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20 December 2012

{25 Days of Holiday Book Reviews}: A Christmas Carol

Today's guest poster is my good friend and coworker, Jared ("Mr. T").  Jared is a special education teacher at ALES, who works primarily with 2nd and 3rd grade students.  Jared is a bit of a movie buff (I don't think "buff" is strong enough of a word...he really, really, really likes movies!), every time Aaron had to watch a movie for his silly movie class, Jared had already seen it (and now that I think about it, I should have asked Jared to help Aaron and maybe he would have gotten a better grade in movie class!).  But I digress...Jared is writing today about A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, in its variety of movie forms (The Muppet Christmas Carol, Scrooged and the 1984 version of A Christmas Carol) and how the screenplay and characters differ from the original.  And I love how he compares the Ghost of Christmas Future to a dementor!  Enjoy!  

The Muppet Christmas Carol

Screenplay
- There is a lot of great care taken to incorporate so much of Dickens’ original writing into the script.  It adds quite an authentic feeling to the movie with the magical prose threaded through the kid catching musical numbers and the comedic banter between Gonzo and Rizzo.  Out of all three movies being reviewed, I think this has the best connection to the book with regards to its screenplay.

Scrooge
- Michael Caine makes you speechless throughout.  He is old, miserly, and repulsive as Ebenezer Scrooge.  You hate him so much with his cruelty towards others.  I will say that his transformation into the reformed Scrooge is the most illustrated out of all three.  You really see the emotion seep out of him as he realizes he has been a complete jerk to everyone in his past and he now wants to make amends.  You as the viewer want to smack him when he is evil and then hug him when he learns his lesson.  My only one criticism is that I feel like his transformation feels a little rushed, almost like he is almost revived before he even gets to the Ghost of Christmas Future.  Granted, being a kids’ movie, you have to move fast in 90 minutes, but it still always feels just slightly rushed to me.

Marley
- I appreciate that they use Statler & Waldorf for Marley & Marley and create them as brothers.  There song is fun to listen to and they are usually the more “adult” comedic relief, which I think I have find them more enjoyable as I get older.


Bob Crachit
- Kermit, so iconic and you are always rooting for him.  I think he is a wonderful Bob Crachit and with Piggy as his wife, she is hilarious.  I’ve always had my doubts, from the book and the movies how gracious he comes off.  With having such a mean boss like Scrooge, I’ve never understood how he can always be so patient, even in his dire financial situation.  I would assume he must develop some type of physiological problems with being so internalizing of Scrooge’s cruelty toward him.


Tiny Tim
- He is so heartbreaking in this movie, with his coughing, limping, and when they get to the part they are singing around their dinner of a pitiful goose, you just want to jump into the screen and adopt him into your home.  My issue with Tiny Tim in any adaptations is they never truly explain his health issues…my guess with the period; he maybe has early stages polio and TB???  Although, I will say when he quotes the famous line “God Bless Us, Everyone” it does not have the same emotional impact as some other Tiny Tims do. 

Belle
- I’ve never liked this version of Belle.  It is more irritating when she sings that song, because she is an awful singer.  I feel like she never truly shows her heartbreak and if he had asked, she would have stayed with him.  It’s the 1800s, why is she so feminist?  It doesn’t fit the character within the setting of the story.

Ghost of X-Mas Past
- I love the etherealness of this ghost.  She is very indifferent and ambivalent, almost gloating as he rubs his face in his past mistakes.  What has always made me sad about the past, in any adaptation, is that there usually lacks any time where he seems truly happy in any form to the point that you start to develop sympathy for him.

Ghost of X-Mas Present
- I always found him funny when I was younger, but don’t like that he is absent-minded and a little buffoon-ish; however, he does have the best song in the movie (in my opinion).  The thing that always gets me in his sequence are two things: (1) that Fred appears poor yet appears to live in a decently nice house and (2) Fred has such a large Christmas spirit it seems a little contradictory for his character to make fun of his uncle, regardless of Scrooge’s cruelty toward him. 

Ghost of X-Mas Future
- When I was younger, I always was irritated that it never spoke, but now that I watch it, it is a lot more menacing when he forces Scrooge to discover the possibilities on his own.  I’ve always doubted Scrooge’s naivety related to never truly thinking that the people are talking about him.  My other question that always bugged me was, how long had Tiny Tim passed since this Future scene…they talk about how he only passed no more than a week before since their words seem to indicate that they have not had the funeral yet.

Scrooged

Screenplay
- I realize it is a comedy and really went in that direction; however, having some authenticity with regards to the original novel, would have had a better feel to it.  I always felt like if you knew nothing of “A Christmas Carol” that you could almost say that this movie stands alone as an original script.

Scrooge
- Bill Murray, a comedic genius he is.  He does a good job of playing quite evil to others; however, I never truly believe that he has ever reformed.  I always felt that at the end, things would get better for a month or so and then he would go back to being the same old, same old.

Marley
- He’s my least favorite of the three; probably because I think he just like a dusty old Halloween costume, and yet ironically the make-up department was nominated for an Oscar, so go figure…what do I know?

Bob Crachit
- I’ve always enjoyed the “twists” they do on the original novel such as having a female “Bob Crachit” and seeing the hardships that she goes through.  One thing that I like about Alfre Woodard’s take on it is that she does show resent against Scrooge, which I always felt makes her more “human” where as Crachit typically is the height of patience and kindness, it is just a tad unrealistic for me.

