A Christmas Carol: The Musical - Film Review
By Hannah P.
Charles Dickens has written some of the best-loved and most adapted stories that you’ll ever come across. He had a gift for writing complex stories with more characters in one book than some authors could put into two books. A Christmas Carol is without a doubt one of his best-known works, and has been adapted for the screen many times. I read the book as a child, but this adaptation renewed my interest in the story. My family and I saw the film when it aired on TV in 2004, and we fell in love with it. Since then I have tried to watch other film versions of A Christmas Carol, but in my opinion every other adaption pales in comparison.
It is Christmas Eve in London, and everyone is bustling with preparations for the next day’s festivities. That is, everyone except old miserly Ebenezer Scrooge (Kelsey Grammar), who is busy collecting payments on loans and cares nothing for the cheerful activity going on about him. When a young widower and his daughter come to him to ask for more time to pay a debt, Mr. Scrooge says simply, “Your payment is due sir, tomorrow morning!” For Ebenezer Scrooge is hardhearted and cares only about making his fortune and saving his pennies.
That night Mr. Scrooge visited by the ghost of his old business partner, Jacob Marley (Jason Alexander), who bears the weight of many chains, a constant reminder of all the good that he never accomplished in his life. The ghost warns Scrooge to turn from his present path of selfishness and unkindness, in order to avoid ending up like the chain-bearing Marley. Then he tells Scrooge that three ghosts, the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present and the Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-be, will visit him.
When the clock strikes one the Ghost of Christmas Past (Jane Krakowski) appears and takes Ebenezer on a journey to rediscover his past. We learn what made Ebenezer the way he is in the present, about the events that shaped his life. When he was very young his father was imprisoned for debt, and his father’s words, “Make your fortune and keep it!” stuck with Ebenezer as he went through life. He was separated from his mother and sister, who both died before he had a chance to be reunited with them again. (We learn this is the reason he refuses to have anything to do with his nephew Fred, whose mother did not survive his birth.) We also see why Ebenezer seems to look so scornfully at people in love, having lost the one true love of his life after becoming greedy for wealth. Then Ebenezer finds himself back in his bed just before the clock strikes two, signaling the arrival of the Ghost of Christmas Present (Jesse L. Martin). This ghost guides him around London, showing him the true meaning of the Christmas spirit through people like Bob (Edward Gower) and Tiny Tim Cratchit (Jacob Moriarty). Bob is Scrooge’s humble clerk and Tiny Tim is his youngest son, who is ill and has to use a crutch. In spite of their family’s poverty, the Cratchit’s are truly happy because they have one another, for as Bob says, “I don’t need a fortune hidden in a shoe… because you mean more to me than anything.” The displays of Christmas spirit touch Ebenezer and start to melt his icy heart, but the ghost’s aren’t done with him yet. When the clock strikes three, the Ghost of Christmas Yet-To-Be appears and leads him into a vision of the future; a future that left unchanged yields nothing but sadness and grief for everyone. It is up to Scrooge to decide what to do, to continue in his current path and end up like the Ghost of Christmas Future shows, or to change his heart and make the world a better place for everyone.
This film may be made for television, but its production standards are high. The costumes, sets and performances are all wonderful and first rate. The score is also memorable, composed by Alan Menken, well known for scoring films like Beauty and the Beast and Enchanted. My only complaint would be that the special effects aren’t as realistic as they could have been.
There is not much in this movie that might deter families away from watching it. There are a few intense, even scary scenes, such as the scene where Jacob Marley’s ghost visits Ebenezer. There are a few ghostly people who make a creepy appearance (coming through walls and the floor) and one of them apparently met his end through beheading because he carries his head in his arms (at one point he tosses the head to Ebenezer who promptly tosses it back). And the scenes in the future are somewhat dark and spooky, taking place in a graveyard. But there is no violence, sexual content, bad language or negative messages. The main themes in A Christmas Carol are redemption and hope. Scrooge is redeemed through the visits of the ghosts who come to show him the error of his ways. “Tear me into shreds and recreate me, show me that it’s not to late to learn!” Scrooge says (or rather, sings) when he comes to realize all the bad things that he has done, and how those deeds affect the people he knows. In the end, Ebenezer is made into a new man, and strives to right the wrongs he has done when he is given a second chance.
If you are looking for a good Christmas film to watch with your family this year, or are looking for something new, I would heartily recommend this film. It is a good movie to add to a holiday film collection, but it is something you can enjoy year ‘round.