My Top 10 Christmas Carol Films

Merry Christmas Eve you guys! I thought I would share with you all my top 10 favorite versions of Christmas Carol.

Of course if you followed Scrooge Month last year you know I love Christmas Carol.  It’s one of my favorite books and it’s hard to make a version I dislike (although not impossible.  I’m talking to you Ghost of Girlfriends Past).

What I love about Christmas Carol is the message of redemption, which is the true message of Christmas.  There are no lost causes and that is because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  That is the lesson which Scrooge learns and I find it very moving.  In the end it is a message about hope and that’s what I want to see around the holidays. I write more of my thoughts of Christmas Carol in this blog post:

http://smilingldsgirl.com/2010/12/21/christmas-carol/

Anyway, my top 10 Christmas Carol Adaptations

a_christmas_carol_the_musical_advertisement10. Christmas Carol: A Musical– Not a perfect film but I think worth a watch.  I like the music from Alan Menken and  some of the fleshing out of the character of Scrooge is a cool take on it.

A_Christmas_Carol 20099. Disney’s Christmas Carol–  I know a lot of people don’t like it but I do.  There are silly moments but I appreciate the emotion they get right and how accurate it is to the book.

blackadder poster8.  Black Adder Christmas Carol- This hilarious special subverts the Scrooge story by convincing a poor sap to be bad instead of good! The writing is so on point and had me cracking up especially anything with the Queen of England.   Great performances from Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Jim Broadbent and more. Scrooged_film_poster7.  Scrooged- a comedic version of Christmas Carol that pokes a lot of fun at media and particularly network TV.  It’s definitely a lose adaptation but it makes me laugh and has good performances throughout.

magoo theater actor6. Mr Magoo’s Christmas Carol- This is the only Mr Magoo I have seen but I like this version.  The animation is beautiful with a Hirschfeld quality to it and the music by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill elevate the special higher than it might otherwise be.

mickey blu-ray5. Mickey’s Christmas Carol–  A fun exercise for Disney having their characters playing other characters which we would see again in Prince and Pauper and a few other shorts in the 90s.  This does a great job introducing kids to the Christmas Carol story.  My only complaint is I wish they had made it a feature film instead of a short because a lot is left out.

christmas-carol-1999-patrick-stewart-scrooge-desmond-barrit-ghost-of-christmas-present4. Christmas Carol (Patrick Stewart version)- One of the most accurate versions with Patrick Stewart perfectly capturing the Scrooge described in the book.  Extremely well made especially for a made for TV movie and includes scenes almost always left out, which I appreciate like the Lighthouse sequence.

scott scrooge3. A Christmas Carol (1984)- I have a few little nitpicks with Scott’s accent and the music but other than that a great version.  Scott is great in the emotional scenes and the production feels earthy like what you imagine London might have been like in the 1850s.

Muppet_christmas_carol2. Muppet Christmas Carol– The best version by far for kids IMO. You have Gonzo sharing a lot of the text from the novel.  Michael Caine plays it straight with the Muppets and is believable in the more intense moments.  I love the songs and some of the more creative touches like having Statler and Waldorf play Jacob Marley.  Their song is great! My favorite Muppets movies are when they take on literature.  This and Muppet Treasure Island are actually my favorite Muppet movies.

1951poster1.  Scrooge (A Christmas Carol 1951)–  Starring Alastair Sim this version stands above the rest just on production values alone.  The cinematography is stunning, directing innovative, acting from Sims and others is wonderful and I appreciate some of the creative risks they took.  They flesh out Scrooge’s backstory a bit without taking it too far, which I  liked.  To me it has everything you could want in a Christmas Carol movie.

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas!  Thanks for your support for the blog this year.  God bless us everyone!

Colorized Rant

Ok guys I’m upset! Those who read my Scrooge Month got a clear idea of my feelings on the colorization of Black and White movies.  So imagine my shock when I DVR’d the holiday classic Miracle on 34th Street on a major channel, AMC, and what do I see but the colorized version.  AMC should be ashamed of themselves!  I’m serious.  Putting out an assault on an artists vision as if it was the original property on national TV is worthy of the strictest censure.

