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.

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.

Cast:

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).

musicalscrooge03

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…

Differences/Weaknesses-

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 8 and 9: 2 Diva Tales

A_Carol_Christmas_DVD diva christmas carolI’m afraid I have a bit of a confession to make- I like cheesy made for TV movies.  I can’t explain why because they are the junk food of the cinema world.  What can I say every now and then I feel like some junk food movies!  This is particularly true at Christmas.  Most made for TV Christmas movies are syrupy and silly but overall pleasant.  The kind of movies that used to be made all the time and are out of fashion by the bigger studios.  There are times when I don’t want to be challenged but just enjoy a silly movie and romcoms in Hollywood have gotten so vulgar and crass these days that it’s very frustrating.  But at least I still have my Hallmark and Lifetime movies to keep me goey and happy.

So with that said let’s talk about 2 made for TV versions of A Christmas Carol.  I group them together because they are essentially the same movie- A Carol Christmas starring Tori Spelling and A Diva’s Christmas Carol by Vanessa Williams.  They are both technically weak but I enjoy watching them.  Of the two the Diva’s is better but mostly because I’d take a funny Kathy Griffin over Gary Coleman any day.

They are both the story of the Barbie Christmas Carol but that movie is a little more clever with details like mirrors for the Aunt Marley character and lots of traditional Christmas songs sung well.  Plus at least Barbie has animation that while on a direct to DVD level is more interesting than any film-making in either of these TV movies.

So they are both about divas who have let fame get to their heads:

Vanessa Williams plays Ebony, a Whitney Houston type who has forgotten her past as a foster kid who was part of a trio and then became a star.

vanessa williams

Tori Spelling plays Carol Cartman a TV Show host who’s aunt manipulated her career, forcing her to choose fame over friends (this one is really like the Barbie version).

cc tori

Both of them are making their poor beleaguered staff work on Christmas Day and both say ‘bah humbug’ and order people around like slaves. (Must be nice to be a diva sometimes… 😉 ).

Both have assistants that are the Bob Cratchit’s.  Vanessa’s is a man named Bob who she briefly dated but now has a son Tim who is dying. Tori has an assistant named Roberta who has a daughter named Lilly who’s ex is trying to take away from her because of all the hours she works for Tori.

So we get our Marley

For Vanessa she is an ex-bandmate named Marli who died in a car crash played by Chili from the band TLC.  There are some special effects that are pretty good when she shows her ‘real’ face to Ebony.  I also thought her chains were kind of clever.

ganz besonderes Weihnachtsfest, Ein / A Diva's Christmas CarolTori’s Marley is her Aunt Marla who Tori (Carol) always thought had her back but she tells Tori she was wrong.  She comes alive in a picture first and then we see her.  They could have done something more clever with her chains than just a few normal looking necklaces. tori marleyDid Marla have Carol’s back or was she actually out for her own good? Hmmm…

Then we get Past

For Vanessa it is Kathy Griffin who has some funny lines like when her outfit is complimented “last year I had to show Tom Ford all of his Christmas”.  That made me laugh.

diva pastAlso when she see’s the shadows she tells Ebony “these aren’t real people.  It’s like Los Angeles”  That also made me laugh.

Another funny line is “Stop being so hauntable. You skinny witch.  Did you say skinny?” Considering what she had to work with I thought it was pretty good.

We learn from Past that Ebony had a tough road with a mean father, and she was taken away from her brother on Christmas.

tori pastThe Tori version we get the considerable downgrade to Gary Coleman.  He’s actually fine but not as funny as Kathy Griffin.

He gets some jokes at his past.  The main point of Past is to show Tori who her Aunt really was and how she caused her to end things with her philanthropic ex.

diva presentFor Vanessa Present we get John Taylor playing a hard rocker that reminded me of Russell Brand in Get Him to the Greek.

He shows her the dumps her band is staying in and that Bob is about to quit to be with his son who is dying.  He also shows her how Terri her former bandmate is doing.

tori presentIn Tori’s version we have the great William Shatner as Present, and we see Tori’s ex is still doing good, and Roberta’s ex trying to take Lily away.  We also look in on her sister’s family who Roberta buys nicer gifts than the $20 Tori gives her to spend.

