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We are great buffs of A Christmas Carol in our household, and watch
almost every version faithfully each Christmas, including the old 1938
Reginald Owen and the 1984 George C. Scott. Our overall favourite is
the 1951 black and white tale starring Alastair Sim, because for me,
Sim IS Ebeneezer Scrooge, his conversion the most believable. However,
this modern version has its own unique merits and is a more than
satisfying & watchable adaptation. (See my comments on the other films
also, if interested)
Patrick Stewart, once you get past his not being Captain Jean Luc Picard (difficult for us as Star Trek fans), makes a pretty convincing Ebeneezer Scrooge and definitely the meanest one of the cinematic world. This miser is just an incredibly nasty old businessman; personally, I'd be quite afraid to carol outside HIS office window!
The tale begins uniquely, not with the classic rendering of 'Old Marley was dead to begin with', but with Marley's actual funeral as attended by his surviving business partner, the only movie version to detail this event. However, the rest of the film is quite conventionally done. Wonderful modern special effects of course, with Marley's ghost (a quiet but grim & tortured creature here) and so forth. The spirits are well captured, and the Spirit of Christmas Present is even (unlike other versions) shown to age, in keeping with the novel, as his twelve days of Christmas progress toward Twelfth Night.
This adaptation has my absolute favorite depiction of Scrooge's nephew, Fred. His hearty entry into his miserly uncle's counting house is absolutely priceless, with his benevolent, booming, 'A Merry Christmas, Uncle. God save you!' I adore Fred in this tale. I also love the little added touch at Fred's Christmas dinner party where the punch is heated with a hot poker. Magnificent! On the other hand, while Mr. Fezziwig is indeed intended to be plump and jolly, I found the positively fat & rather crude Fezziwigs (both Mr. & Mrs.) a tad overdone.
Scrooge's sister, Fan, is younger than him here, as in the novel. Most other versions have her older, and fabricate Scrooge's mother death in childbirth when he was born. However, Fan is barefoot in this movie when she comes to her brother's boarding school to retrieve him. How probable would that be in wintertime?
This movie has by a mile the best depiction of the Cratchit's poverty. Frankly, in some versions, the Cratchits appear so downright prosperous that one half expects a servant or two to appear and begin assisting Mrs. Cratchit with the goose & pudding. These Cratchits are literally poor as church mice, just as Dickens intended them to be. Bob appears bone weary, haggard, and long-suffering, Mrs. Cratchit homespun but cheerful as she goes about her endless chores, and Tiny Tim of course a very endearing little waif. I did, however, have strong objections to the young Cratchits banging on the dinner table with their cutlery. Yes, they were eager for goose, but would never have dreamed of being so rude. (In the novel, they stuff spoons in their mouths so they won't shriek for goose!)
If anything, this version is generally the most faithful to Dickens' novel. For example, it's the adaptation which best depicts Christmas Present's tale, where the miners, mariners at sea, and prison inmates are all celebrating Christmas as best they can. Especially dramatic is the scene in which a prisoner begins playing The First Noel on his recorder and the other inmates chime in one by one with their voices. You sense the spirit of Christmas in their midst. Also, this is the only version I've seen in which the repentant Scrooge attends church on Christmas morning before his appearance at the nephew's house for dinner. And at his office next morning, in his little speech to the befuddled Bob, Scrooge addresses the hot Christmas drink in question by its proper name, bishop, as per the novel.
Overall, this modern movie is excellent, but doesn't come across quite as a heartwarming tale. Maybe more realistic, but somehow it seems a wee bit darker than the others.
This is the timeless Dickens story...splendidly told! The cast is uniformly excellent, even down to the smaller roles that may only offer an actor a scene or two. But it is Patrick Stewart's show ALL THE WAY! Not only does he dominate every scene he is in by his sheer presence, but his interpretation of the character of Ebenezer Scrooge lends depth and believability to the old miser and his complete transformation, where others have veered toward caricature. The music, the costumes, the sets -- all are of first quality. Highly recommended!
The sad thing about this adaptation is simply that audiences have
expected less reserved acting and brighter and cheerier moods. However,
I've read the book many times, and although I like all versions, I
think this is probably the 2nd best I've seen. (I love the musical
Scrooge with Albert Finney. It's delightful, if not entirely British in
tone.) Scrooge was a Victorian man, which means the definition of his
character would be one of reservation and stiffness. Patrick Stewart is
quite believable as a Victorian British gentleman miser.