Why do I hate colorized movies so much?  Well, here we go.

The Michael Bay’s of the world consider film a product but I think of it as art, especially how the movie looks.  People could be painters, sculptors or dancers and they chose to work in film.  We would never take a bronze sculpture and tell the artist he should be using jade or an oil painting and force it to be in watercolor.  Most of the history of film has had color as an option (Gone with the Wind is stunning color cinematography and that’s in 1939) so these artists made a choice to film in black and white.

Why would they make this choice?  Because it was less expensive in some cases but it also has shadows and movement you don’t get with color film.  It removes distraction and forces the viewer to focus on the images.  Instead of absorbing the color of a jacket, or a person’s hair color we see their face and the wrinkles on their skin and learn so much about who they are. We don’t need to know that the soldier’s uniform is blue.  We just need to see the look of horror on his face.

It would be one thing if an artist approved of their work being colorized but most of these films are in the public domain and are changed without anyone’s consent.  It’s wrong and it deeply offends me.

Turner movies stopped doing the process in 1989 and I thought it had gone the way of the VHS but in Scrooge month I repeatedly came across DVDs that were colorized like the 1951 Christmas Carol with Alistair Sim.  It is routinely regarded as the most well made of the Scrooge movies and rightfully so. The lighting and nuances in the acting is beautifully captured.  Probably its greatest strength is the films artistry so to sully with that aspect belittles the whole film to any other mediocre version.

christmas4 christmas3To me there is just no comparison between the look of the black and white and the colorized.  In the black and white I immediately focus on Scrooge’s eyes where the color I am looking at his cravat and bow tie and how blue it is.  I am also looking at the doormat and his hair.  The eyes are the last thing I look about and you tell so much from Sim’s eyes.

It’s the same in Miracle on 34th Street.  Look at the difference.

christmas5 christmas6In the colorized version what do you see? Well, Catherine O’Hara’s lipstick and her pale skin.  In the black and white we see her eyes and the wrinkles on her forehead.  She looks like a mother trying to explain something to her child.  It is so much more pleasant and interesting to look at. In colorized she looks frail and her hair is distracting.  With Kris you are totally focused on the red of his suit and the gold of the chair.  The love and emotion in his face and eyes are completely lost, which is so clear in the black and white.

Even if you don’t mind the look of the colorized it doesn’t tell you anything new that is pertinent to the story.  It doesn’t matter that Catherine O’hara has red hair or red lipstick or that Kris is sitting on a gold chair.  What does it give you to know such things?  It’s certainly isn’t ‘magic’ in my book.

When the movement started it was praised as a way to get children to appreciate older movies by presenting them in color.  Hogwash.  If a child cannot appreciate the black and white Miracle on 34th Street than show them something else. It certainly does them no good to get them attached to a diluted version of the story.  It doesn’t help them appreciate older films because they aren’t really seeing them.  They will no doubt grow to be adults and feel cheated on the thin gruel they were given when such feasting exists. I know I would be.

In my experience kids are actually more accepting of artistic differences in pieces than adults.  I have had many experiences watching Wall-e, for instance, where the artistic choices were hard for adults to accept but kids loved it.

If you feel so strongly about your kids needing to see Miracle on 34th Street in color than watch the 1994 version which is not near as good but at least you won’t be assaulting a classic.

People may claim that television airs edited versions of films for content and time allowances and is that not also altering the creative vision?  That would be a valid point but in that case the versions are provided by the studios with the permission of all involved.  In the case of the colorization a separate entity unassociated with the project takes the film and adds the color without any input from the original creators.  Alterations for content could be seen as a necessary evil when there is absolutely nothing necessary about adding color.

It’s just wrong.  People dedicate their lives to their art and just as we would never change a Picasso or a Van Gogh because we don’t like the style, we should not change these films.  And I can’t believe that a major channel like AMC, which puts out bold artistic content like Breaking Bad and Mad Men would air such a thing.  They don’t even say on their webpage that it is a colorized version.

schedule

 

Anyway, it just upsets me and I couldn’t believe AMC would air it.  No matter what they do this will always be my Santa Claus and it should be your’s too.

santaSince the National Film Preservation Act of 1988 it has also been illegal for films to be colorized so these are old versions that still float around changed before the law.  Another reason’s AMC’s decision is very surprising.