We also learn that her aunt Marla’s cohort is trying to change the show to a Jerry Springer like program that focuses on Freaks because sincere stories don’t sell (tell that to Oprah…).  Tori is horrified.

diva futureI thought Future was kind of clever in Vanessa’s version instead of having an actual ghost she stumbles upon a VH1 ‘Behind the Music’ program about the rise and fall of her life.  She then watches as everyone from Bob to her crew hate on her and she finds out about her tragic death.  Given the Diva’s Christmas Carol aired on VH1 I thought it was a funny in-joke and touch.

future toriTori’s Future is a definite letdown from Shatner and is a fairly generic limo driver.  She see’s herself as a washed up has been who everyone hates.

Both films show the characters funerals with nobody attending but the Cratchit’s of the stories.  The endings are also basically the same with them giving their Cratchit assistants raises and helping out the Tim’s.  They both treat their cast and crew better and give money to charity.  Tori ends up back with the ex (spoiler alert!).

Both of these movies fall into the category if my explanation sounds like something you will hate than you will hate them.  If they sound like something you will enjoy than you will enjoy them.  Movies like these are kind of like soap operas.  We all know when watching a soap opera that it is stupid and the acting is terrible but if done with enough camp and silliness than they are entertaining. A guilty pleasure I guess.

So while I can’t recommend them, I must own that I enjoyed watching both of them. (I mean doing a strengths and weaknesses on these films is kind of ridiculous)  It also probably helps that both leading ladies have reputations of being high maintenance and I’ve always liked Tori Spelling since 90210 days.  Vanessa Williams also can sing which helps in those sections.  Diva is definitely better than the Tori film but they are close.

Want a good laugh? Read this article of why Diva’s Christmas Carol is best holiday film ever. http://www.buzzfeed.com/lucaslascivious/why-a-divas-christmas-carol-is-the-best-holiday-54hg

I’m going to have to watch the silent films next to regain any kind of credibility I just lost from this review 😉

Also- the difference between these movies and the All Dogs Go to Heaven Christmas Carol which I hated so much is that wasn’t even fun. These movies know they are terrible and embrace it.  You don’t cast Gary Coleman and William Shatner in your movie if you are trying to make a serious film.  All Dogs is shrill, mean, obnoxious and stupid; whereas, these are just stupid and silly.

Scrooge 2: Mickey’s Christmas Carol Blu-ray Review

mickey blu-ray I have the day off work today so I figured I would post a couple reviews, watch some holiday movies!

Now for one of my favorite Christmas Carol versions and the best animated version to come out, Mickey’s Christmas Carol.  This is an animated short (about 20 minutes) that was released in 1983 with the rerelease of The Rescuers.  It was the first theatrical appearance of Mickey Mouse in 30 years. (I would like to see another Mickey appearance soon!).

Originally it was a radio play by Disneyland Records and you can tell because the script is very well done. Scrooge is a bit of a smart-allick here and a lot of the witty dialogue helps temper the scary moments while still keeping the tension, and basic redemption effective.

Trailer:

The cast:

Voice actor Character Role
Alan Young Scrooge McDuck Ebenezer Scrooge
Wayne Allwine Mickey Mouse Bob Cratchit
Hal Smith Goofy Jacob Marley’s ghost
Eddie Carroll Jiminy Cricket Ghost of Christmas Past
Will Ryan Willie the Giant Ghost of Christmas Present
Will Ryan Pete Ghost of Christmas Future
Clarence Nash Donald Duck Fred, Scrooge’s nephew
Patricia Parris Daisy Duck Isabelle (“Belle” in the novella)

greedy scrooge mickey

Scrooge- Given they already had a character named Scrooge McDuck who is famous for skiing on his gold this was a no brainer. Alan Young is wonderful as Scrooge and gives a lot of humor to the lead vocal.

Differences- Obviously the biggest difference is we have our Disney characters anthropomorphized as the title characters of Christmas Carol.  They pull a lot from Fun and Fancy Free and Ichabod and Mr Toad which I guess is understandable given they have a lot of characters that fit a Victorian era.

