Scrooge 25: The Worst Christmas Carol Movie Ever Made

ghosts_of_girlfriends_past02I know some of you out there enjoy reviews of bad movies and I would include myself in that group.  I’ve tried to keep these Christmas Carol reviews positive but I decided to take my hand at being witty and write about what is without a doubt the worst Christmas Carol movie ever made.  If anyone tries to defend this garbage I will be stunned.

Yes, this is even worse than the Tori Spelling Christmas Carol movie.  At least Tori had a little bit of fun with how bad they were.  This junk actually takes itself too seriously.  There are no jokes.  Nothing funny at all.   It’s even worse than All Dogs Go to Heaven Christmas Carol (although not by much) because it has way more potential to be good.

We are a talking about a The Ghosts of Girlfriend Past made in 2009 and starring 2 Oscar winners Matthew McConaughey and Michael Douglas.  Decent actresses of Jennifer Garner and Emma Stone and directed by Mark Waters of Mean Girls fame.  It was written by Jon Lucas who wrote The Hangover and Wedding Crashers.

All of that talent produced this junk!

Now I am a staunch defender of the romantic comedy.  We all experience romance.  It’s a part of life where other genres are not part of most of our lives.  When they are done right they are an important part of cinema and very entertaining for poor saps like me.

The Ghost of Girlfriends Past screams of a board meeting where people came up with a gimmick and then pumped out a movie using the latest flavor of the months.  They didn’t have an idea or a theme.  It was the ultimate in cynical film-making.  No effort, no attempt to do anything creative or different. It’s not even stupid funny.  It’s just 95 minutes of vanilla laziness.

So here’s the gimmick.  Matthew McConaughey is one of the least convincing photographers in movie history and the ultimate womanizer.  He is never condemned for these choices but actually applauded for them.  It is just time for him to settle down with the old friend Jennifer Garner now that he has sowed his wild oats…

jennifer garnerThe movie never stops to ask why a woman like Jennifer Garner would want a womanizing jerk like McConaughey?  She is merely the puppet that is waiting when he is ready to accept her.  This is after they dated as adults and he left her after a one night stand.  Groan.

She is even the one who started him on the path to photography by giving him his first camera.  Because we know all women in these types of movies are there for is either be frigid ice queens or adorable hags who can’t get a date.  Double groan.

Here’s the main problem with this movie (well one of many).  The whole point of a Christmas Carol is to show Scrooge how isolating himself from others and from the faith and hope of Christmas has made him a terrible, horrible person and hurt other people.  This is a new understanding for him.

In this film, McConaughey has used people too much so showing him people doesn’t show him something different.  It’s merely one in the same.  It makes everything that is intense and thought provoking in the original story feel crass, manipulative and incredibly stupid.  There is no reason to believe McConaughey’s change in the end because he hasn’t been shown anything different, certainly nothing worthy of a dramatic life shift.

What is an intense realization of the life Scrooge could and should be enjoying becomes a clipshow of his greatest hits.

ghosts_of_girlfriends_past18Michael Douglas is the Marley character and it is an embarrassing performance.  He tells Conner that in order to not get his heart broken he should love women and leave them.  Yeah because that doesn’t lead to any heart break…I know he is trying to put on a Hugh Hefner persona but it comes off as cliched and stupid and insulting.  This is Michael Douglas’ grand advice for bedding women (this is the way this movie looks at women):

“So here’s a couple of tips. When you first meet a girl you give her two compliments above the neck. Yeah, tell her she’s got nice lips, nice eyes, nice hair… she’s intelligent, her moral ethics, whatever crap comes to your mind. Then just when she begins to thinks that you’re another – you know – vanilla nice guy that she can tool around with all night without getting naked… then you *insult* her! Flip the power dynamic and your let her know that you’re here to play”

Are you kidding me movie?

Then we get the usually delightful Emma Stone as the Ghost of Girlfriends Past and we get to see how Jennifer Garner was a surrogate mother figure for Conner and he didn’t ask her to the prom and all went to pot. Again, there’s nothing mind altering that McConaughey learns here, nothing that makes him wonder about his life.

ghosts emma stone For Present we get Noureen DeWulf where he learns that his friends make fun of him when he is out of the room…Wa, wa, wa.  That’s the kind of thing that makes someone really change their life.

There is also a scene where 3 of his former loves bond over the fact that he dumped them via a conference call.  Isn’t that hilarious…These women are also told by past to “Don’t be sad, you whiny bitches”…That’s right they had the chance to be with McConaughay so they don’t have any right to complain or have feelings.  They aren’t human beings but neither is he.  He is worse than a bad soap opera character.  At least those men have some drama to their past!

matthew_mcconaughey_and_noureen_dewulf_in_ghosts_of_girlfriends_past_2 And then finally we get Future by Olga Maliouk where he finds that Jennifer marries his friend Brad who is actually a nice guy.  Never good in a movie when we actually want the girl to pick the other guy…

About this time McConaughey says “Really? I mean, now a days being a single means, what? You’ve lost your way? That something is missing? Never mind that every night I swim in a lake of sex, and they fall asleep in each others arms, spooning. ”

And he is right.  There are of course concise and thoughtful answers to why his life is shallow and bad but in the world of this movie he is right.  There is no good reason given why he should be doing anything different.  No convincing case is made for him to change his life and like I said it isn’t even funny.

The movie just assumes, like it’s women, that the audience is too stupid to realize that.  We will just accept that he needs to change even though the plot hasn’t convinced us of it.  Instead we feel manipulated and unsatisfied with the ending for Jennifer Garner.

009GOW_Olga_Maliouk_001McConaughey wakes up in time to save his friends wedding and tell Jennifer Garner that she is the one for him.  Groan, groan, groan.

This movie sucks because the lead character is unlikable and stays unlikable.  The twisting of a classic story into this premise is insulting and stupid.  The writing isn’t funny.  The character doesn’t work because he isn’t shown anything different from his life?

He is not offered a new perspective or shown how he is wrong.  He is merely shown more of how he lives his life.  It’s like if Scrooge was just taken to various counting houses he’d worked at over the years.  Sure that would make him change and yet the  movie expects us to buy that?

