Christmas Carol rethink casts Bill Murray as the ghost-busted grouch

Between Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day’s redeemed grouch, Bill Murray took a critics’ pasting for his ghost-busted grouch in Richard Donner’s A Christmas Carol rethink.

But retrospective goodwill is due – with caveats.

The laughs aim broad and the plot plods, but Donner gets mileage from the strain of arch-cynicism Murray patented before his appointment as cinema’s don of droll disappointment.

For tyrannical TV exec Frank Cross (Murray), Christmas is only fun because folks watch telly and ad revenues soar.

On the eve of his tawdry TV take on Dickens, he’s attacked by phantoms: the flaky dipso, hacking cabbie, ball-busting fairy and freaky TV are all suitably spooky.

Murray nails the miserly mirth too, enthusiastically boozing, barging past OAPs to get to a cab and bartering lines with Robert Mitchum. Karen Allen provides convincing contrast as Cross’ ex, Claire, her snow-melting smile radiating the nice to Murray’s nasty.

So it’s a shame the latter half offers only ersatz ‘nice’, stumbling towards a toxically sweet send-off that even Murray can’t sell.

Donner is more persuasive at channelling Murray’s mean streak, putting the grin into Grinch: Cross firing Bobcat Goldthwait’s hapless Eliot (whose character pre-empts twists in his own recent God Bless America), or advising props men on attaching antlers to mice (staples?) is where Scrooged’s heartlessness lies.

The lack of extras is just stingy, though: what happened to the stuffed disc recalled from release back in 2006? “Bah humbug” to that.

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