Scrooge Month Conclusion

New folder1

I posted the last of my Scrooge month reviews a few hours ago with the review of The Muppets Christmas Carol.  And I just wanted to share with all of you what a wonderful experience it has been.  Have I seen a few clunkers?  Yes, but not many and even less successful adaptations still had parts I liked (only 2 I really hated).

I think it says something to the power of what Charles Dickens created that I could watch the same story 30 times and still get choked up today on watch 30.  There’s a reason it was a massive hit in Victorian England and has never gone out of print.  There is a reason it turned Christmas into the holiday it now is . There is a reason it has been tackled by everyone from Mickey to Alistair Sim.  I believe the reason is it is a story about hope.  We all want to believe in the goodness of our fellow humans but sometimes it can seem hard to see.  Christmas Carol tells us that even the worst have hope and the ability to change.

Being a Christian I love the idea of conversion, which comes with recognizing hope, but even if you do not believe in Christ the desire to change within ourselves is sometimes hard to find. It can feel overwhelming when hate and bitterness overtake our souls, and we cannot forgive others for hurts that feel Goliath in size. There is something about Scrooge’s story that gives us hope that we can change even if others seemingly cannot.

In a world that grows increasingly cynical by the moment it has been heartening to spend this Christmas season focused on hope and I thank you all for allowing me to prattle on and read my silly thoughts.  It means a lot to me and has been a wonderful holiday I will always treasure.

It has also been a ton of fun.  In some ways it’s like a whole classroom was given the same writing exercise and in the end produced wildly different responses.  I’ve had the chance to review franchises I was not as familiar with like Flintstones, Barbie, Smurfs, Looney Tunes and even the BlackAdder. I had the wonderful adventure of exploring silent films, something I do not do nearly enough.  I watched cheesy made for TV movies and giggled at the hokiness and camp value.  And I rediscovered versions like Patrick Stewart and the Disney version were even better than I remembered.   After spending November writing a novel it has been a wonderful experience to see so many takes on someone else’s creation.

So people will probably want to know what are my favorites? (I’ve grown weary of late of making lists). Honestly I don’t have a favorite.  Alistair Sim 1951 is probably the most well made and acted, but they all have their own unique appeal.  So I would just challenge you to look at the reviews themselves and see what strikes your fancy.  Aside from Ghost of Girlfriends Past and All Dogs Go to Heaven Christmas Carol, you’ll have a good time at the movies and be reminded of the hope of Christmas.

And like Tiny Tim says God Bless Us Everyone!  Merry Christmas Friends!

Make sure to check out the Index for links to all the reviews

Scrooge 30: Muppet Christmas Carol

Muppet_christmas_carolI was planning on waiting till Christmas Eve to review the Muppet’s Christmas Carol because my family and I will often watch it on Christmas Eve. But I finished earlier than I expected and this is my last Scrooge review and we are ending with a real winner.

I am well aware that readers of this blog do not share my attachment to Muppet Christmas Carol and I respect their opinion but it has no effect on mine . I love this version and it battles Alistair Sims and George C Scott as my favorite.

Am I blinded by nostalgia?  I don’t think so.  I do love The Muppets.  They are so cheerful it is hard for me to imagine people not liking them.  To me it is like Looney Tunes, Winnie the Pooh or Mickey and Friends they are a part of my childhood but the writing and joy in the stories transcend childishness and become entertainment for all.

That said, I certainly do not give Muppets a free pass in all their films.  The writing has to be there just like with any other artform or entertainment franchise. In fact, this year I included Muppets Most Wanted on my worst of the year list.  The Great Muppet Caper is another less successful entry in the Muppet world.

The key to making a Muppets movie work (or most any film for families) is the human characters, the grownups, have to play it completely straight like they would if they were acting with any other human actors.  When Steve Martin acts with Kermit and Miss Piggy in the original Muppet Movie he plays it just the same as he would if it was Chevy Chase and Jane Curtain.