Women are treated like objects to check off a list and then it tries to redeem itself by making the jerk a good guy and all the women readily forgive him as if we are all sheep and he is leading us off a cliff. And the dialogue for the women is insufferable.

There is no chemistry between Garner and McConaughey or any of the other women.  Nothing is funny.  Nothing is clever.  There is no skill in any of the movie making at all.

I saw this piece of junk in the theater- yes you read right I saw this in the theater with friends and it made me so angry I wanted to throw popcorn at the screen.  To take a story about ultimate redemption and turn it into a booty call is insulting.  What were they thinking?  I’ll tell you what they were thinking- they assumed we were all so stupid that we wouldn’t care that it had lazy characters, stupid story, pandering writing, stupid women and a story that doesn’t make sense.

Matthew-McConaughey-in-Gh-001So, that’s the worst Christmas Carol movie I’ve ever seen and will always be on my short list of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.  It’s trash.  Complete trash.  Nobody was trying to make a good movie here.  There is no spark, no effort, no creativity.  Nothing. On top of everything it’s actually even kind of boring.  There’s just nothing. It’s an insult to the name of Dickens.

Scrooge 24: Mr Magoo’s Christmas Carol

Products795589-1200x1200-929040This is why doing this kind of project is beneficial.  It forces me to watch things I would not normally watch and every once in a while I’m pleasantly surprised.  So is the case with Mr Magoo’s Christmas Carol.  I’m not saying it’s a masterpiece but it was way better than I thought it would be.

I will say this was my first introduction to Mr Magoo.  I have not seen the tv show or read any of the comics but as its own feature you didn’t really need to be familiar with any of the backstory so that didn’t matter.

I guess Mr Magoo is a controversial figure for how he portrays the visually impaired and I can see that but in this feature there aren’t many pratfalls aside from a crashed car at the beginning.  At first I was wondering how Magoo would see the ghosts and all of the things they were showing him but they kind of forget about the blindness for most of the movie.


The animation was much better than I was expecting.  It was done by UPA animation who were behind the Dick Tracy cartoons and it has an Al Hirschfeld look to it.  It reminded me of the Gershwin segment of Fantasia 2000.

The songs are also pretty good by Julie Styne and Bob Merrill who wrote Funny Girl that launched Barbara Streisand’s career.

I found out in my research that Mr Magoo’s Christmas Carol was the first holiday program produced especially for television.  Interesting right?

Trailer:  (It must have aired the same time as Snow White given this trailer)


Jim Backus- Ebenezer Scrooge/Mr. Magoo
Morey Amsterdam- James Brady
Jack Cassidy- Bob Cratchit
Royal Dano- Marley’s Ghost
Paul Frees- Stage Director/Charity Man//Fezziwig/Old Joe/Undertaker
Joan Gardner -Tiny Tim/Ghost of Christmas Past
Jane Kean- Belle
Marie Matthews- Young Scrooge
Laura Olsher- Mrs. Cratchit
Les Tremayne- Ghost of Christmas Present

Scrooge- Mr Magoo is Scrooge.  The whole program keeps remarkably true to the story and that is true with Scrooge.  It’s a little confusing what Magoo can and cannot see.  Sometimes it seems he can’t see a person standing in front of him and others he can read his initials on a pair of cufflinks.

It is also a little hard to understand Magoo sometimes.  But other than that he is a pretty good Scrooge.

Differences- Like I said, it actually stays pretty close to the source material.

magoo theater actorLike the Flintstones Christmas Carol it is part of a play but that is more of a framing device where in Flintstones we go in and out of the play more often.  This Mr Magoo goes to the play and then we are pretty much watching the play the whole way through.

1962-magoo-presentThey also make the choice to have Present go first which is strange and I’m not sure why they did that as it doesn’t really do anything to the story?

Strengths- There were actually quite a few.  As I said the animation was pretty good. The backgrounds, colors and style of it I really liked.

mr-magoos-christmas-carol-billboard-600x300The music was also good.  We get Ringle Ringle, The Lord’s Bright Blessing, We’re Despicable, Winter Was Warm and Alone in the World sung by the young Scrooge.

The singing on all the songs is very good (it is supposed to be on Broadway after all). I particularly liked Jane Kean as Belle singing Winter Was Warm.

Also, the script is pretty straight from the book.  I was impressed they kept the decrease the surplus population and Tim talking about being a cripple and Jesus.  Often those sections are softened for kids.

magoo discpicable 1962-magoo-old-joeThe Pawn Shop scene is also fully included with Old Joe, the Char Woman, Undertaker and Laundress selling Scrooge’s things.  That was very well done with the song ‘We’re Despicable’.


Like I said, it can be tough to understand what Magoo is saying.  Also, the blindness is inconsistent and I guess it offends some people.  I didn’t think it was mocking in this version.  In fact, most of the time I forgot he was blind.

1962-magoo-tim-goneThe Ringle Ringle song isn’t my favorite abour Razzleberry dressing and the introduction as a play isn’t really necessary.  Why not just start it with the Scrooge story?

Also the moving around of the spirits seemed to serve no purpose and if people are expecting a comedy they might be disappointed.  There aren’t really any laughs.  It is played like a straight forward telling of Christmas Carol.

1962-magoo-mrs-fezziwigOther than that.  I really liked it.  I am surprised how much I enjoyed it.  The animation is pretty good, with good music and it stays pretty close to the feel of the book.  Aside from the Disney, this is probably my favorite animated feature length version I’ve seen.

It just goes to show with good writing any concept can be entertaining.

Scrooge 23: 3 Sesame Street Holiday Films

christmas1Sesame Street started its regular weekly programming for children in 1969 and it has remained on air for over 40 years. So naturally most Americans were raised on Sesame Street and have a fondness for them.

It is a combination of educational skits, puppets, and human characters. The puppets or Muppets were first introduced by Jim Henson and there are worlds of Muppets that actually rarely combine together.

sesame muppets

You have Sesame Street that has Elmo, Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Grover, Ernie, Bert and the Count.


You have Muppets that has Fozie, Kermit, Miss Piggy, Skeeter, Ralph, Swedish Chef, Animal, Gonzo and many more.


Then there are Muppet Babies which are baby versions of the traditional Muppets.

fraggle rock

and Fraggle Rock.