Tiny Tim
- I like that instead of making him have a physical disability, they make him silent.  I think it makes it more heartbreaking to watch.  He’s completely adorable throughout and tears are your heartstrings…you have “Niagara falls” by the end when he says “God bless everyone” and his mother just breaks down over it.  Emotion is just ripped out of you.
 
Belle
- I always felt that Claire is the best “Belle” out of any version possible.  She is so endearing, self-less, and you truly can see  her loving care towards someone as cold-hearted as Scrooge…even when they break-up you still see her feelings for him.

Ghost of X-Mas Past
- He has always come off as so creepy to me.  I like the idea of the time-traveling cab and his funny jokes like “Niagara falls” just works so well.  I also like the pace of going through the past and stretching out the love affair between Claire and Frank…most other versions just show the first meeting and then the couple breaking up.  As a viewer, you root for them harder because you see their love grow before it gets ripped apart.

Ghost of X-Mas Present
- The physical comedic banter between Carol Kane and Bill Murray is so priceless and incomparable between two great comedians in a film…it works so well that you would guess it is more ad-libbed, but it is not.  I find it a little annoying at times, but you just can’t stop laughing over and over…particularly when she hits him in the groin, that always hurts to watch. 

Ghost of X-Mas Future
- This is the only version that I can recall in which he is referred to as the Ghost of X-Mas Future instead of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come…Future makes more sense, the other way always sounded a little pretentious to me.  I like the creepy, weird skeleton mask…it adds to the comedy because you can’t help but laugh at it because it reminds me of Skeletor from He-Man.  I think the coffin scene when they burn it, is so simplistic in its nature and yet so candid.

A Christmas Carol (1984)

Screenplay
- Although Muppet Christmas Carol purposefully tried to use the original prose, I’ve always felt that this movie sounds more authentic to the atmospheric feel of the novel.  It has a more British feel, which I think works ten times better as Dickens himself was British.

Scrooge
- George C. Scott is masterful as Scrooge, because most other actors go too cruel and I think he hits the persona as just more bitter towards others and quite genuinely appeals very stingy and miserly with such penny pinching.  When he goes to the bank and meets the other people, you see that he does have some human element in him.  What I really like is he comes off a bit more sarcastic yet extremely serious in his convictions.  As you see his feelings transform throughout the film, you see him still quite stern and resentful, but I think that works because he does not lose that aspect of his personality, where as some Scrooges make such a full 180 it loses a little bit of believability, because with Scott’s Scrooge some of his personality is still there even though he has made a change.

Marley
- I think he is so authentic, spooky, and believable.  The tangibility of the character, even though a ghost, allows the viewer to see him as a “real” part of the novel and not something in which Scrooge is second guessing himself.

Bob Crachit
- I like his clever ways in which he pushes Scrooge’s buttons in the opening scenes and he is a lot more human in that although he never verbalizes his disgust with Scrooge, you see it emulating from his body language.  This adaptation out of most is one where I feel like a large focus is not set on the Crachit family per se.

Tiny Tim
- I have to say that he is cute for about five minutes and then you feel your teeth decaying from his sweetness; he just becomes too much for me personally to deal with…not my favorite compared to most.


 
Belle
- I don’t like this Belle.  I thought she came off as too naïve when they first met and then when they break up she seems so cruel to him rather than heartbroken.  When they show her in the “present/future” after they broke up, she does not seem remorseful when she hears about him…she almost does not need to be included in this version.  You are never truly rooting for her.

Ghost of X-Mas Past
- She comes off as a creepy character that is displaced and does not fit this movie.  She looks like she should be a character in “The Neverending Story” or “Labyrinth” and it does not work for me.  I am torn between the connections with his family.  I like how he appeared to have an optimistic spirit and his controlling and unemotional father is what led him to where he is today, quite sad as it is.  On the flip side, I don’t like that they make that connection, because it brings in a more “nurture,” where I’ve always felt that he had a more “nature” aspect in his hate for Christmas.   In the past, he appears more depressed, not necessarily bitter.

Ghost of X-Mas Present
- Fun Fact:  He never states “I am the Ghost of Christmas Present” to Scrooge at any point.  He always looks a little like the Burger King mascot guy in the commercials, with a tinge of a mix of the Oatmeal man and Brawny guy with his face…it is all a little strange, but I do not understand why the present is necessarily associated with “royalty and riches” at least from his appearance.  I do like his spunk and character as a whole in this version, particularly when he nails Scrooge for his words about the “surplus population.”   I like the scene with Fred and his wife, because Fred never gives up hope, but I felt seeing the people on the street making it a little long-winded, particularly the children under the ghost’s robe were particularly creepy.

Ghost of X-Mas Future
- What I love, it that it almost looks like a dementor that guides him through the future events.  What I love about Scrooge during these scenes is that he comes off as so arrogant and pretentious believing that no one has any emotion towards his death and you see his anger turn to remorse with such subtleness. 

Thanks, Jared!

2 comments:

  1. I think Belle in the Muppet version is annoying too!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree about Muppet Belle - and I think that one's the best. My kids found the Jim Carrey (2009) one too terrifying to re-watch .

    ReplyDelete

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