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 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 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 )

Cast:

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.

m_rgm4TEgplTFad7wwBkECA

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.

Scrooge 6: Disney’s A Christmas Carol

A_Christmas_Carol 2009

Trailer:

 

Cast

  • Jim Carrey as:
    • Ebenezer Scrooge
    • Ghost of Christmas Past
    • Ghost of Christmas Present
    • Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
  • Gary Oldman as:
    • Bob Cratchit
    • Jacob Marley
    • Tiny Tim
    • Tim’s voice is provided by Ryan Ochoa.
  • Colin Firth as Fred
  • Bob Hoskins as:
    • Mr. Fezziwig
    • Old Joe
  • Robin Wright Penn as:
    • Belle
    • Fan Scrooge
  • Cary Elwes as:
    • Dick Wilkins.
    • Mad Fiddler
    • Businessman #1
    • Guest #2
    • Portly Gentleman #1

I already mentioned in my ‘Family Movies I Like that Others Do Not’ post that the Disney 2009 version of a Christmas Carol I really enjoy even though many others do not.  Hopefully here I can explain a little bit more thoroughly why it works for me even if it is not perfect.

Differences-

The biggest difference is this is the only stop motion animated version so it has the feel of an animated film with the realism of live action.  For what is basically a ghost story I think it works very well.

flyingI think shots like this are beautiful

flying2

I love the scenes where we are flying through London although some go on a bit too long (As I have said I have a weakness for characters flying in movies.  I almost always love it) .The colors are bright and the way it uses shadows and light is very beautiful.

Another big difference is this version tries to stay extremely close to the text.  There are passages such as the men joyfully shoveling snow off the rooftops that is almost never included but it is here.

snow shoveling

I also love in that same scene when they are flying past a steeple and cross we hear ‘hark the herald angels sing’ and Scrooge (in a direct quote from the book) justifies his lack of faith in Christ by asking the spirit about poor people on the sabbath day. (the same man who suggested workhouses and prisons is condemning the church for being closed on sabbath day! See he’s rationalized his lack of need for faith and Christ’s grace. It reminds me of how the Pharisee’s question Christ in the Bible)

““You would deprive them of their means of dining every seventh day, often the only day on which they can be said to dine at all,” said Scrooge. “Wouldn’t you?”

cross

I have never seen a version that includes this but it is crucial to understanding the message I believe Dickens meant behind the story that not just shutting out Christmas, but rationalizing away Christ made Scrooge cold.

sabbath

The Spirit says in response

““There are some upon this earth of yours,” returned the Spirit, “who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.”

That is such an important moment in the story and almost never included.

Anyway, other differences is that 6 actors portray most of the characters Jim Carrey ( who plays Scrooge remarkably straight), Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright Penn and Cary Elwes. All are very good in their differing roles. bellecratchit 2009fred 2009

Another difference is it sticks close to the book in its portrayal of Scrooge.  I went back and read the novella before starting the project and there is absolutely no attempt by Dickens to soften Scrooge or make him sarcastic.  I don’t mind when versions do this but it is not canon.  Listen to how Dickens describes Scrooge:

” 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.”

sinner scrooge

I mean the rooms get colder when he enters.  He is a “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner” (again making the religious fall a part of his bitterness and anger).  I actually think this version captures that Scrooge extremely well.

It is perhaps a more enjoyable movie when we think of it as telling a ghost story and less of a Christmas story.  They include Marley’s jaw coming off and ignorance and want is dark and quite scary.

marley teeth

Strengths- As I said the closeness to the book is a real strength.  I also like the performances and I know some hate the stop motion look but I think it is beautiful.  The music by Alan Silvestri is wonderful including the closing credits song by Andrea Boceli- God Bless Us Everyone.

I wish more people had seen it because I would have loved to see what Zemeckis could have done with other classic stories like Jane Eyre using this medium.

There are many moments which the film gets right that few do.

I love that it is Tiny Tim’s declaration of Christ that first moves Scrooge.  Nothing else has but as soon as he hears Bob talk of Tim he worries and begins to feel again.

“Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.”

"DISNEY'S A CHRISTMAS CAROL"

A lot of versions skip over this line trying to appeal to those of all faith but it is a loss in my opinion because can a nice pleasant holiday really be enough to get someone to change?  No it is a higher religious conversion, a higher meaning to life and goodness, that  prompts Scrooge to repent his ways.

past 2009

I also like the way the appearance of all 3 spirits is very close to the descriptions in the book. This and the Muppets I believe come closest to the ethereal quality of Past.  He looks like a candle, which is creative.

The ending is good when Scrooge see’s his body on the bed and is desperate for some sense of feeling at this death.  Then we see the couple who is grateful the death gives them more time to pay back their loan (something often skipped) and then the Cratchit’s mourning the loss of Tim.

Weaknesses- Trying no doubt to appease modern viewers they do spend a bit too long in segments zipping through London.  Particularly at the end when they are chased by black horses carrying a hearse it goes on too long and gets old.  I typically fast forward that segment.

Also I don’t see why for the pawn shop scene Scrooge needs to be shrunken down with a high pitched voice.  Another ploy I suppose to appease modern viewers.