We’ll talk about The Muppets more when I review their Christmas Carol but today we are talking about Sesame Street and 3 of their Christmas films including one that has a rare combination of all 4 Muppet universes.  Pretty exciting!

What makes Sesame Street so wonderful is it teaches children ABCs and other skills while making them laugh and providing messages from a diverse multicultural cast.  They do not talk down to kids and have tackled hard topics over the years including AIDS, death, and divorce.  The writing in all the Muppet Universe is always sharp, funny for adults and full of a warmth.

The key is they treat the world like an ordinary world.  In the Christmas Eve on Sesame Street Big Bird is lost and the adult troupe at Sesame Street are as worried and upset as if it was their own little girl.  It’s the same with the comedic moments.  When Steve Martin has a scene with Kermit in the Muppet Movie he plays it just the same as if he was working with Chevy Chase or Dan Akroyd.  That’s what makes The Muppets stand the test of time like Mickey or Winnie the Pooh because their worlds are thoughtfully rendered with universal themes.


So let’s talk about 3 Sesame Street Movies

First our Christmas Carol movie-

A Sesame Street Christmas Carol

This is my least favorite of the 3 and is more of a clip show than a movie but let’s talk about it.

sesameScrooge- Naturally our Scrooge is Oscar the Grouch.  He is the Muppet that lives in a trash can.  This is very similar to the Grouchy in the Smurfs movie.

I’m really surprised they didn’t use his song ‘I Hate Christmas’ from Christmas Eve on Sesame Street but there is a very funny narration by Tim Curry that starts out regal and stuffy and Oscar interrupts them.

JoemarleyThe gimmick here is that Oscar doesn’t want to be disturbed until after Christmas but he gets a visit from Joe Marley of Scaredy Pants Delivery Service.

Then he gets a vintage bean can or a ‘ghostigram’ and is visited by 3 spirits that are not puppets.  That was a major problem for me!

No CG in Muppets movies!!!

But if I ignore the CG they are actually pretty clever.  The first ghost is Rhubarb the Scottish Grouch to show 2 clips of Christmas Past.

Rhubarb sesameThe 2 clips are Burt and Ernie Gift of the Magi which we will talk about in a bit (a favorite of mine).

xmas-eve-on-sesame-streetAnd then we get Big Bird singing ‘All I Want for Christmas’. She is missing Snuffy and it is a lovely heartfelt moment originally from Elmo Saves Christmas.

Both of these segments have tons of heart and I enjoyed them both.

Next for Present we have Christmas Carole who is voiced by Kristen Chenoweth.

sesame prsentThere are 4 clips in this segment.

1. Elmo and Santa Claus from Elmo’s World: Happy Holidays


Elmo in the Muppet World symbolizes love.  He isn’t telling jokes or getting stressed out like Kermit, or full of himself like Piggy.  He is always loving.

2. Elmo sings about ‘Everyday Can’t be Christmas’ from Elmo Saves Christmas.

3. A nice segment on Chanukah and Kwanza from Elmo’s World Happy Holidays.

4. Keep Christmas With You from Christmas Eve on Sesame Street.

Final Ghost is a Robot from the future and we get a cartoon about Christmas in the future.

And that’s about it.  It’s a pleasant film but the other 2 I am going to talk about are much better.


Christmas Eve on Sesame Street-

christmas eve sesame streetThis is a film I loved growing up and you know what I still love it!  It’s funny and got real heart like the best of the Muppets.

This one starts with 2 musical numbers with the kids and adults skating.

sesame-street-christmas-eve-on-sesame-street-04Coming out of the rink Oscar starts teasing Big Bird about Santa not being small enough to fit down the chimney.  This starts the plot for the film.

big bird oscarWorried Big Bird asks Kermit to find out how Santa gets down the chimney so him and Grover interview a bunch of cute kids during segments. Freaking adorable.

We also get a the Gift of the Magi from Bert and Ernie and this is one of my favorites Muppets moments ever.  It is so sweet and heartfelt, and gets to the core of the message of Christmas.  I loved it as a kid and love it now even more.

I also love they sing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas at the end which is one of my favorite Christmas songs.  It honestly makes me tear up a bit. It’s just a sweet little story about friendship and thinking of others more than yourself . I mean its his paperclip collection!

We also get this hilarious segment from Cookie Monster trying to write to Santa.

Everyone starts searching for Big Bird because he is up on the roof trying to see Santa and find out.  Everyone becomes very worried.  Maria scolds Oscar and says with real intensity (again like they are dealing with real people).

“The nest is something different. He’s got electric blanket there.  And his friends are there. ‘What are you going to do about it”


When they find Big Bird it turns out Santa has come and he says ‘Now we will never know’

Bob says ‘Why do you want to know?”

Big Bird says ‘Because it’s important’

Bob says “No, what is important is we lost you tonight and we were all very worried and now we’ve got you back safe and sound for Christmas”

That’s the kind of heart I love in Sesame Street and Muppets.  It’s just great.

This film is a perfect Christmas film for kids.  It will make them laugh with Cookie and Grover, teach them about friendship from Bert and Ernie and remember from Big Bird what is important.


A Muppet Family Christmas

muppet family

This is a very special Muppet movie because it is the only one that includes all of the Muppet universe- Muppets, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, and Muppet Babies!  It was very exciting to watch!!


It’s a pretty simple story.  All the Muppets are gathering at Fozzie’s house and we get to meet his mother and as the day goes more people arrive.  As they arrive we get more songs.

Hilarious segment when Swedish Chef tries to cook Big Bird for Christmas dinner.
staltler and waldorf
Totally epic to have Statler and Waldorf with Cookie Monster. Mind blown!
bert and ernie play
Bert, Ernie, and Grover put on the Night Before Christmas
They watch a family movie of the Muppet Babies
jim henson
We even get a little cameo from our friend Jim Henson. Meta!

Robin and Kermit go in the basement and find a Fraggle Hole and invite the Fraggles up for Christmas.  They sing a song.

It ends up being a very full house but the writing is funny.  Ms Piggy is hilarious with a photo shoot at the beginning.  Again, the photographer treats her like any other model which is why the Muppets works .  He says ‘do that pouty thing’ and it is very funny.


