I mentioned in my last post I would like to organize these Scrooge reviews but the truth is they will end up being jumbled up because I get access to them at different times depending on when they air, are available from the library and other opportunities to watch come up.
So I had the 2004 musical version called A Christmas Carol: A Musical on my DVR and gave it a watch last night. It was my first time viewing this version. I’ve decided to not give grades for these movies but to just make note of the differences, strengths and weaknesses in each adaptation. So, let’s talk about what makes this version special!
2004 A Christmas Carol: The Musical
In this version we get a musical in the style of Oliver! Music is by Alan Menken with lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and it is very solid songs.
|Kelsey Grammer as Ebenezer Scrooge|
|Jane Krakowski as Ghost of Christmas Past/Lamplighter|
|Jesse L. Martin as Ghost of Christmas Present/Sandwich Board Man|
|Geraldine Chaplin as Ghost of Christmas Future/Blind Old Hag|
|Jason Alexander as Jacob Marley’s Ghost|
|Edward Gower as Bob Cratchit|
|Linzi Hateley as Mrs. Cratchit|
|Jacob Collier as Tiny Tim|
Scrooge- Kelsey Grammar, he’s pretty good although the hunched over, old impression feels like something that would work better on the stage. His singing voice is very good.
Opening sequence which is usually at the counting house is at the stock exchange.
Singing throughout not just the occasional song
The Jacob Marley scene is unique. Instead of just Jacob you have an array of ghosts that do a number similar to Tevye’s Dream in Fiddler on the Roof.
They also integrate the story of Dickens father going to the debtor prison as part of Scrooge’s story. There is a scene in a courtroom where Scrooge’s father tells his son after being convicted ‘save your pennies. Make your fortune and keep it’.
We see Scrooge working in a shoe factory as a child which no other version had done which I’ve seen and that actually makes sense.
They use the Cratchit’s less than other versions and have Scrooge’s mother say the ‘God Bless Us Everyone’ line.
Other differences are you see Marley die which I don’t recall in other versions. Scrooge actually seems upset by this.
This is the only version I know of where Ghost of Future is a woman and not a grim reaper type.
All of the ghosts are seen in earlier scenes interacting with Scrooge. Ghost of Present is very well played by Rent’s Jesse L Martin who has such a great bass voice. He is a showman who puts on a play (which he had invited Scrooge too earlier) as part of his demonstration to Scrooge
Christmas Past is played by Jane Krakowski of 30 Rock fame and she shows Scrooge a book with the memories that they dive into, which is a unique take
Another difference is Scrooge refuses to give Fezziwig a loan just before his girl Emily (Jennifer Love Hewitt) breaks up with him. That was a very effective scene with Scrooge’s mentor realizing how cold his pupil has sunk.
Strengths- The music is a strength. I didn’t like every song but for the most part they are solid musical numbers that have the Menken flair (lyrics aren’t always great but it’s tough to be original with Christmas music).
All of the singing is excellent. Grammar has a lovely voice as well as Martin, Krakowski, and Gower. There is also a good chemistry amongst the cast. They all felt like a community, supporting one another (or not in the case of Scrooge). I surprisingly thought Jennifer Love Hewitt was effective in her brief scene as Emily.
The special effects with the ghosts, and various changes to the story with Scrooge’s father and refusing Fezziwig’s loan were interesting and effective. Also I thought the unique Ghost of Future was good. Nice to see some dialogue and personality in that character.
Weaknesses- Jason Alexander is miscast as Marley. I don’t know if it is just weird for me seeing George Costanza as Marley or if his performance is that off. It just didn’t quite gel.
Another issue is the makeup is very badly done and the lighting makes characters look kind of gaunt and pale, even Martin who is supposed to be alive and boisterous had sunken eyes and an emaciated look about him. It lessened the effects of Ignorance and Want because everyone already looked like them.
The finale is moving and it is nice to see Fran again but I missed the desperation and real intensity the scene normally has. It felt more like an inspirational group number than a pleading call for mercy.
Overall, I enjoyed the version. It has it’s technical issues with the makeup and lighting, but I thought the songs were good, performances pretty good and the changes in the story for the most part worked and were interesting. So, if it is on your dvr give it a watch.