It’s interesting they went the Victorian route.  A lot of the other cartoon versions such as Smurfs or Flintstones take the story into their worlds, but I like that it feels of period.

The introductory scene is fairly standard featuring Mickey as Cratchit, Donald as Fred (Donald just makes me smile every time I see him), and Rat and Mole as the benefactors.

benefactors

Scrooge’s response to them is classic.

“well you realize if you give money to the poor they won’t be poor any more and if they aren’t poor any more than you won’t have to raise money for them and you two will be out of a job. Oh please gentlemen don’t as me to put you out of a job”

That is very clever and gives Scrooge a sarcasm and humor I don’t recall as pronounced in many other versions. I also like his next line:

“You work all your life to get money and people want you to give it away”.  It is interesting because if his life work were painting people wouldn’t expect him to give those away for nothing but a life work of money is.

There is no ‘let them die and decrease the surplus population’ which is perhaps a bit harsh for this version so good choice.

Jiminy_Cricket_as_The_Ghost_of_Christmas_Past

With Past played by Jimminy Cricket.  Their initial interaction is very good.

Scrooge says “I thought you’d be taller”

Jimminy “If men were measured by kindness you’d be no bigger than a speck of dust”

Scrooge “Kindness is of little use in this world”

So that becomes a theme of the program.  Is kindness of any use?  Later from Present we hear of ‘generosity’ and Present tells Scrooge he’s never given anyone a reason to be generous to him. That’s an interesting take on the message of Christmas Carol.  The world is good and full of light but we have a responsibility to accept that light.

With Past we go right to Fezziwig’s (no childhood or other scenes) and it is mainly to introduce to Belle played by Daisy (and I think the only time Daisy is not with Donald). We then get to his counting house and I like that Scrooge is sentimental when he first see’s it, even excited.

This is before he see’s himself foreclose on Isabelle’s honeymoon cottage for being an hour late on the payment. It is dramatic enough to quickly explain to kids a complicated economic process of mortgages while getting the core emotion right.

Willie_as_the_Ghost_of_Christmas_Present

Present takes him to see the Cratchit’s only (no Fred) and Scrooge is immediately taken with Tiny Tim.  The Cratchit’s poverty is shown in a quick yet effective way with a turkey the size of a canary.  That’s simple for kids to understand.Makes the point about suffering and poverty without dwelling on it too much for kids.

canary turkey

Present leaves him in front of the Cratchit’s house and he asks Future what will happen and Scrooge’s ‘Oh no. Spirit I didn’t want this to happen” is a very well delivered line.

rip

The finale is very effective with Scrooge falling into the grave and pleading for change but I don’t think too scary for kids.

Strengths-  Some may want to discount a Mickey Christmas Carol as more of a lark but I actually think it is a good adaptation, and it is great way to introduce small kids to the story. All the voice work is tremendous, and I like Scrooge’s sarcastic attitude.  He gets the most glee out of his money and jingling the coins together than many other Scrooge’s.  Mickey is of course great as Cratchit and the ghosts are all effective.

The script is the real standout.  It’s very sharply done and teaches a lesson about kindness and generosity without getting to heavy handed(ignorance and want aren’t shown, no decrease surplus population).  Instead of Scrooge being a bad man (not caring if people die) he is merely someone who isn’t allowing people to be kind to him, not allowing others into his life.  It’s a slightly different take that I like.

As I said the finale is very well done.  Crazy Scrooge is very good with him coming back to get his cane  to be fully dressed in his pajamas. They do a good job throughout of painting a complex picture in one dramatic moment (like the honeymoon cottage bit tells kids exactly what they need to know quickly so it doesn’t feel like a mean-spirited film).

mickey finale

Weaknesses- I honestly could have seen this be a feature film.  A few scenes could have been fleshed out even more.  I could have seen Scrooge look in on Fred playing games in present or Scrooge as a child in the past segments. (Muppets does both very well).