Like I said the rest of the movie is just people arriving and singing songs.  We get We Need a Little Christmas, Jingle Bell Rock, Sleigh Ride, Deck the halls, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, No Place Like Home for the Holidays.


Then the last 10 minutes are a Christmas medley of carols and it is very cheerful and entertaining.

This movie is a real treat.  It’s so much fun to see so many of the universes together and so many characters.  The jokes are funny.  The songs are good.  It’s not that long so the gimmick worked fine for me.  It’s just great!!


So we have 3 solid Sesame Street Christmas films.  I think kids and adults will enjoy all 3 with Christmas Eve and Family Christmas being the best of the 3.  They are well written, funny, and have real heart.  The Muppets are treated like real people and they don’t talk down to kids or patronize them.  It’s the best!

Have a great evening!

Scrooge 22: Blackadder’s Christmas Carol

blackadder poster

And now we have a very unique offering for Scrooge Month, all the way from Great Britain- The Blackadders Christmas Carol.

This is a completely hilarious riff on the Christmas Carol story but unlike Scrooged it completely subverts the narrative of Christmas Carol which might annoy me in lesser-able hands, but the jokes are plentiful and they nail  it every time. I laughed my head off.  Seriously one of the funniest things I’ve seen in years.

The gist behind the special is the Blackadder played by Rowan Atkinson is constantly taken advantage of by people because ‘he’s the nicest man in town’.  Much to the chagrin of his assistant Baldrick, a parade of people come into his office and take money and items from him including his Christmas tree and chicken. Pauline Melville as Mrs Scratchit is particularly funny begging for her Tiny Tim son who is clearly not so tiny.


Miriam Margolyes and Jim Broadbent are very funny as Prince Albert and Queen Victoria.  Robbie Coltrane from Harry Potter is Spirit of Christmas and the way he does his ‘magic’ is a riot.  Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Miranda Richardson, Tony Robinson, Pauline Melville all at the top of their comedic games.


Coltrane takes Blackadder to the Past with a diva queen and then goes into the future with a sci-fi world and it’s so strange and hilarious.

It’s the writing that makes this so funny.  You get lines like “I want a present! Give me something nice and shiny! And if you don’t, I’ve got something nice and shiny for you and it’s called an axe”

or blackadder hugh laurie

“Baldrick, you wouldn’t see a subtle plan if it painted itself purple and danced naked on top of a harpsichord, singing “Subtle plans are here again!” blackadder_1


“It’s a fist. It’s for hitting people with. (Punches Baldrick) And the great thing is, you can use it again and again! (hits Baldrick again)”blackadder future


“Yes! Unless I’m very much mistaken, you’re the winner of the ‘Round Britain Shortest Fattest Dumpiest Woman Competition. And for her to be accompanied by the winner of this year’s Stupidest Accent Award is really quite overwhelming” (said to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert!).

The whole point of the story is to show Blackadder that the mean people have all the fun.  What a clever and humorous subversion of the classic story.  At least I thought it was very funny.

That gives you an idea.  It’s kind of like Monty Python type humor, very dry and sardonic.

Here’s a clip from when they go into the future.  Ha!

If that looks like your style of humor you will love it.  If not than skip it.  I laughed my head off!

Oh and if you are a hulu plus member you can stream the entire Blackadder series.

Scrooge 21: An American Christmas Carol

american corlAmericans should all feel a little bit bad for Henry Winkler.  Why you ask?  Well, he is a Yale educated actor with loads of classical training and his biggest hit was spending 10 years on a TV show playing the Fonz.  This was the smooth talking, leather jacket wearing guy who could always get the girls and teach Richie Cunningham how to be cool.

Winkler has always had a good sense of humor about his glory days but he did try even back in then to do more dramatic work.  One such example was an American Christmas Carol made in 1979 for ABC Television.

And while he and the production put forth a good effort, in the end I can’t really recommend the picture.  It isn’t terrible just kind of slow with poor production values and some odd choices that bothered me.

The new take on the story is it is set in small town America in the 1930’s.  This would be fine but then they use a whole bunch of Canadian actors to play the parts.  That annoyed me a little bit.  I mean if you are going to have all Canadians in your cast call it a A Canadian Christmas Carol!  (I just can’t get the accents I want in Christmas Carol it seems unless your name is Alistair Sim!).   They also change all the names around and have characters refer to the Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  They are familiar with the story and it gets a little meta when Winkler’s character is talking to one of the ghosts about the ghosts who visited Scrooge ‘it’s not going to work you know’


Here is an old television promo for it.  You only need to watch the first minute or so of this video.


Henry Winkler Benedict Slade
Dorian Harewood Matt Reeves
Susan Hogan Helen Brewster
Cec Linder Auctioneer
RH Thomson Thatcher
David Wayne Merrivale
Michael Wincott Choir Leader
William Bermender Orphan
Brett Matthew Davidson Orphan
Christopher Crabb Tim
Williiam Ballantyne Minister
Tammy Bourne Sarah Thatcher
Chris Cragg Jon Thatcher
James Douglas Sam Perkins
Arlene Duncan Jennie Reeves


Scrooge- Winkler is fine with his performance but the writing, makeup and direction don’t do him any favors . I can tell he is trying but they make Slade (that’s the Scrooge characters name in this) kind of like Prince John in Robin Hood.  I mean this guy is a bad dude and you guys know I like the more villainous Scrooge’s best.  Here’s the difference in the book Scrooge is able to be a miser because he does not interact with others.  He doesn’t even know the smallest detail about his own clerk.  As he points out to the Benefactor his ‘occupation consumes him’.

In this version Scrooge is a Repot man which means at the beginning he goes from house to house repossessing items from people (on Christmas Eve no less).  This feels almost Gestapo mean. Especially when we get a scene where he confiscates all the books of a store and rips them out from the bindings . It made me practically physically ill to see those beautiful books destroyed like that.  He also repossess a piano from the orphanage that he grew up in until he was adopted.

american 1st edition

Differences-  There are almost too many to mention them all.  Of course, we have the change in setting and time.  Scrooge was an orphan rescued by a man named Mr Brewster who teaches him how to work with wood and build furniture.  (This is all seen by Past who is the man from the bookstore seen above).

