Saturday, December 24, 2011

Disecting the Scrooges

Merry Christmas, one and all!

The story of Ebeneezer Scrooge has been marketed and packaged a hundred times over in many different ways.  Not just direct adaptations, but how many parodies have we seen, also?

Since 1970 there have been some memorable performances and films adapting the holiday classic and I wanted to mention them.

Honorable mention to Brent Spiner from the Star Trek episode Devil's Due.  Kinda ironic how Patrick Stewart is there, known not only for his rendition of Scrooge but doing a one-man show of A Christmas Carol.  Gotta love the voice.

Jim Carrey - How ironic that this story is supposed to be about a man regaining his soul and yet it's told in a way that drains the humanity out of performances.  This technology is still in the developmental stage but I've always said that CGI still has not made any realistic flesh-based characters.

Jim Carrey actually does a good job here to an extent.  I applaud his ability to disappear behind the character at different ages but the fact that he plays all the ghosts too is rather lame.  They spent upwards of 175 million dollars on this movie where they could have made the same film with real people.  Carrey is no stranger to the make up chair.  I'm sure he could have looked and acted old.

Was it necessary for him to play multiple roles?  Was it ego?  Did they spend all the money and couldn't hire more than one actor?

There was nothing new here but a bunch of pretty visuals.
George C. Scott - Yes, the guy who played Patton didn't play Scrooge very well.  Yes, he can be scary and intimidating no matter how old he gets.  He scared the crap out of me in the movie Firestarter.

The problem with Scott is the fact that he doesn't give any range with his performance.  He really hams the scene where he sees his grave and even when he's "happy" he can still seem like a jerk for some reason.  I guess it's just Scott. 

Everything else about this film works but when your lead character is the one who holds the work together and HE doesn't work, then it becomes a house of cards that crashes down upon itself.

Michael Caine - This is not a Christmas Carol movie, this is a muppet  movie that happens to be about the Dicken's story.  In this version, Caine is one of the only human actors and it takes a special man to make it work.  This film doesn't take itself seriously, which is what you should expect from a muppet film.  Caine does his best but brings nothing new to the role.  To him I think it was just a paycheck.  God Bless him, he's still Michael Caine and they were damn lucky to get him.

The songs are weak, though.  The muppets feel out of place for a story such as this.  Ironically, the look and feel of this film is better than the next.

Kelsey Grammer - What's amazing about Kelsey is the ability to look so mean and cruel one second, then sad and then happy.  His range is the advantage to the character.  He truly looks like hell in this film from beginning to even the end when he's reformed. 

The songs are its greatest asset and many are memorable and fit in with the film's look.  It would have been nice had it been a tad darker.  The production looks and feels like a high-school musical.  It would have been cooler if it were in better hands.

Another good element was the fact that it gave a more legitimate reason for Scrooge's money-holding ways.  The guy never seemed to spend money even on himself which never really made sense to me.  His father is sent to prison for not paying debts (something that happened in history) and that stuck with him.  He had a paralyzing fear of debt.

The scenes in the future though show doom and gloom also show more of a ray of hope and you see Scrooge's transformation through Grammer's performance.

Patrick Stewart - He's Patrick-freaking-Stewart which instantly makes him awesome.  Though the performance isn't perfect, he carries the entire film.  He's intimidating, something that Stewart isn't exactly known for.  As he raises his cane to a child outside of his building, the director has the camera pointed upwards, much like the photo below.  From the child's point of view, he can look damn scary.

He stands tall and walks confidently and his costume is brilliant.  The downside to the film is that nothing really new is brought to it.  It's like someone re-did the George C Scott version but this time with a better Scrooge.  Stewart's range is from annoyed to enraged, you can literally see his frustration with Christmas.  He then can show such vulnerability and then to great joy in the final act of the film.  Sadly, this is the shortest part of the film.  Scrooge is happy and spreading joy on Christmas morning and yet we barely see the good part.

As great as Stewart is, the 1999 Christmas Carol is still not the BEST.

Albert Finney - It was a toss up and a very close match between Stewart and Finney.  Finney's Scrooge is an entertaining romp with great music and songs.  There are very few flaws in the entire film, showing Scrooge's life even in times outside of Christmas.  Finney plays BOTH roles of old Scrooge and young Scrooge.

What's amazing is that Finney was only thirty-four at the time of the filming.  His body language and voice make him appear to be an old man.  Both the Grammer Scrooge and this one both have brilliant songs, but here they're more of a big-screen sound to them.  Grammer's Scrooge sounded more like a Disney film.  But if you were to take the best songs from that version and combine them with this, you have the makings of a perfect film.

This is THE best version of a Christmas Carol that has ever been made and sadly the film was seen as a disappointment when it first came out.  Its flaws are few and far-between.

But one thing that has always bothered me about Scrooge in general (and I blame Charles Dickens for this) is the fact that fear is brought about to bring change within the heart of Ebeneezer Scrooge.  Show him that the afterlife truly IS hell for those with no love or compassion for their fellow man and he'll change.  OR do you instead show him the good that he or any of us could do. 

The fact that he's rich also seems to be a major part of what Scrooge is.  Yes someone with money can do good, but really any of us can.  Would the spirits really try so hard to change this man's ways if he were just some jerk with no money?  I'd like to think they would.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.