I enjoyed immensely the understated end, where Scrooge changes much for the better, yet at the same time maintains the appearance of a Victorian gentleman. The scene in which Scrooge haltingly enters his nephews house is very powerful and poignant imo.
Admittedly, the supporting cast is forgettable, but that's to be expected. This is Scrooge's story and belongs to no one else. What I think turns people off for this version is the stiffness portrayed by Scrooge and the general "oppressive" atmosphere of the movie. But it is quite good, and Stewart's portrayal of the Victorian Scrooge is perfect.
Although, I think that from our own perspective, Alastair Sim's portrayal will remain the one that stays forever. This movie suffers most from a low TV budget which often limits the camera work along with special effects. But overall, this is one of the best versions out there.
Patrick Stuart is indisputably a great actor, complemented by an excellent cast of other fine actors. This is a warm, humanized, three-dimensional portrait of Ebenezer Scrooge as a whole man. We can believe that a neglected, hurt child could grow up to become a hesitant lover and finally an embittered miser. Stuart's portrayal of Scrooge's growing regret for his life's missed opportunities is wonderfully done, and the final redemption scene is more than satisfying. This is a delightful Christmas offering.
Having read the book a couple times, and have watched every notable Hollywood production of the tale, this version is far and away the best and most faithful to the original book. Not ever detail is precisely from the book (but so what); the over-arching story is most accurate and captures the real essence of the story. (For those who don't know, Dickens continued to edit and re-write his one man stage performance for many years after publication of the book, so don't be so petty as to demand perfect adherence to the original novel if Dickens himself didn't.) Stewart nails Scrooge; head and shoulders above all other actors playing this role. My biggest complaint is that it was clearly edited for TV time constraints and I just wish they would release a "directors cut" with a few scenes being more fulled expressed. This version is a must-watch every Christmas. A+
Here is another great adaption of Dickens' great Christmas story! My mood
always get a little better when I watch or read this story...especially when
it is Christmas!
Patrick Stewart is certainly one of my favorite actors (Star Trek was one of
my favorite TV-shows when I was younger), and Richard E. Grant (who also
appeared in the film "Warlock") plays a very sympathetic role in this story
as the book-keeper Cratchit.
I think that they fit very nicely into their roles, and the supporting cast
also does a fine job. Little Tim is very sweet, and you just hope that he is
going to survive!
They did a good job at showing Scrooge's past and telling the story of how
he became such a bitter old man, and how the ghosts try to persuade him into
enjoying the remaining years of his life instead of being cruel and grumpy
all the time.
I hope you enjoy this movie as much as I did, and a very merry Christmas to all!
Patrick Stewart brings Ebenezer Scrooge to life in this wonderful production. As he moves from the embittered character which we are first presented with, through the intense emotions of a man reformed by the Christmas spirit, we are both astounded and captivated by the depth of Scrooge's character. A pleasure to watch.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I tend to assume that most who view any version of this tale, have read
the original at least once, hence it is my wont to write it in what is
dubbed, "spoiler" mode; albeit I hardly find it much of a "spoil" in
describing a story which is fairly universally known. To cite a perhaps
overused phrase: the Devil is in the details! That said, of all the
uncounted dozens, nay hundreds of adaptations of "A Christmas Carol"
put to film, I have found this adaptation to be far and away the most
faithful to Dickens.
And yet, it does have its shortcomings:
1.) It overcompensates for the perceived ignorant masses in changing dialog to a more modern vocabulary--a thing many may appreciate, but being a purist I find somewhat irksome. Examples include changing "situation" to "job" "Walk-ER" to "You're Joshing!", "Half a crown" to "two shillings," and "Blind Man's Buff," to "Bluff" among several others. Okay, okay... you might think these picky in the extreme; and so be it. I want a story related as told by the author; I expect it to be as written. If they truly want to put it in a modern lexicon, why not simply accept any of the modern adaptations that have done just that... like "Scrooged" with Bill Murray? --and have done with it!