Slade grows up and wants to implement the moving assembly line to make chairs and Brewster thinks it isn’t right to make such a shoddy product.  It’s another movie where darn old capitalism is the villain.  It’s like the ‘Gold, gold, gold’ song in Pocahontas.  Groan.  Dickens is so much more subtle.  He does not condemn the earning of money but just a man who has removed Christ and other people from his life.

The Marley character is actually a teacher or mentor to Scrooge and teaches him ‘the ways of business’ and his name is Mr Latham.  His scene is fairly forgettable.  It’s kind of like the Mr Jorkin bit in Alistair Sim but in that case Jorkin was more of a secondary influence not a mentor.

cratchit winkler

Slade fires his clerk Bob Thatcher because he suggests to him that a good business investment might be opening up the old mill that Mr Brewster used to own.  Slade’s reaction seems extreme and it turns out that Thatcher’s son Jon needs to go to Australia to see a doctor for his condition.

All of the ghosts are people Slade confiscated possessions from earlier in the film, which could have been clever but never quite works.

The rest of the story is what you would expect until Future comes. They cast Dorian Harewood as the last ghost and he is a wonderful actor but in an all white movie it bothered me a little bit that the only black man we see is the part that is usually a grim reaper type.  It’s such an offensive racial caricature to have the angelic white people and the token looming grimacing black man.  Future isn’t a villain per say but he is usually symbolic of death and it just annoyed me.  (It’s made even worse that when Future is introduced Slade’s radio goes bonkers and starts playing hip hop music…Groan.

Also in Future there is an auction where Slade’s possessions are bought by vengeful townsfolk and then burned in a big fire.  How is that the Christmas spirit to stoop to Slade’s level?  They burn things that could be used by people, could help people which is almost as bad as Scrooge destroying the books. The Finney version made the same mistake.  Christmas is supposed to make people kind and forgiving, not vengeful and vitriolic.

future winkler

Strengths- The strengths are the acting.  Like I said, Winkler tries his darndest.  It’s a shame he wasn’t given better writing, makeup and direction.

The sets and costumes are fine and there are some nice messages throughout.  I like what they were trying to do but it just doesn’t work.

Weaknesses- There are so many problems.  Mainly it creates a tonal problem when we have Slade interacting with people, taking their things and destroying books (I hated to watch that!).  Scrooge is supposed to be making only Bob and maybe Fred’s life miserable.  Other than that he is terrified of poverty and the world, not out there taking pianos from orphanages. It’s just an entirely different character and one that is way less likely to be moved by the 3 visits.

Also, I had a problem with the casting of Future and the way that was handled but mostly it is slow and feels dare I say it, a little boring.  All the stuff about the moving assembly line and modernization dragged and took us away from Christmas and the message of the story.

So yeah this one I would say skip. Poor, poor Henry Winkler.


Scrooge 20: Stingiest Man in Town 1978


As I have said several times on the blog during Scrooge month I am trying to be positive and so if I completely dislike a version I will skip it.  So far the animated versions of Christmas Carol have not been very entertaining (Mickey’s being the exception).

They are pretty much all musicals and the songs aren’t great and they end up feeling boring rather than entertaining.

However, there are a few that while not great have some things to recommend so I’ll cover them.  So is the case with the 1978 Stingiest Man in Town.  It is actually a remake of a version I’ve actually covered in my Basil Rathborne review.

They kept all the songs including the Santa Claus song which I wish they had skipped but most of the other songs are ok. The animation is done by the Rankin/Bass team who primarily focused on stop motion holiday specials such as Little Drummer Boy, Jack Frost, Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman etc.

Like I said, it’s not a good movie.  In fact, in some ways it’s terrible but it did just enough to warrant a review where I wouldn’t feel overwhelmingly negative.


Couldn’t find a trailer but here is the opening song to give you a feel.


Scrooge- Walter Matthau

B.A.H. Humbug- Tom Bosley

Marley- Theodore Bikel

Young Scrooge- Robert Morse

Fred- Dennis Day

Past and Present- Paul Frees

Bob Cratchit– Sonny Melendez.


Scrooge is voiced by Walter Matthau which like George C. Scott is a strange choice because his voice is so American.  And why in an animated feature would you cast a different voice for young scrooge?  Live action does this because an old actor cannot usually pull off a young look.  In animation that isn’t a problem and our voices are basically the same.


So his voice just doesn’t fit Christmas Carol.  Plus, I keep waiting for him to tell a joke.  I’m so used to Walter Matthau meaning comedy and I know he played grumpy curmudgeons in movies like Grumpy Old Men but it didn’t quite work here.

Differences- Well, the big difference is there is a narrator voiced by Tom Bosley named B.A.H. Humbug (isn’t that hilarious Bah Humbug is his name?).  Groan. He is very annoying.  Makes Jiminy Cricket look like a seasoned pro.

stingiest humbugAs I mentioned they also include the Santa Claus song which doesn’t belong in this story.  This is a story about Christmas and redemption.  Leave Santa Claus to the Santa Claus stories…


Aside from the Santa Claus song the rest of the songs are fine.  I’ve certainly heard worse.  I can see why they were popular enough from the 1956 version to warrant a reuse.  An Old Fashioned Christmas is a pretty good carol and the other songs are decent songs.

There are also segments that feel heartfelt and are pretty accurate to the book and the scenes with Isabel and Scrooge I liked well enough. So the content wasn’t that bad.  It’s just the appearance and the voices and a few other odd touches that felt off.

All of these segments were pretty good.

bob cratchit stingiest stingiest man past 1978-toon-mrs-fezziwig stingiest marley

The scenes in the Pawn Shop and with future are very well done and creepy. And aside from the bug and the Santa scene it is fairly accurate to the story so for kids it’s not a terrible way to introduce them to the story (although much better ways out there so why bother?)

1978-toon-old-joeThe voicecast gives it their all and Theodore Bikel is very good as Marley.  Also frequent Rankin/Bass collaborator Paul Frees is very good in his various roles.

Also some of the backdrops and settings are lovingly drawn.  It seems hard to believe that many of Rankin/Bass went on to work for Studio Ghiblin and Hiyao Miyazaki.  So different!


