Richard Donner’s adaptation of the immortal Charles Dickens tale feels like an oversized, overly loud special effects bonanza that shouldn’t work at all, yet somehow it all comes together almost in spite of itself. Bill Murray mostly sleepwalks in the lead but he’s got enough screen presence to comfortably coast along, and he’s surrounded by a first-rate supporting cast that finds the warmth hiding the beneath the loud, shouty surface. There’s an undercurrent of delightful nastiness to the proceedings, as though Donner is bending the Dickens story as far as it will go by transplanting it to the world of 1980s television broadcasting and skewering the mean-spiritedness that features prominently within that industry. It all makes for a uniquely satisfying conclusion as the Dickens story leads to its inevitable climax, helped along the way by Danny Elfman’s striking, distinctive score, not to mention an all-too brief appearance by David Johansen (aka Buster Pointdexter, of “Hot Hot Hot” fame) as the Ghost of Christmas Past that positively oozes with dirtbag charisma and top-wattage star power.
Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)