It can be pretty dark and scary for kids so it will depend on your child’s tolerance for those kinds of films.  The scene where Present dies is like no other version.  It is very scary but I think it is cool.  Like I said if you look at it as a ghost story (which it is)  like Corpse Bride or something like that than it is less upsetting. But it is the area where the movie takes chances.  It embraces Christmas Carol as the ‘scary ghost stories and tales of the glory of Christmases long, long ago’.

And I know for some who aren’t as in love with the book as I am the strict adherence may be a problem. They want a more nuanced, softer Scrooge than the book gives us.  It quotes a lot from the text and makes no attempt like in Muppets or other versions to explain things in a modern way.

So all in all, I know it isn’t perfect but I really like it.  It’s a definite part of my holiday viewing and I appreciate all the hard work which went into making it accurate, heart felt and visually captivating.  Others do not care for it but that’s their opinion and this is mine. 🙂

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 1: Christmas Carol: A Musical 2004

a_christmas_carol_the_musical_advertisementI mentioned in my last post I would like to organize these Scrooge reviews but the truth is they will end up being jumbled up because I get access to them at different times depending on when they air, are available from the library and other opportunities to watch come up.

So I had the 2004 musical version called A Christmas Carol: A Musical on my DVR and gave it a watch last night.  It was my first time viewing this version. I’ve decided to not give grades for these movies but to just make note of the differences, strengths and weaknesses in each adaptation.  So, let’s talk about what makes this version special!

2004 A Christmas Carol: The Musical

The trailer:

In this version we get a musical in the style of Oliver! Music is by Alan Menken with lyrics by  Lynn Ahrens and it is very solid songs.

Kelsey Grammer as Ebenezer Scrooge
Jane Krakowski as Ghost of Christmas Past/Lamplighter
Jesse L. Martin as Ghost of Christmas Present/Sandwich Board Man
Geraldine Chaplin as Ghost of Christmas Future/Blind Old Hag
Jason Alexander as Jacob Marley’s Ghost
Edward Gower as Bob Cratchit
Linzi Hateley as Mrs. Cratchit
Jacob Collier as Tiny Tim

 

Scrooge- Kelsey Grammar, he’s pretty good although the hunched over, old impression feels like something that would work better on the stage. His singing voice is very good.

Differences-

Opening sequence which is usually at the counting house is at the stock exchange.

Singing throughout not just the occasional song

marley

The Jacob Marley scene is unique.  Instead of just Jacob you have an array of ghosts that do a number similar to Tevye’s Dream in Fiddler on the Roof.

They also integrate the story of Dickens father going to the debtor prison as part of Scrooge’s story.  There is a scene in a courtroom where Scrooge’s father tells his son after being convicted ‘save your pennies.  Make your fortune and keep it’.

We see Scrooge working in a shoe factory as a child which no other version had done which I’ve seen and that actually makes sense.

They use the Cratchit’s less than other versions and have Scrooge’s mother say the ‘God Bless Us Everyone’ line.

Other differences are you see Marley die which I don’t recall in other versions.  Scrooge actually seems upset by this.

future

This is the only version I know of where Ghost of Future is a woman and not a grim reaper type.

All of the ghosts are seen in earlier scenes interacting with Scrooge.  Ghost of Present is very well played by Rent’s Jesse L Martin who has such a great bass voice. He is a showman who puts on a play (which he had invited Scrooge too earlier) as part of his demonstration to Scrooge

present
You can see in this shot how sunken in everyone’s eyes look. The makeup made everyone look very gaunt and sickly

Christmas Past is played by Jane Krakowski of 30 Rock fame and she shows Scrooge a book with the memories that they dive into, which is a unique take

past2Another difference is Scrooge refuses to give Fezziwig a loan just before his girl Emily (Jennifer Love Hewitt) breaks up with him.  That was a very effective scene with Scrooge’s mentor realizing how cold his pupil has sunk.

Strengths- The music is a strength.  I didn’t like every song but for the most part they are solid musical numbers that have the Menken flair (lyrics aren’t always great but it’s tough to be original with Christmas music).

All of the singing is excellent. Grammar has a lovely voice as well as Martin, Krakowski, and Gower.  There is also a good chemistry amongst the cast.  They all felt like a community, supporting one another (or not in the case of Scrooge).  I surprisingly thought Jennifer Love Hewitt was effective in her brief scene as Emily.

emily

The special effects with the ghosts, and various changes to the story with Scrooge’s father and refusing Fezziwig’s loan were interesting and effective.  Also I thought the unique Ghost of Future was good. Nice to see some dialogue and personality in that character.

Weaknesses- Jason Alexander is miscast as Marley.  I don’t know if it is just weird for me seeing George Costanza as Marley or if his performance is that off.  It just didn’t quite gel.

Another issue is the makeup is very badly done and the lighting makes characters look kind of gaunt and pale, even Martin who is supposed to be alive and boisterous had sunken eyes and an emaciated look about him. It lessened the effects of Ignorance and Want because everyone already looked like them.

The finale is moving and it is nice to see Fran again but I missed the desperation and real intensity the scene normally has.  It felt more like an inspirational group number than a pleading call for mercy.

Overall, I enjoyed the version.  It has it’s technical issues with the makeup and lighting, but I thought the songs were good, performances pretty good and the changes in the story for the most part worked and were interesting.  So, if it is on your dvr give it a watch.