded by these sea urchins?" John Houseman's doing the narration; Mary Lou Retton is playing Tiny Tim. It's going to be horrible. And, most importantly to Frank, profitable.