Muppet Christmas Carol is the best example of playing it straight.  Michael Caine does not change his performance an inch because he is acting with Muppets.  I love his version of Scrooge.

Michael Caine The Muppet Christmas Carol

When he yells at the bookkeepers or throws cute little Beaker and Bunson out as the Benefactors there is no acknowledgement of their cuteness.  He is as Gonzo’s Dickens says ‘a covetous old sinner’.

beaker benefactor

Gonzo and Rizzo are our narrators and Gonzo is Dickens and so we get a ton of the actual text for a kids version, and the story plays pretty close to the cuff compared to other adaptations.

gonzo and rizzo

I think that’s great for kids to hear the old English and at the end they invite the children to read the book.

“Nice story Mr Dickens” says Rizzo

“Oh thanks.  If you like this you should read the book” says Gonzo as Dickens

I love that!

They also provide much of the humor in the story to help temper the scarier moments for kids.  Like when Gonzo lights Rizzo’s tail and he says ‘light the lamp, not the rat”.  I don’t know a kid that wouldn’t laugh at that (and me too!).

I’m also a big fan of Muppet Treasure Island which cast a brilliant Tim Curry who can ham it up more as a pirate than Caine’s Scrooge but I think both are strong at teaching kids about a classic piece of English literature in an approachable and fun way.

The-Muppet-Christmas-Carol-Screencaps-michael-caine-5823454-570-330

Scrooge- As I already said I love Michael Caine as Scrooge.  I think he is tough but I love how we actually see Scrooge cry and early on too.  When he see’s his young self studying alone he cries.  When he see’s Belle he is visibly hurt.  He is one of the most vulnerable Scrooge’s on film and I love that!

When he see’s Tiny Tim he says ‘a remarkable child’ and it feels sincere even though it is a frog puppet.  I actually feel it is one of the better Scrooge/Tim relationships.

muppet past
Past looks great with an ethereal look to her that was created by filming the fabric inside a vat of oil according to the audio commentary. I also like when Past is a child

See the warmth in Scrooge’s eyes and this is at the very beginning of his journey.  Sometimes the transformation happens too late.  We don’t see any growth or tenderness until the 3rd ghost.  Not so in this version.

The songs do a great job telling the story instead of stopping it which many versions do incorrectly.  Like our introduction to Scrooge tells us everything we need to know and provides a few laughs along the way. To me the song Scrooge is kind of like Belle from Beauty and the Beast.  Both songs are a character going through town and people telling us who they are what the story is.

In contrast think of I Hate People in the Finney version tells us Scrooge hates people after we’ve already established that.  The song is completely unnecessary; whereas, the one’s from Muppets tell the story.

Differences/Strengths-

Aside from the basic difference of being Muppets as the characters it does stay pretty close to the book.

The Paul Williams songs and Miles Goodman score are just lovely.  I have them on my rotation of Christmas Carols and definitely think they are the best Christmas Carol musical efforts.

Instead of just Bob Cratchit there are rats that are bookkeepers and they provide one great joke and help Kermit close up for Christmas with my favorite song of the film:

It’s such a warm and happy song.  Really spells Christmas out for me.

kermit cratchitAnother difference is instead of one Marley they have 2 brothers- Jacob and Robert Marley.  This is so the curmudgeons Statler and Waldorf could play them and it is all done very well.  I love the way they mock Scrooge, taunt and heckle him. That’s so S and W and feels like something 2 Marley’s might have done.

marleys 2

Again Caine plays the scene as if he was working with any human actors and it works very well. I love the singing cashboxes!

They take us to see Scrooge growing up and we get a good joke from Sam the Eagle.

MCC-Screengrabs-Sam-aBut we don’t get a Scrooge and Fan scene which is a shame because I think Caine would have been great with that.  Then we move on to Mr Fozziwigs who is of course Fozzie and they work in a lot of the other characters in the party scene.

fozziwigsWe then finish off Past with Belle and Scrooge.  Present is one of my favorites with a unique Muppet who is one of the few Presents to actually age. He and Scrooge have a real bond.

muppet present

It feels genuine when Caine says “I have learned so much from you. You have meant so much to me.  You have changed me” I love that example of friendship.  So many versions the townspeople and even Present can be kind of judgy and mean but here they were all aching to be friends with Scrooge.