Well there are a lot.  First of all, the animation is just weird.  All of the characters look like bobblehead dolls with giant heads and small bodies.  It looks so odd.

1978-toon-childrenThis is going to sound mean but they look like Sloth from the Goonies.  I don’t know why they made that choice in the design?

Also like I said the Santa Claus and Matthau’s American comedic voice is distracting.  But there is a heart to all the performances, the story and music that is sincere and pleasant. It just felt weird and I couldn’t get over the look of the human characters.  Plus, the addition of B.A.H.  Humbug was super lame.

stingiest man cartoon fred

I can picture if you like things that are a little bit strange and you like animation that is odd looking than you might enjoy this.  Those are the big hurdles that kept me from enjoying it completely.  It wasn’t for me but for a particular type of viewer I think it could be a lot of fun.   Maybe I’ve just grown soft because of the bad animated versions I saw. I don’t know.  With all its faults, this was at the top of the pack if you can believe it…

Things are looking better than ever for the Disney’s Christmas Carol.  Definitely my favorite feature film animated version.  Still will be reviewing the Tim Curry version and Mr Magoo’s Christmas Carol also by Rankin/Bass I believe. Both by special request.  We will see!

Scrooge 19: Scrooge- Albert Finney

scrooge-albert-finney-original-soundtrack-cd-dce1aFor the most part for Scrooge Month if I saw a version I did not care for I let it go and moved on to the next one (animated versions have been rough!).  But the Albert Finney version is so iconic that I feel like I need to talk about it.  Alas, it is not a favorite of mine.  If you like it that is awesome.  Sincerely but it took turns that I was not a fan of.

Scrooge is clearly a result of the huge success of Oliver! in 1968.  Coming out in 1971 it is a musical version of the Christmas Carol story (like Oliver! was a musical version of Oliver Twist).  Just a reminder Oliver! won Best Picture when 2001 Space Odyssey wasn’t even nominated….Oscars is such a joke.

Anyway, the styling and feel of Scrooge feel similar to Oliver but it is not as true to its source material.  So, let’s talk about it.

I couldn’t find a trailer but you’ll get an idea from the screen caps and photos I show.


Albert Finney as Ebenezer Scrooge
Alec Guinness as Marley’s ghost
Edith Evans as Ghost of Christmas Past
Kenneth More as Ghost of Christmas Present
Paddy Stone as Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
David Collings as Bob Cratchit
Frances Cuka as Mrs. Cratchit
Richard Beaumont as Tiny Tim
Michael Medwin as Fred, Scrooge’s nephew
Mary Peach as Fred’s wife
Gordon Jackson as Tom, Fred’s friend
Anton Rodgers as Tom Jenkins
Laurence Naismith as Fezziwig
Kay Walsh as Mrs. Fezziwig
Suzanne Neve as Isabel

The cast is honestly fine in the film. It’s not my favorite but it’s not the reason it didn’t work.
albert finney

Scrooge-  At first I kind of liked Albert Finney as Scrooge.  I like when his anger is filtered by his work and not just anger at everything and everyone . He is mad at Fred for interrupting his work.  Same with the Benefactors.  However, when Scrooge meets Present he drinks from the milk of human kindness and for the rest of the movie Finney appears to be half drunk.  That kind of inebriation works for the Crazy Scrooge moments but not throughout the whole film.

finney drunkAlso there are times when Finney seems to be playing Quasimodo more than Scrooge.  He is a sharp, capable businessman not someone with special needs that is hunched over and garbling words.

Strengths- Like I said the cast is pretty good.  Alec Guinness is fine as Marley (in the early section at least).


A few of the songs are engaging.  I really liked the opening number and the credits sequence a lot.  Also David Collings was fine as Bob Cratchit although the Cratchit scenes didn’t quite work for me.  Cratchit actually defends Scrooge too much in the toast.  It doesn’t feel genuine and the Cratchit’s must feel genuine.

finney cratchitThe scenes with Isabelle and the songs there are fine, and Finney actually plays the young Scrooge which I doesn’t happen very often.

The sets are also pleasant to look at until it takes a turn…


I combined these because they are basically one in the same. There are a lot of problems.

1. It takes too long to get to Past- 40 minutes.  Why? Because of the songs.  I still hold the best musical version of Christmas Carol is Muppets Christmas Carol and the reason why is because most of it’s songs tell the story.  For example, we hear all about Scrooge in the opening number.

In this film the songs, competently written as they might be, stop the narrative.  We don’t need a song about how Scrooge hates people.  We already know that .  Nearly every song tells us things we already know so it slows everything down.

And really Scrooge taking the time to sing a song about how he hates people doesn’t really fit with his character.  He is totally absorbed in his work and would want to get back it as soon as possible.  Again, in the Muppet version the songs are sung about Scrooge, not from him until the end when Scrooge singing is appropriate .

albert finney pastThey also make some strange casting choices like Edith Evans as Ghost of Christmas Past.  Everything from her costume to her demeanor did not fit that ghost at all.

Kenneth More is ok as Present but again I don’t like that he gets Scrooge drunk.

finney present spread

Then we get to Future and things start going downhill.  We get a song called ‘Thank you Very Much’.  This is sung by a mob gathered to cheer on the death of Scrooge and the removal of their debts.  First of all they will be transferred to someone else.  In the book the couple is grateful for a few days respite from the loan, not tearing up loan books.

finney mob

But even if the loans are forgiven aren’t the people supposed to be an example of the goodness of Christmas?  It is only in the slums of the Pawn Shop that we see the glee over Scrooge’s things.  Not a mob of people singing with a coffin coming out.  That felt so against the tone of the story to me.

Plus, it is awkward because Scrooge thinks they are cheering him on . He says ‘I have labored all my life to be worthy of this demonstration”.  I felt bad for Scrooge.  Again, he’s a smart businessman and understanding the events of the Future humble him and make him want to change.  This just feels uncomfortable and not in keeping with Christmas…

But then it takes another turn.  We get the scene with the grave and I thought ‘that’s strange.  There are still 20 minutes left in this movie.  What else are they going to do?’

