A Christmas Carol: As many new versions as there are people watching them
Try out these versions of this classic story
You may find this a bit surprising, but around the time that Charles Dickens wrote his famous novella, there actually was quite a large percentage of the population that was more like Scrooge than Cratchett. First published in 1843, many view it as a critique of 19th century industrial capitalism. It was not at all uncommon for many people of the day to largely gloss over Christmas. And at the same time, Brittain was beginning to experience a nostalgic interest in the Christmas celebrations of their past.
So in many ways, Dickens helped not only to celebrate but to form the modern Christmas.
You can't do that without becoming something more than a mere author. A Christmas Carol has taken on a life of its own over the years. The characters are universally known. Elements of the story are frequently borrowed in other contexts. The book has been adapted to the stage, TV specials, movies, Broadway operas, and even a BBC mime production with Marcel Marceau.
And the adaptations just keep coming:
Patrick Stewart developed a one-man stage production that was later adapted as a TV movie (with a full cast, not a one-man movie. He's not Tom Hanks here.)
Robert Zemeckis put out an all-star, CG version with Jim Carrey, Garry Oldman, Cary Elwes, Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright Penn and Collin Firth
Bill Murray starred in a bizzare modernization of the story in Scrooged with Bobcat Goldthwait.
Even Mister Magoo has his own version.
But for purposes of this hub, I've decided to focus on four versions in particular:
1970's Scrooge with Albert Finney and Alec Guinness
1983's Mickey's Christmas Carol staring the Disney staple cast
1984's A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott and David Warner
1992's The Muppet Christmas Carol with the Muppet cast of staples
It's interesting to watch these four and analyse them side-by-side. Some are more faithful to the source material than others, but in each case, the basic story and message are the same.
Ebeneezer Scrooge is given a chance to see what Christmas means, how it used to affect his life, what it's become, and what he can expect at the end of the road if he doesn't change his ways. It's iconic and unique. There's really nothing like it from before the book was published, but ever since then, it's been a very popular storyline.
For instance, how about Matthew McConaughey in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past?
But more specific to these four versions.
I grew up watching the George C. Scott version. It's very well done. The acting is solid and the cinematography is great. As far as I'm concerned, this is as near as you can get to a difinitive version of this story.
And when you consider how important Scott's The Changeling is to my Halloween celebration, I find it quite the coincidence.
But it does lean quite strongly on the drama. It can be fun and bright when it needs to, but it's primarily a drama. So, if you're looking for something a little lighter without moving on to what is generally considered "kid fare", maybe you should try the Albert Finney version, Scrooge.
There are catchy songs that will keep you humming, and Albert Finney is definitely having lots of fun. Which stands in contrast to Alec Guinness who had a miserable time making this film. Due to the harness and rig to make him fly, he even suffered a double-hernia which required surgery to fix.
And for the younger audiences, The Muppet Christmas Carol is wonderful. It too has great songs that you'll enjoy singing for hours on end even when you're trying to get them out of your head. Michael Caine is clearly having fun in his role which is also the first time he's ever sung for a movie. And for a Muppet production, they definitely don't soft-ball the tense parts. The visit of Statler and Waldorf as the Marley Brothers (with the addition of Robert Marley to the story) is much lighter in tone than the corresponding scene in either A Christmas Carol or Scrooge, but the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is quite haunting and well performed.
And Mickey's Christmas Carol is a wonderful adaptation of the story for an even younger audience. And at only 25 minutes, it's great if you don't have time for any of the longer ones.
Personally, they rank as follows:
Scrooge – 8 / 10
A Christmas Carol – 9 / 10
The Muppet Christmas Carol – 8 / 10
Mickey's Christmas Carol – 9 / 10
A Christmas Carol is rated PG for the heavy tone of the story, while the other three are rated G.
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