We get another great song from Present.

And the interactions at Fred’s and at Cratchit’s feel like real families, not silly puppets.

cratchits muppetsI love that the girls are pigs and the boys are frogs.  That was very clever.

Tim sings a syrupy but nice Christmas song for the God Bless Everyone line and again Scrooge seems very moved by it.

Rizzo is also very funny in these scenes with some good slapstick.

rizzo gooseWe then get a pretty classic Future.  I really liked how they did the Pawn Shop scene with Old Joe as a spider. That was very creative.

old joe muppetThe other businessmen were pigs which I thought was a funny inside joke and then we see the Cratchit’s mourning over Tim and again Scrooge seems very upset by it.

muppets futureHe pleads with Future “Oh spirit must there be a Christmas that brings this awful scene. How can we endure it”.  That’s a lovely heartfelt moment. Makes me tear up.

The-Muppet-Christmas-Carol-Screencaps-michael-caine-5823446-570-330

Rizzo and Gonzo (Dickens) bow out for ending which helps it remain the serious tone it should.

scrooge muppetIt is one of my favorite if a bit subtle Crazy Scrooge.  The Bean Bunny Scrooge throws out for singing is the boy in the window which is sweet because when he is at Present you see him shivering huddled with newspaper.

Then he meets up with Beaker and Bunson and Beaker gives Scrooge his first Christmas present a scarf and we get our final song. A lot of people are critical of Caine’s singing in this song but I don’t know I think he’s fine.

Weaknesses- Honestly I love this movie so I don’t think much is wrong with it.  I really don’t.  I guess if people want a by the book version than the humor might annoy you but I like it.

Some of the special effects are lame when Scrooge is going from one world to another or flying.

To me this does what you want a family movie to do.  It is warm, funny, sweet, good songs and a few scares. Plus, it introduces kids to classic literature by using lots of the text and being pretty faithful to the narrative.  It doesn’t dumb it down for kids.

I guess people that just don’t like the Muppets even at their best don’t like it but I try to be open minded to all styles and forms of movies. I know people who just don’t like anime no matter how brilliant and creative it might be and I think that’s a shame.

If the humor and style doesn’t work for you than so be it but I love it.

muppets cast2

Scrooge 29: Hale Center Theater Orem Local Production

chris brower

Tonight’s review is  a little different.  I want to profile not a movie but my local theaters production of Christmas Carol.  In Utah and Arizona there are 3 independently owned theaters under the Hale name- Hale Center Theater Orem and Hale Center Theater West Valley are close to me.   They are special theaters with Broadway level productions at reasonable costs and they are both theater in the round. This is such a great way to see a play because wherever you sit you have a good view.

hale oremThey have made it a tradition of putting on Christmas Carol every year and I alternate between Orem and West Valley because they are both fantastic.  Here’s a little video clip explaining the tradition of Christmas Carol at Hale:

At Hale Orem the man playing Scrooge, Chris Brower,  has been doing every performance for 20 years and naturally he has it down to an art.  It is better than any of the film versions but is probably most like the George C. Scott with his Scrooge having a sarcastic twinkle.

Hale-Orem-Christmas-Carol-Featured-Image brower oremIt’s a pretty amazing sacrifice that he gives the community every year because they have 2 to 3 performances every day and he is in all of them. He is funny and endearing and harsh.  A great Scrooge.

The Bob Cratchit this year played by musical director Cam Cahoon was great with a terrific singing voice.  They always get the cutest Tim for these performances too. 
There are carolers that narrate throughout the show with Victorian carols like God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman, First Noel, What Child is This and Coventry Carol.  They are excellent singers and the Coventry Carol before the grieving Cratchit’s are seen is particularly moving along with Bob Cratchit’s What Child is This to Tim’s grave

hale theaterThe Marley, played by Scott Healey has been in the cast the last few years I’ve seen it and he is very good.  Here’s a little clip that might give you a feel for the production.

marley and scroogeThis version is adapted by Hale family member Cody Hale and it is a solid adaptation although the original songs (only 3 of them) I could do without.  Something about original songs and Christmas Carol I’m not that into. That said, I’ve certainly heard worse songs this month!