2.) By far the most egregious shortcoming in your humble writer's opinion is the silly need to change the name of Fan, to Fran. Say what? Why alter a perfectly legitimate name, and the one the author of the story designated for Scrooge's beloved sister? They also depict Scrooge's niece's sister, (the "plump" one) whom Topper pursues, as anything but "plump"... she looks downright anorexic.
3.) I do wish they'd have given us a short scene from the past: where Scrooge can lament what he lost in Belle's love, as she is depicted in the story with all her happy children and the husband Scrooge might have been!
4.) The movie begins with Marley's funeral, an oversight I can forgive as it nevertheless allows for a reference to his being "dead as a doornail" and delightfully from the text a reference to the "deadest piece of ironmongery"...the scene is brief, quickly shifting to the opening scene of the storyline.
5.) Those beads of light for eyes in the spirit of Christmas Yet to Come really need to go. They might add a more creepy phantom; but detract from the mystery as related in the novel by lines suggesting all Scrooge could detect behind that hood was a darkness in which he could "sense" those eyes!
So Why a 9/10 with all these "shortcomings"? Quite simply because they are trivial, in light of all of the positives:
1.) Most of the dialog is recognizably straight from the text .
2.) Unlike many versions that have this irrepressible compulsion to impose at least one female spirit, this one remains true in that both past and present are decidedly male, which makes sense since even in the ridiculous versions changing the past to a female, the very next "spirit" refers to all of his predecessors as his 1800 plus "brothers"... nary a sister in the lot. Additionally Joel Grey truly does resemble the diminutive spirit who looks both old, and young --the only thing missing was all the morphing which no version I know of depicts.
3.) Its faithful presentation of the spirits continues as we see the spirit of Christmas Present age as his time draws to a close, another thing so far as I know, found in no other version. His remonstrance of Scrooge's "wicked cant" is line-for-line from the story.
4.) We get to laugh at Topper's thinly veiled (pun intended) pursuit of the not-so-plump sister playing at blind man's buff, and while Fred's house could hardly be described as looking "poor enough", the scenes of fun follow the story well.
5.) Even though we do not get to see the horse-drawn hearse ascending the stairway, we do note the fireplace is exactly as described in the book, with the biblical scenes, and in many of them the face of Marley (from that door-knocker) returns to haunt Scrooge. Pity he had to refer to an underdone "turnip" when the text clearly states potato, but how satisfying it was to note that, exactly as in the book, Marley's jaw drops literally to his breast upon unwrapping, and how it "snaps shut" upon its being re-wrapped. The spirits outside, also, true to those described in the book, as bemoaning their inability to intercede, and fettered to items such as safes, and money-boxes.
6.) Fan is actually a little girl, and not a practically grown woman, and very much rekindles the mind's-eye view of this little angel's excitement when she tells an actual boy (not a grown man) that "father is so much nicer now"... again, fidelity is the driving positive force.
7.) The scenes of Scrooge's transformation include his actually going "to church"...something from the book which I failed to note in every other cinematic effort. He sings, he plots and schemes to ambuscade Cratchit the next day, and the closing narration is literally from the final paragraph in the original text.
While some concessions must be made, the scenes, and depictions of this version, impel me to give it the highest rating of any version I have seen. One can truthfully revisit their mind's creations upon having read the story! Perhaps Scott is a better Scrooge, (But Stewart is good!) and the nephew from either the 1951 or the 1938 version better representatives of those characters, the sum total of this version, make it far and away the very best a Dickens purist can hope to possess, given the current choices. At least in this Dickens fan's humble opinion.
Patrick Stewart demonstrates once again his versatility on screen in this
telling of Charles Dickens' classic story. Though most of us(if not all of
us) have seen other adaptations in the past or read the story,and know
already what to expect,Stewart manages to capture pure magic with his
stunningly awesome portrayal of main character Ebenezer Scrooge,and it is
definitely worth a look. Special effects add a nice little touch,but it is
Stewart's interaction with the 'ghosts' and characters Bob Cratchit among
others that really steal the show. A highly recommended film that nobody
should miss.....especially during Christmas time!
***1/2 out of ****
Bravo to TNT pictures for putting together two things that were made for each other; the role of Ebenezer Scrooge and the acting of Patrick Stewart. I could think of no other current actor who could approach Stewarts ability to grasp this complex role and after viewing the film I am convinced; Stewart is a genius.
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