13 thoughts on “Scrooge 1: Christmas Carol: A Musical 2004”
I think the music is the only good thing about this adaptation…and it’s not even Menken’s best work, just serviceable. The whole thing as an overall cheap look to it, the actors are mostly serviceable, but not inspiring (and Scrooge as well as Cratchit are two roles which demand the subtlety of a seasoned actors). The combination of it make it sometimes look more like a parody of the story than a serious telling…at least until everything drowns in sentimentality (there is one other stage adaptation which is even worse in this regard, to a point that it has an “angel” as ghost of every Christmas which is in the end to be revealed Belle…ruined the whole stage play).
Unlike you, I don’t like the changes to Scrooge’s backstory. For me a big part of his character is that he truly has no idea what poverty is. Sure, it would make sense that someone who worked himself up from really nothing would be afraid of loosing it and smug towards those who didn’t manage that feat…but that’s not Scrooge, that’s Javert. The whole point with Scrooge is that his material needs were met (he did work himself up the latter, but not from nothing, his father did provide him with a good education and a basic start into adult life), but his emotional needs weren’t. That’s why Fran and Belle are so meaningful, they are the only ones in his live who ever were close to his heart. A big part of Scrooge’s characters is ignorance, and he can’t really plead ignorance with a backstory like this.
And I agree with you concerning the final. While the story in itself is supposed to be heart-warming, it also has a certain level of gravitas (one too many adaptations just miss). The point that Scrooge is shaping a terrifying future for himself and others is important.
Cratchit is also a character who shouldn’t be side-lined. He is the counterpoint to Scrouge, believing in love and family above everything else, and finding happiness in the simple things.
Thanks for your comment. You make fair points; although, the book does talk about Scrooge fearing the world and poverty so I think a backstory showing the cause of that fear makes sense. And given it was Dickens life experience it worked for me. It is natural to assume if Scrooge stooped as low as he did that he would have screwed over friends at one point so the Fezziwig scene I found moving. I guess I see his backstory as more fear than ignorance but your take is certainly a valid one I hadn’t considered.
I thought the performances were pretty good. I always like Jesse L Martin ever since Rent. What’d you think of Future being a woman and having more dialogue? That was an interesting choice.
The ending is a miss and I agree on Cratchit still I enjoyed it. I thought it took a few chances and was serviceable. I honestly don’t think there is a version of the story I really hate but you will definitely see me gush about other versions. This is definitely not gush-worthy. 🙂
The performances are not bad, but for me there is a difference between “serviceable” and “inspiring”. This is serviceable. I think the biggest problem is that it really feels like I am watching a stage play, but without the stage atmosphere. As a result, I am never really drawn into the story as much as I should.
I think that is fair . I agree it does feel like a stage play and the makeup added to that caked on stage feeling. It definitely gives a barrier to the characters. And I agree on the performances. We will definitely have more inspiring work coming up. 🙂
Be prepared, I tend to be very critical when it comes to the story.
Sounds good! 🙂 Always glad to hear any comments or opinions on anything I review.
I guess as a frequent moviegoer some movies wow you, some are marginally entertaining, others stink. This is in that middle group but I appreciated its attempt to try something new, take a few chances, and the singing is very good (even better than the songs themselves). For the average casual viewer looking for a pleasant holiday film they will enjoy it.
Yeah…really not Menken’s best work…like I just said in my “best Disney composer” article, he never really reached the highs he did with Ashman.
Agreed. Definitely the best with Ashman.
I haven’t seen this one yet, but I really want to!
Finally saw this one last night. I generally really enjoyed it! The music was top-notch, being Alan Menken’s work and I loved Kelsey Grammer as Scrooge. Seeing him play Scrooge made me think about what Gregory Peck would have been like had he played Scrooge.
I loved how dark some of these scenes got like the Link By Link and Dancing on Your Grave song sequences. And it was kinda cool that he saw the three people beforehand who ended up becoming the three ghosts.
My main problem with this was that scenes just seemed to come out of nowhere sometimes with no real transition. But overall, I really liked it.
I agree it is a really enjoyable version! And I also think Grammer was excellent as Scrooge with a wonderful singing voice. Menken’s songs elevate the film beyond the typical made for TV fare.I rewatched it this Christmas and really enjoyed it again too.