The carols help to highlight the religious elements of the story,  which I always appreciate and find most moving.  In the end, it is the story of redemption, overcoming fear and isolation and the power of Atonement in our lives and communities.  I never seem to tire of it even after 30 versions in a month.

As much as I love movies there is something special about live theater that I will always love.  There’s a rawness to live performance that excites and thrills me whether it is a concert, play, or musical I just love it! I’m so grateful to live in Utah where Hale theaters are one of many quality ways to experience the arts at good prices and with family friendly values.

I would challenge all of you to seek out the arts in your area and support them as much as you can.  It’s an important part of our community and makes our cities and towns nicer places to live.   Hurray for the arts!!!

(And if you are in Utah there is still time to see the show at either Hale theater!)

This is some fan reaction to Hale Theater Arizona version but the feedback would be similar in Orem.

Bracket Fun

So I found this bracket download and have been having fun with it tonight. I was just goofing off so please don’t take it too seriously.

Here we have a tournament of Christmas Carol versions
christmas carol bracket

Next is the worst of my Disney rankings.  Turns out Bolt is the bad movie I would most least mind watching again. It’s my favorite of the bad. I’d say that’s right on.  It’s an entertaining if forgettable little movie.

worst disneyThis I’m sure will cause all kinds of controversy but there you go.  My top 16 battling it out.  I did rank Big Hero 6 higher than Lion King but today if I had to pick I went with Lion King.  Maybe tomorrow I will feel differently.  They are all good!

disney bracketHere we go with my favorite holiday films battling it out!

tournamentA little 2014 Movies competition!

2014 movies

So this is just silly fun but I had a great time doing it.  It’s different than making a list because you are just making a choice over 2 movies.  If I had a top 8 holiday films Die Hard wouldn’t be on there but in the tournament it was, so that’s just kind of entertaining

If you want to make your own brackets go to http://www.printabletournamentbrackets.net/preview/16_Team_Single_Elimination_Bracket

Scrooge 28: Scrooge (Seymour Hicks 1935)

Before I start this is another movie that was colorized at the library. Colorization of classic black and white films is an absolute atrocity. You lose all the shadows, light, nuances the cinematographer and director worked so hard to get. Instead you get something that looks drawn on and adds nothing to the story.
To me it is as offensive as if I were to go up to a Van Gogh and say ‘I don’t like how you can’t see the images completely. I’m going to fix it’. Let the artists visions stand as they created it. Do not alter it!!!
I would rather not watch a movie than see it in a colorized version. I thought that was over with VHS tapes but I’ve learned from this project that it continues. It’s outrageous!

1935-xmas-humbug-scroogeI’m nearing the end of my Scrooge series so if there are versions you would like me to review let me know.  Tomorrow I am going to see it at the local theater- Hale Center Theater Orem and greatly looking forward to that.  They do a great job and the man has been playing Scrooge for over a decade and is better than any film version I have seen.

Let’s talk briefly about the 1935 version with Seymour Hicks.  We have already reviewed a version with Hicks in my review of the silent movies.In the 19113 version Hicks plays Scrooge as a violent character who looks like a bum, more of a Frankenstein creature than a businessman.

Here that is a tempered a bit but we still have the rumpled hair and the messy look.

1935-xmas-solicitorsThis is not a very successful movie but it isn’t terrible so if you are curious go for it.  Otherwise skip.

Scrooge- Seymour Hicks is a grumpy, Frankenstein kind of creature here but not as intensely violent as in 1913. He keeps the same expression throughout the movie and I didn’t get a feeling of change or redemption.

Donald Cathrop is very good as Bob Cratchit.  They show Tim’s body in this version and when Bob is grieving over his son it is moving.

1935 cratchitDifferences-

This is one of the few versions that includes the lighthouse/ship carol scene with Present (Stewart is the only other one I remember seeing it in).

