And So Starts the Christmas Season

And let me tell you... Nothing makes me sicker than even THINKING about Christmas before Thanksgiving...  but this year I made an exception.  One single and special exception.  

As previously noted in...

A Christmas Treasure

A Christmas Treasure Part 2

I have a certain affinity for a couple of very specific versions of  Charles Dickens' story "A Christmas Carol".  Couple that with a low tolerance for different versions, and you end up with a recipe for an "A Christmas Carol" snob.  Let me spell it out for you.  As far as I am concerned, there are four acceptable versions of the story. 

  • First and foremost - there is the original and unabridged Charles Dickens manuscript.  The book, if you will. 

  • Then, there is my "all-time-never-to-be-replaced favorite version", the Lionel Barrymore version recorded on MGM records in 1955 (which IS NOT the "Campbell's Playhouse" version - although they are very similar.

  • My third favorite version, is the 1951 film "Scrooge" staring Alastair Sim - (the black and white version). 

  • The fourth version that is "acceptable" (in my humble opinion) is another audio only recording.  It is the 1941 version recorded by Decca records that stars Ronald Coleman as Ebenezer Scrooge.  It's sort of my "back up" audio version.

AChristmasCarol So, when I first noticed the television commercial for Disney's A Christmas Carol (available in digital 3D) I was apprehensively curious about it.  I viewed it as another potential version bound for nether-regions of my mind as "forgettable", yet on the other hand, the previews sure seemed good.

My dad and I share similar opinions on the different versions of "A Christmas Carol".  The above listed versions have been a big part of our family rituals growing up, and (I am fairly certain) they are as meaningful to him as they are to me.  So, for his birthday, we took my Mom and Dad out - and saw "Disney's A Christmas Carol - in digital 3D" to give it a try.

We saw it last week (which is way ahead of my "No Christmas before Thanksgiving" rule) - but given the prospect of my schedule, the Mother of Five's schedule, and my parent's schedules - it was "speak now, or forever hold your peace" (i.e.  violate my own rule).

First off, it was so much fun seeing A Christmas Carol with my parents!  As kids they used to take us to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts screening of the Aliastair Sim film "Scrooge".  It was a holiday tradition of ours for MANY years.  Somewhere along the line (for us boys it's called the three W's...  Work, Women, and Wheels), or was it that the Art Institute stopped playing it (I do not remember) - but somewhere along the line, the tradition ceased... 

Secondly... My thoughts on the movie. 

(Spoiler warning... in as much as you can be "spoiled" on the story of Ebenezer Scrooge... I think most people know how it ends...)

a_christmas_carol First off, I have never seen a 3D movie before.  It was quite the experience.  Given our four choices - 2D regular theater, 3D regular theater, "Muller Monster Screen" (2D)**, or Imax 3D (at almost twice the price) - we chose the 3D regular sized screen.

** The Muller Monster Screen is a screen that is 80 feet wide (twice as wide as my house) and 35 feet tall (3 stories tall).  It is the largest theatre screen in Minnesota, and the auditorium seats nearly 600 people in high back rocker chair seats.

Watching this movie in 3D (and my first experience in 3D) did have some affect on my opinion (both good and bad).

The imagery was nothing less than STUNNING.  The flyovers of late nineteenth century London was quite amazing.  In the days of natural gas and LP heating, we forget what a densely populated city in a cold climate would look like with all the houses burning wood and coal.  Tufts of black soot spewing from rooftops as far as the eye could see! 

The Character of Ebenezer Scrooge was done very well.  Despite his exaggerated features (hook nose and extended "witch like" chin) - it fit well within the movie. 

Picture-217Again, the 3D was quite amazing, but I did feel that (at times) the story itself was modified to take advantage of the 3D.  There has always been flying over the city in the story, but sliding over rooftops, with icicles flying at him, or shrinking and sliding down downspouts and gutters??

Jim Carey as Ebenezer Scrooge (not to mention several other characters)?  Wonderful performance.  I do enjoy Jim Carey, and his portrayal of Ebenezer was truly enjoyable.  I can not confirm this fact, but you can almost hear his enthusiasm for this roll coming through his voice. 

And the story... The story itself stayed pretty close to true.  I counted three of the scenes I have always felt important (even though not all of them were part of the ORIGINAL book) to the story that were missing...

#1 - Ebenezer's Sister Bell's deathbed request that Ebenezer take care of her son Fred.  She died just after giving birth, and whispers her request with all that she has left - only to NOT be heard by Ebenezer.  Scrooge's realization that he did not fulfill his sisters deathbed wish, and understanding that he blamed Fred for the loss of his sister is a crucial turning point in Ebenezer's "turn".

#2 - Jacob Marley's Deathbed scene.  Although the movie starts with Ebenezer and Jacob's undertaker with Jacob laying in a wooden casket shows Ebenezer's lack of caring for his fellow man - it does so only after his best friend has died.  I think an important part of the story is hearing (seeing) that Ebenezer has lackluster feelings towards his best friends death - even while siting with him in his last moments.  Then, to immediately turn back to the cold and calculating "scrooge" only seconds after he passes - is yet another example of showing the cold and cruel "Ebenezer" before his realization and subsequent "turn" to good.

#3 - The Cratchet's on Christmas Morning.  After Ebenezer's "turn" he orders the "Prize Turkey" hanging in the butcher's window... To be delivered to Bob Cratchet and family on Christmas Morning... He does so anonymously, and the shock and surprise of receiving the turkey on Christmas Morning is one of the scenes that shows that Ebenezer's makeover is complete.  He does so selflessly.  He has no intent of showing up to partake, nor does he choose to let the Cratchets know it was he who did it. 

With the addition of these three scenes, Disney would have (in my opinion) hit the ball out of the park..  I do not know if this is the case, but I felt these scenes were sacrificed so they could add additional 3D scenes that are visual ONLY.  (Sliding down rooftops, gutters, and downspouts). 

They did add one scene (3D in nature) that I felt DID enhance the movie.

(SPOILER ALERT)

After the movie ended, #4 of 5 and The Mother of Five said they did not get the part of the movie where he shrunk down, and was being chased by a horse and carriage..  I shared with them my thoughts on this... The shrinking down part was added (I felt) as a 3D enhancement, so Ebeneezer could slide down pipes sewers and gutters in 3D, but the fact that he was being chased by horses (evil horses with red eyes) and a phantom (The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come) driver of the carriage was significant.  The carriage was a shadowy image of a horse drawn hearse of days gone by...  Ebenezer running from the hearse (death) and the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come (his unchanged evil ways of the past) would eventual catch up him, and be his undoing.

- - - -

Dispite the movie's few and minor shortcomings, it's true to story, visual impact, and even a little bit of artistic license (see above), I truly did enjoy this version of the movie.  Since we still have a few "little ones" at home, I am certain that this movie will become part of our collection, and something we enjoy (at least for the foreseeable future).

Thanks Disney... Maybe not "out of the park", but I'd definitely say a home run on this one!

3 comments:

  1. I had been wondering about this movie and whether it was worth my money or not, thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  2. We are definitely suckers for almost any Christmas movie, we are hoping to check it out ourselves.

    ReplyDelete
  3. David,
    My 14+ year-old went with the Moms and 3 other 14-something-year-olds, and prior to leaving it was "I don't really want to go . . ." etc . . .
    Well, he thought it was very well done, as did the others.
    RECOMMENDED
    BTW, did you ever digitize the black and white movie you referred to in "Christmas Treasure Part 2"?
    I can do that.
    Merry Christmas (and happy Thanksgiving)
    Co-worker

    ReplyDelete

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