Another tradition here at our house is the annual viewing of the Dickens’ Christmas Carol movies. There are several out there, and so far this year we’ve seen five of them.
First we watched one of the latest ones – the computer-animated motion capture version (similar to The Polar Express) from 2009 with Jim Carrey as Ebenezer Scrooge. This was probably my least favorite of the movies. I think I would have liked it better had it been done live and not by computer animation. The actors involved also voiced several of the characters. After a while they not only sounded the same, but the characters all looked the same to me. It received similar criticism from its reviewers – they liked the special effects but found it bizarre and would rather have seen live faces.
Next we watched an old favorite from 1970. We call it the “singing Scrooge”. It’s the musical version with Albert Finney. I was 11 when this movie was made, and I remember watching it with my Mom every year. We both enjoyed it. Yes, it is rather silly, but the songs are catchy and you find yourself singing along or singing them out loud later. Albert Finney was only 34 when he played this part, and he is very believable as a crotchety old man. This is the only live action Scrooge to earn any Academy Award nominations – it received four. Finney did win a Golden Globe for the part. This is my personal favorite version.
We also saw one of Eric’s favorites – the 1984 made-for-television version with George C. Scott as Scrooge. This is the only “fat” Scrooge. Although Scott is a great actor, I had a hard time seeing a fatter man as a miser or someone who was stingy. Scrooge didn’t seem to indulge at anything and certainly not with food. Scott was nominated for an Emmy for his portrayal. Edward Woodward’s portrayal of the Ghost of Christmas Present is my favorite portrayal of that character, but then I always liked Edward Woodward. This version is classed as “the most beloved adaptation”.
Next up was another television film adaptation – Patrick Stewart’s version from 1999. Stewart is also a great actor, but I have seen him as Captain Picard for so many years I kept waiting for him to say, “Engage”. There was also something a little weird about that bald head sticking up out of a high-collared frock coat. His clothing looked too fine to me. Everything he wore looked expensive and brand new. It didn’t fit the character. Scrooge didn’t spend a lot of money, and he wore things until they wore out. Everything Stewart had on looked like designer clothing. The part towards the end where he starts laughing was just weird. He starts choking and gasping, and it turns out he’s just laughing. I am assuming he was trying to portray that Scrooge was out of practice with laughter.
The latest one we watched is Bill Murray’s 1988 Scrooged. This was a bizarre version and was the biggest departure from the real story line. There is no Ebenezer Scrooge in his version although Murray is Scrooge-like. There is no Tiny Tim although his secretary’s son is small and mute (instead of lame). I remember thinking it was funny when it was first out, but Murray was also at the height of his popularity in the 80’s. It’s not quite as funny today; it’s just a little odd.
An interesting trivia fact – the actress who played Mrs. Dilber (Scrooge’s housekeeper) in the Patrick Stewart version was also Mrs. Dilber in the George C. Scott version. This actress was Liz Smith. She also played Grandma Georgina in Charlie and Chocolate Factory in 2005.
There are more Scrooge movies out there, but I’m not sure I can get the boys to sit through any more of them this year!