They skip over a lot not showing you him and Fan or the Fezziwigs and jump to Belle watching Scrooge not give a loan extension to a young couple.  It left me wanting more and wishing they had changed things around.

There is also a strange scene where we see the King and Queen of England dining with their friends with the poor people outside.  They then all sing God Save the Queen.  It didn’t make any sense for the story except to make British audience members happy I guess.

Another big difference is you don’t see either Present or Future, just a shadow.  We know from the earlier silent films that they could make ghosts but chose not too here which is strange? It just doesn’t work.

You don’t see Marley either, just the door open and shut and Scrooge talking to a chair.

1935-xmas-marleyStrengths- Some of the cinematography is nice with the black and white shadows.  The acting is fine. The music is fine.

Weaknesses- The way they do the ghosts does not work. Scrooge still has that Frankenstein creature look which I don’t like.  He’s a businessman and should look like one.

The Pawn Shop scene at the end goes on way too long and feels more like a low grade horror movie than a respected literary adaptation.

So overall I am not a fan of this adaptation.  Like I said earlier if you are curious check it out.  If not a definite pass.

1935-xmas-happy-scrooge

Scrooge 27: Christmas Carol 1997- Tim Curry

christmas carol 1997I’ve told this story before on the blog but let me repeat it one more time.  When I was a little girl there was this restaurant called Shoney’s by our house and when we would drive by it my Grandmother would always say ‘Shoney’s, it’s not that bad”.  We would all laugh because why would you want to go to a restaurant that ‘is not that bad’ when you can go some place good.  Every once in a while I will find a movie like that and I call it a Shoney movie.  It’s not that bad but it’s not really good and since you have so many options why see a not that bad movie when you can see a good one?

So is the case with 1997 animated version of A Christmas Carol.  I know many hate it but I think it is a Shoney movie.  It’s certainly not good but on the other hand I didn’t think it was that bad either.

What makes it passable for me is Tim Curry as Scrooge.  He is one of my favorite actors who is not in near enough movies.  He has made playing a Scrooge a bit of a passion over his career and if you are an audible member you can download a recording of him reading Christmas Carol free which is infinitely more entertaining than this movie.  It’s a shame really because he is so good he deserved better than  to be saddled with a Shoney version in the movies.

tim curry

He even did a performance in 2001 at Madison Square Garden, which I’ve heard was amazing. Here he is singing from that production. This is particularly touching when you realize he sang it just 2 months after 9/11.  Amazing they even did the parade that year.

He’s still my favorite Long John Silver in Muppet Treasure Island (also my favorite Treasure Island).  He chews up every scene he is in.

I wish this version had allowed him to bring a 1/10th the charm and swagger he brought to Silver.

But let’s talk about what it is, not what it could have been.

Trailer

Cast:

Tim Curry as Ebenezer Scrooge
Whoopi Goldberg as Ghost of Christmas Present
Michael York as Bob Cratchit
Edward Asner as Marley’s Ghost
Frank Welker as Debit
Kath Soucie as Mrs. Cratchit, Ghost of Christmas Past and Fan
Jodi Benson as Belle

Scrooge- Again, I love Tim Curry, and I think he is fine in this.  Certainly the faults of the movie are not in his voice performance, which has gusto and nuance.  He also has a good singing voice where required.

Differences- It is a pretty straight forward retelling with a few differences- most of them not really working.

First of all, Scrooge has a dog which is very distracting.  We don’t want to see the expressions of the dog.  We want to see Scrooge.  I guess I am just not an animal person, so I did not need the dog.  Scrooge is enough.  We do not need a mean dog to add to his meanness.

tim curry christmas carol dogThe songs I actually think are fine but two are totally unnecessary.  One called Random Acts of Kindness is sufficiently random sung by the woman who is bringing Scrooge dinner before he gets to his door. This just lengthens the time it takes for the story to really get going and isn’t sung by anyone important or pertinent to the story.

wench tim curry christmasAnother strange choice is at Fred’s party they sing a song called Santa’s Sooty Suit and supposedly it was sister Fan’s favorite song.  This seems like an incredibly silly song to be your favorite song and again isn’t necessary.

