Scrooged: The Ghost of Bill Murray PastS

Watching a movie for exactly the second time ever, when you haven't seen it since you were a young kid, is a pretty amazing experience. I streamed Scrooged the other night. I hadn't seen it since shortly after its 1988 release, when I was about six or seven. Total flashback. The terrifying ghouls under the cloak of the ghost of Christmas Future. The incomprehensible mania of a drunken, laid-off Bobcat Goldthwait. The pointless distraction of the love story. Those things were not, I can report, a bunch of scary nonsense this time around.

But even as a kid, I could easily follow the plot. I knew the Scrooge tale clearly from (I think) an illustrated book and/or an animated version starring Donald Duck. Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, redemption for the old man, and a Tiny Tim healed through kindness—all of that arrived on schedule. It was just set in a New York TV exec's corner office, starring the guy from Ghostbusters. So it was appealing enough at the time.

The stunning thing is how well it has aged. Yeah, it's an 80s movie, with cheesy music and primitive CGI. But it has Bill Murray—before Rushmore, Lost in Translation, and the new Hyde Park on Hudson. You don't yet know that his career will stay so strong for over 30 years. Here, he's just a deadpan SNL veteran playing a comic Scrooge, a tumbler of Stoli and Tab perpetually near his not-quite-as-weathered face. He's antic and boisterous, capable of an epic pratfall. It makes you wonder if it's the performances like this that make his more subtle recent roles so funny—you know that wild guy is lurking just behind his skeptical eyes.

If you haven't seen it in a couple of decades—or ever—Scrooged really is a great one to stream in HD tonight. You'll be hooked from the opening scene, an action-packed shootout at Santa's workshop that Murray's character plans to broadcast to his holiday viewers. Scrooged doesn't have any of the problems of my other go-to Christmas flicks. None of the pedantic moralizing of It's a Wonderful Life, none of the campy nostalgia of A Christmas Story, and none of the ages-12-and-under-only appeal of Home Alone. In fact, the only thing I'd consider a possible match for Scrooged is another '80s classic I have to watch again before the holidays end—Christmas Vacation. What's your pick?