Well my friends Scrooge goes to Hell.  That’s right H E L L. And who does he see in Hell.  Why Jacob Marley of course. (Wasn’t Jacob’s hell to wander the earth and see the joy he could not enjoy?).  The special effects are laughable.  The sets look like a a cheap haunted house. finney future bones

finney grave  finney grave2 finney hell finney hell2 finney chains finney chains2

Can you believe it?  In the world of this story where Scrooge is going to be the head clerk for Lucifer in Hell why would Marley be given the opportunity to come and rescue his friend?  And why would he seem happy to see said friend in Hell?  Wouldn’t he be a little disappointed that his friend didn’t listen to the Spirits?

The chains are over the top, the oily chain laborers are ridiculous, the whole thing was like something out of an old Ed Wood movie.  I sat there stunned at what I was seeing.

Scrooge is terrified at the idea he is the dead man left alone with no mourners.  That is enough.  If it takes Hell to turn him around is that not a pretty shallow repentance?  It’s kind of like if I told you I was going to beat you to death if you didn’t say you were sorry than of course you will say you are sorry.

If I told you how your injury to me had hurt me and how it left you alone and you pondered it and said sorry that is true repentance worthy of change. Anyone would repent if shown Hell.

Maybe other people can overlook this turn the story takes but I could not.  So this is definitely one of my personal least favorite versions.  I am open to different interpretations.  I think I’ve shown that (I even had a laugh at Tori Spelling) but at least those versions kept the basic framework of miser, visitors, recognizing loneliness and despair, and change.

This is like a Wagnerian opera where we are told how awful sin is and how the wicked will be punished without any of the subtlety or heart of a true conversion experience.

So this is a definite skip.  On to better versions.

Scrooge 18: A Christmas Carol (Patrick Stewart)

scrooge_stewartDVDLike your Dickens by the book?  Then this is the version for you! Even more than the Disney this version starring Patrick Stewart from 1999 is incredibly faithful to the source material even including segments never shown in other versions.  It was made for TNT (kind of amazing it wasn’t even a network) but it has the look of a PBS film for their Masterpiece Theater series.  It is incredibly well cast and all in all I kind of love it.


The Cast:

Patrick Stewart – Ebenezer Scrooge
Richard E. Grant – Bob Cratchit
Joel Grey – Ghost of Christmas Past
Ian McNeice – Albert Fezziwig
Saskia Reeves – Mrs. Cratchit
Desmond Barrit – Ghost of Christmas Present
Bernard Lloyd – Jacob Marley
Dominic West – Fred
Trevor Peacock – Old Joe
Liz Smith – Mrs. Dilber
Elizabeth Spriggs – Mrs. Riggs
Kenny Doughty – Young Ebenezer Scrooge
Laura Fraser – Belle
Celia Imrie – Mrs. Bennett
Claire Slater – Martha Cratchit
Tim Potter – Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

Scrooge- Aside from the Jim Carrey version Patrick Stewart looks the most like Scrooge in the book.  He is supposed to have a pointed noise and for me the bald head screams a low maintenance cold Scrooge.  In the book Scrooge is described as:

“Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.

External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn’t know where to have him. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect.”

For me Stewart has the pointed nose, shrivelled cheeks, stiff gait and grating voice.  It’s so much fun to see something so close to Dickens original vision. I like that he does seem to love his work but there is no attempt to soften him.  This makes the redemption feel all the more real and palatable, like a true conversion. My favorite Scrooge’s are one’s that mirror the conversion of Paul in the Bible.  He may be my favorite Scrooge…

steewart scrooge stewart scroogeDifferences- Honestly there aren’t any differences from the book.  They even include the lighthouse scene that I don’t believe is in any other Christmas Carol movie.  I’ve always thought it was a shame because it is one of the most poetic parts of the book”

“The Spirit did not tarry here, but bade Scrooge hold his robe, and passing on above the moor, sped—whither? Not to sea? To sea. To Scrooge’s horror, looking back, he saw the last of the land, a frightful range of rocks, behind them; and his ears were deafened by the thundering of water, as it rolled and roared, and raged among the dreadful caverns it had worn, and fiercely tried to undermine the earth.

Built upon a dismal reef of sunken rocks, some league or so from shore, on which the waters chafed and dashed, the wild year through, there stood a solitary lighthouse. Great heaps of sea-weed clung to its base, and storm-birds—born of the wind one might suppose, as sea-weed of the water—rose and fell about it, like the waves they skimmed.

But even here, two men who watched the light had made a fire, that through the loophole in the thick stone wall shed out a ray of brightness on the awful sea. Joining their horny hands over the rough table at which they sat, they wished each other Merry Christmas in their can of grog; and one of them: the elder, too, with his face all damaged and scarred with hard weather, as the figure-head of an old ship might be: struck up a sturdy song that was like a Gale in itself”

That’s just beautiful and they do it in such a touching way here.  Tim starts singing Silent Night and then we see the lighthouse men singing Silent Night, men on a ship, coal miners.  I wish I could find a clip because I really love it.

Aside from that everything is straight from the book.

Strengths- It reminds me in it’s look and feel of the great BBC miniseries North and South (my favorite book), Little Dorrit, Great Expectations and more.  The lighting, costumes, sets are a beautiful palate and it’s just a pleasant picture to look at.

Patrick-Stewart-13-14-15-coThe cast is uniformly strong with the Cratchit family being one of my favorites of any version.  It feels like a poor family (unlike say the Reginald Owens version) but it feels like an actual family.  They have chemistry together and there is a great warmth to the scenes.

A Christmas Carol Pictures 014 Cratchits 1999Belle is very pretty.  At the party she has a beautiful yellow dress and then when the break up happens we see the change in her and she is no longer in bright clothing.  At the party she is dancing in the snow happy and then she says goodbye in a snowstorm and it is just so lovingly shot and acted.

belle stewartDominic West is very good as Fred and there again is a warmth to him that seems hard to resist.  He’s not as perfectly perky as some versions.