One interesting difference is it is the only Victorian version I am aware of to have an African American ghost with Whoopi Goldberg voicing Present; although, it does not sound anything like her.

tim curry present

Strengths- Even though I just criticized 2 songs the rest of the songs were pretty engaging and all are well sung.  My favorite is Song on the Bridge with the voice of Ariel, Jodi Benson as Belle.

The whole Belle/Scrooge scene is done very well.  Also I liked when Scrooge is looking at the Cratchit’s he says ‘I wish I had a family’ and Present says ‘But you do you silly man’.  As a single adult sometimes it is easy to forget that we all have family even if it isn’t our own progeny.

The voicecast is also across the board better than the movie deserves.  Ed Asner as Marley, Michael York as Cratchit etc.

Weaknesses-  The animation is definitely the weakness.  It is on the Saturday morning/direct to DVD level.  It’s jerky in spots, it doesn’t match up with the vocals sometimes and it just doesn’t look that pleasant.

past tim curry

Like look at Future.  It looks like a cheap He-man villain.

tim curry futureSo if you can handle that kind of Saturday morning, cheap animation than the movie is much more tolerable.

I just love Tim Curry so much that this version gets a Shoney vote from me.  It’s not that bad and the music, and strong voices make it tolerable.  I would certainly recommend the 2009 Disney version over this but that’s just my preference.  This is a good one if you do not like the scarier elements as those are very tame.

tim curry scrooge fun

A few of the songs are decent and the voicecast is very good.  So take it for what you will.  If you feel like something that is ‘not that bad’ than go for it.  I would say watch a great version instead of good but it’s passable.  (Glowing endorsement I know but I call it like I see it!).

This same year 20th Century Fox released Anastasia which is a million times better than this despite not being perfect.  Can’t win them all I guess! But seriously Hollywood get Tim Curry more parts!

Scrooge 26: Looney Tunes Then and Now

christmas2This really isn’t a Scrooge Month review but I’m honestly running out of versions so I thought it would be fun to talk about the Looney Tunes.  I love the Looney Tunes.  Last year I caught a lightning round on amazon and was able to get the complete Looney Tunes collection on DVD and as I watched them I was so impressed with the animation, intelligence and great laughs.  I finally understood why they were such formidable competition to Disney for so many years.  They are brilliant.

Then I heard about a new show that ran from 2012 to 2014 and my friends told me it was horrible . Just the drawings convinced me of that fact but I hadn’t watched an actual episode until this project.

I mean just look at these characters.  Look how weird they look.  Daffy’s beak is strangely shaped . The eyes are off.  There are characters I don’t remember seeing.

Looney-tunes new
In contrast look at the original.

Looney_tunes_wallpaper_1600x1469
The proportions look right . The characters we all know and there is a sense of fun about it. The new is so unpleasant to look at.

But I always say that with good writing anything can be good so I sat down to give both old and new versions of a Christmas Carol a shot.  See what you think

Old

New (Just a clip since it is 22 minutes but it definitely gives you the idea)

To me there is no comparison.  Neither really has anything to do with the Christmas Carol but the old is actually funny in a Home Alone style way with pratfalls and great music cues that add to the humor.  The new is Lola, a most unfortunate character, bossing everyone around and talking about manicures. The whole episode was crass and trying to be modern and sarcastic.  The voices are also off.  Let’s just say whoever they got is no Mel Blanc… Urgh!  That’s not Looney Tunes.  Warner Brothers should be ashamed of themselves!  I’m serious!

They have a brilliant legacy to uphold and if you are going to stick Looney Tunes on the label you better make sure it is bright and creative and funny.  Not cool, hip, lazy and unpleasant looking.  I’m telling you if they mess up with Animaniacs there will be no end to my wrath.

In contrast look at the recent Mickey Mouse show by artist Paul Rudish and how it respects the old shorts but adds a little bit of modern humor.

So in conclusion Warner Brothers I want more of this…

Bugs_Bunny's_Christmas_Carol Looney-Tunes

And less of this…
Christmas_at_Lola's_House

bugs2

Lola_and_Bugs_Bunny_A_Christmas_Carol

Have I made myself clear? End of rant….