Goofy is maybe a bit of an odd choice for Marley.  He’s so loveable and silly it is hard to picture him as a bad guy. Perhaps a Disney villain might have worked better? But I suppose it helps relieve some of the scares for little kids.

The music is kind of a corny Christmas song but it works.

Certainly one of the best and that’s not just nostalgia talking, and like I said my favorite animated version.

30th Anniversary Blu-ray- (Some say online they clip off the top and bottom for wide screen.  I did not notice a dramatic difference)

The recent blu-ray release of it is gorgeous.  The HD looks bright, clear and beautiful.  It includes 5 animated shorts that are very entertaining.

1. Yoldelberg- 2013 but done in the style of Mary Blair for the program Mickey Mouse, which I am intrigued to watch.  Paul Rudish animates it beautifully.

2. The Hockey Champ- 1939, early Donald teaching Huey Louie and Dewey how to play hockey.  I love Donald!

3. Pluto’s Christmas Tree- 1952, Pluto battles with Chip and Dale as they tease him from inside Mickey’s Christmas tree.

4. The Art of Skiing- 1941, The first of Goofy’s ‘how to’ series.

5. Corn Chips- 1951, Chip and Dale try to steal popcorn from Donald and it gets out of control.  I didn’t realize Chip and Dale were a part of so many shorts?

As you are watching the blu-ray you can also pause for sing along segments of our favorite carols. It would be nice if they had a behind the scenes or other bonus features considering its a 30 year anniversary blu-ray but all in all I’m satisfied with the restoration and blu-ray.

Scrooge Month Introduction!

scroogesI am excited to announce to all of you my next project.  Consider it my Christmas gift to all of you wonderful readers.  I have always loved Charles Dicken’s Christmas Carol.  I see it at our local theater, Hale Center Theater Orem, every year and watch as many film versions as I can.  This year I figured let’s hunt down some more unusual one’s, as well as the favorites and blog about it.  This should cover everything from silent movies to animation to Muppets.  I’m really excited!!

I won’t go through the basic plot for each review because they are all basically the same, but I will note different choices in each version, talk about the leads and each strength and weakness.

scrooge_2091779b

If you live under a rock and don’t know the story of A Christmas Carol it is about a Victorian banker named Ebeneezer Scrooge who has allowed his heart to grow hard over a fear of poverty.  Dickens father was sent to debtor’s prison and it was a great fear of his and all of the Victorian era.  You can get a real sense of this gloom in his novel Little Dorrit (if you like Christmas Carol I highly recommend reading it).  Scrooge has allowed himself to turn fear into coldness towards his fellow humans.  This is demonstrated through his hatred and disgust of Christmas.  He has a beleaguered clerk Bob Cratchit who remains positive despite everything.  Bob has a son named Tiny Tim who is on crutches and in failing health.

Scrooge also has a nephew of a sister who died in childbirth.  Seeing his cheerful nephew is painful for Scrooge because of his sister’s memory.  It is another event that has made him bitter and cold.  One Christmas Eve Scrooge gets a visit from his departed partner Jacob Marley.  Jacob was selfish and cold like Scrooge but he feels sorry for his friend and arranges a way for him to be rescued from purgatory.  Scrooge will have to be visited by 3 spirits- the ghost of Christmas past, present and future.

Through seeing his past and what made him bitter, the present and what he should be grateful for, and the future that is to be dreaded, Scrooge is humbled and decides to change and embrace Christmas and joy in life.

scrooge and marley

Honestly I’ve yet to see a version of this story that I haven’t liked on some level.  It just moves me (yes even Smurfs and Tori Spelling…).  I love the story because it is about seemingly lost causes and the fact there aren’t any. Everyone has potential for redemption and hope.

I personally see that redemption through Jesus and His great gift at Christmas but even if you are not Christian the message of hope in Christmas Carol is something to share and never forget.

So consider this my gift to all of you and my attempt to spread some hope during the holidays!

Bah Humbug!! 🙂

I am not sure what order I am going to do the posts or how I will group them but here are the films I plan on taking a look at over the next month. It will probably depend on how soon I am able to get a hold of different versions.

I’d love to hear your favorites!

christmas carol