My Top 10 Christmas Carol Films

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

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

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

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

Anyway, my top 10 Christmas Carol Adaptations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bonus Holiday Review: It’s a Wonderful Life

wonderful life title cardWell, I didn’t want to leave off Christmas with a grumpy post and AMC really ticked me off this morning with their colorized Miracle on 34th Street.   Thankfully I was able to have a positive experience at the movies today (and it was definitely NOT COLORIZED!!!).  Cinemark has what they call Cinemark Classics and 3-4 times a month they air a classic movie usually for just a day or two on one of their screens.

This year I was able to see Ghostbusters in September which was a delight and today I saw the classic It’s a Wonderful Life.

Check out the website for all their listings and participating theaters.

http://www.cinemark.com/cinemark-classic-series

It was such a neat experience to see one of my favorite movies on the big screen and I found it more emotional in the theater.  I’m not sure why.  Perhaps because I was completely focused on the movie with no electronic or otherwise distractions.

I think most people know the story of It’s a Wonderful Life so I won’t go deep into it. Basically it’s a about a man played brilliantly by Jimmy Stewart who has never gotten to choose his life (or so he feels).  Life presented him with the right and wrong thing to do and no third choice, so he is left to dream about adventures and freedom.

wonderful lifeThis picture was actually taken at the theater (don’t worry I was very sneaky and had the light on my phone completely off).  George has seemingly always make sacrifices others did not have to make and we get to see his entire life story as told to his guardian angel Clarence played wonderfully by Clarence Odbody.

In his life he is constantly saving people.  He saves his brother from drowning as a boy and he sacrifices hearing in one ear.  In an especially touching moment he saves his employer Mr Gower from accidentally poisoning a patient when he is grieving over news.  Mr Gower slaps him hard and the child actor is very good in the scene, really showing the pain in his ear and the love he feels for this man.

mr gowerGeorge gives up his trip to Europe when his Dad dies.  He gives up college to keep the villain and town Scrooge Mr Potter from taking over the Savings and Loan operated by his benevolent father.  He gives up leaving again to get married and then he gives up his honeymoon to save the Savings and Loan from the run on the bank.

potterLionel Barrymore is excellent as Mr Potter who actually gives reasons for his unfeeling ways.  Reasons you might hear in politics and business today but on a small town level George knows people need a home and a chance and he sacrifices again to give that to others.

But once we get caught up to the date middle aged George’s stupid uncle has lost the deposit all $8000 of it.  This means bankruptcy and possible warrants for embezzlement. It’s all too much for George and he has a breakdown and wonders if he is ‘more valuable dead than alive’.

video-undefined-1A466D7F00000578-219_636x358Stewart is completely convincing as he unravels and reaches that point of no return.  As someone who has had a nervous breakdown (but not suicidal) it feels totally authentic.  The sense of panic and fear in his voice I totally buy.

Just then Clarence comes and decides to teach George what life would be like if he had never been born.

clarenceIt is true that the alternate reality of life without George is pretty stark but it is a fable and I can grant it some dramatic license. (I have pretty healthy self esteem but I don’t think if I hadn’t been born that my hometown would be a den of sin and debauchery…ha).

pottersville2pottersville_470The filming of director Frank Capra and cinematographer Joseph Walker does not get enough credit. The starkness and grittiness of Pottersville verses the light and warmth of Bedford Falls is gorgeous.

Stewart is so good in the many roles he is required to play. In one movie he is young, a dreamer, tough, panicky, frustrated, angry, desperate, drunk, joyous, an engaging father, annoyed, in love and everything else.  And he is equally convincing in every scene.

Its-A-Wonderful-LifeHim and Donna Reed have wonderful chemistry and the dialogue between them is as good as any romantic comedy at first and then confrontational while deeply caring later.  It feels like a real couple.

bedford fallsIt’s just such a joyous picture.  It reminds all of us that we are not alone and that more people love us than we realize.  It can be easy to feel alone in this world but I think if we all got a picture we’d be surprised how many people are praying and worried about us.  And if we are alone we may be Ebeneezer Scrooge’s and not letting them in (It’s a Wonderful Life is kind of the flip side of Christmas Carol when you think about it).

It’s easy to feel cynical about movies like It’s a Wonderful Life.  Modern life can seem so much more complicated with texting, facebook  e-dating and all kinds of impersonal relationships. But this year I saw Boyhood and found myself thinking about It’s a Wonderful Life while watching that movie.

patricia arquette What moved me most in Boyhood is kind of the same thing that moved me in It’s a Wonderful Life.  Like George Bailey, the mother character Olivia played by Patricia Arquette, never really has a moment to commit to her life.  The Ethan Hawke character gets a chance to go to Alaska and decide to be a father and to live a particular kind of life.  Olivia has 2 kids and just has to live and like George she isn’t given a lot of choices, and sometimes the ‘lesser evil’ proves to be a nightmare.  At the end her son is moving away to college and she starts to cry and says ‘my life is over’.  It feels like a similar moment to George Bailey realizing all the sacrificing has been for what to be left alone.

But there is redemption, maybe not as dramatic as in Wonderful Life but she has lived a good life.  She has raised two great kids and done the best she could and realizes she has friends, if only in her children.    I was really moved today when I saw the note from Clarence to George.

failureI think that is the message from Boyhood and It’s a Wonderful Life- no man is a failure who has friends and has loved people as best as he or she can. I know that sounds cheesy but it’s true.

At Christmas those who believe in Christ’s sacrifice and life recite the scripture ‘greater love hath no man than this that he lay down His life for His friends’.  That is the message of It’s a Wonderful Life, of Boyhood and of Christmas.  Life is precious because of who we can love.

I know it is just a blog and I know it is just movies but I hope you have sensed my love for stories and life.  Roger Ebert said it best:

“We all are born with a certain package. We are who we are: where we were born, who we were born as, how we were raised. We’re kind of stuck inside that person, and the purpose of civilization and growth is to be able to reach out and empathize a little bit with other people. And for me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy. It lets you understand a little bit more about different hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us.”

So in that spirit Merry Christmas friends and fellow-journeymen in life and a Happy New Year.   It is a wonderful life.

Scrooge Month Conclusion

New folder1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scrooge 30: Muppet Christmas Carol

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Caine The Muppet Christmas Carol

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

beaker benefactor

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

gonzo and rizzo

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

“Nice story Mr Dickens” says Rizzo

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

I love that!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Differences/Strengths-

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

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

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

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

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

marleys 2

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

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

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

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

muppet present

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

We get another great song from Present.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

muppets cast2

Scrooge 29: Hale Center Theater Orem Local Production

chris brower

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bracket Fun

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

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

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

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

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

tournamentA little 2014 Movies competition!

2014 movies

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

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

Scrooge 28: Scrooge (Seymour Hicks 1935)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1935 cratchitDifferences-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1935-xmas-happy-scrooge

Scrooge 27: Christmas Carol 1997- Tim Curry

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

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

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

tim curry

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

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

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

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

Trailer

Cast:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

tim curry present

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

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

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

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

past tim curry

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

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

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

tim curry scrooge fun

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

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

Scrooge 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.