1999-xmas-fred1There is a beautiful moment when Fred and friends are playing their games and Present wants to leave but Scrooge looks at it longingly ‘can we stay another moment.  I haven’t played a game in so long’.   I found that very real and touching almost like a kid looking in a shop window longing for the great toys inside.  It reminds me of the men who dine with Christ not knowing it is Him and they plead with Him to tarry with them a little bit longer.

christmas-carol-1999-patrick-stewart-scrooge-desmond-barrit-ghost-of-christmas-presentThe ending feels like a real religious conversion.  And Stewart laughs the way a man would probably laugh at such a moment.  Most Crazy Scrooge’s don’t feel natural to the character but this does.  Almost more like a sneeze that he can’t help but let out.

stewart windowScrooge goes to church at the end which I always appreciate because it shows it was not just a conversion to a pleasant holiday but that Scrooge has accepted the proclamation of Tiny Tim and embraced Christ.  It’s hard to believe this was a made for cable TV movie in 90s.  It looks much better than that.

The score by Stephen Warbeck is perfect.  One of my favorites.  It’s not trying to be a horror movie with over the top slides and scales but just a subtle, simple score punctuated by First Noel and God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman (and Silent Night as I mentioned) at just the right moments.

Weaknesses- The Fezziwig scene is not my favorite.  It reminds me more of the Thénardiers in Les Mis than Fezziwigs.  They aren’t evil like Thenardiers but just their costumes and boisterousness is overdone. The dancing in the scene is great but just not my favorite Fezziwig’s.  A little too foppish. This is after all supposed to be a successful businessman.

1999-xmas-mr-fezziwigPast and Future could have been better.  Future is your standard grim reaper puppet character and Past by Joel Gray just feels off to me.  A little too cold and collected.  Maybe even too soft spoken.

stewart pastBut all of that are small quibbles in an extremely satisfying picture. Bravo to all involved for creating something truly memorable and that is a favorite of many people.  If you want to get a feel for the book without reading it this is the best one by a long shot in that regard.

Scrooge 17: Christmas Carol 1938 Reginald Owen

owen posterOther than Alistair Sim this version with Reginald Owen of Christmas Carol is probably the most well known traditional retelling.  It’s a fine version but not one of my favorites mostly for a few odd choices it makes.

You guys know I am pretty open minded when it comes to interpretations of this story.  It’s a novella so every filmmaker is going to make it their own but in this case I feel the changes slow down the picture and even though it is only an hour and 9 minutes it feels long.

Trailer: (Introduction by Lionel Barrymore who was famous for his Scrooge on Broadway and originally offered the part )


Reginald Owen as Ebenezer Scrooge
Gene Lockhart as Bob Cratchit
Kathleen Lockhart as Mrs. Cratchit
Terry Kilburn as Tiny Tim Cratchit
Barry MacKay as Fred (Scrooge’s Nephew)
Lynne Carver as Bess (Fred’s fiance)
Bunny Beatty as Martha Cratchit (uncredited)
June Lockhart as Belinda Cratchit (uncredited)
John O’Day as Peter Cratchit (uncredited)
Leo G. Carroll as Marley’s Ghost
Ann Rutherford as Spirit of Christmas Past
Lionel Braham as Spirit of Christmas Present
D’Arcy Corrigan as Spirit of Christmas Future

owen scroogeScrooge- Reginald Owen is fine as Scrooge.  He is kind of like the Scott version, a bit softer than the best versions in my opinion but perfectly fine performance.

Differences: (There are a lot in this one)

It takes a long time to get to the spirits.  Again it’s only 69 minutes and it takes almost 30 to get to Past.

Big difference is Scrooge fires Cratchit because of a snowball fight and his wanting the day off.  Cratchit then spends the rest of the movie overcompensating to his family and lying about it.  I wonder if this was a Depression era influence? Losing your job may have seemed like a tougher thing than having a terrible one?

We also learn that Fred and his girl Bess are not married because of financial worries.  They hope Scrooge will help them to be married.  This doesn’t really make sense as he is the only child and surely some money from Scrooge’s father would have gone to Fan? Given Bess is a simple girl with no dowry I don’t see why marriage would have been a problem.  It seems a strange problem to create for the story.


Another difference is when Marley comes he waves at 3 men to come and get the intruder.  Again this just stalls the story and hurts the momentum.

marley owenPast takes Scrooge to see his childhood self, a part which can be skipped on occasion.  And we actually see Scrooge crying for a long bit, which I found moving (it’s only like 5 seconds but it feels long and heart wrenching).

owen past

Then we get to Fezziwig’s and Scrooge is still a young lad so there is no Belle romance, no betrayal.  Again a strange choice. In this film Scrooge’s betrayal is to Fred and Bess not to a love of his life. Not quite as compelling.

present owen

Present comes and instead of going to Cratchit’s or Fred’s right away we go to church.  I normally like when the religious elements of the story are highlighted but this scene doesn’t really add anything but for Scrooge to see that Bess and Fred really are in love and to get some pretty music (a great boys choir sings).

Then we have Fred and boys skating outside the church and more with Fred and Bess.

And Present takes him to the Cratchit’s where we get a long sequence of them getting the goose, cooking, eating, talking.  Cratchit tells Martha he has been sacked. It just feels slow.

The last major difference is after Present instead of immediately meeting Future Scrooge is back in his bed smiling and there is a montage of his daydreams about Christmas and how wonderful it is.

owen future

This feels too soon and makes the final victory at the cemetery less convincing because he already seemed converted a few minutes earlier.  If he has already decided to change and embrace Christmas than why make him go to the cemetery?

Strengths- I don’t want to be too hard on it because it’s not unwatchable by any means.  The acting is good, it is shot well and the restoration is clear and crisp in the version I saw.

The music is fine, all the sets look good and it has a pleasant feel about it. I enjoyed watching it but it just isn’t my favorite.

The Tiny Tim is excellent and has a beautiful singing voice and there is really only one song ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ sung at the church and I enjoyed the number.

Reginald Owens pours his heart into the role and he is fine as Scrooge.

owens cratchits

Weaknesses- I said most of them.  They just added the wrong things which make it feel slow even though it is not a long movie.  Losing Belle in favor of Bess and Fred doesn’t work and makes the conversion feel less personal to Scrooge.

Like I said you can tell it is a lovingly produced film.  They took some chances and I respect that but for me most of them didn’t quite work.  Still, if you end up watching it you won’t be miserable.  You’ll enjoy it just fine.