(A poster like that kind of gives a lot away...)
In 1994, some folk decided that a good way to make some quick cash in the holiday season would be a big spectacular version of a story everyone knows with fancy special effects and music by a well-liked composer with a lot of recognizable shows. And since Phantom of the Opera was already going, they decided to grab Alan Menken and have him do A Christmas Carol.
Now, Alan Menken is a marvelous composer, but he really needs a good lyricist. It’s all well and good to sell your show as from the composer of Beauty and The Beast, Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid, and Aladdin, but we liked those songs for their catchy melodies AND for their clever lyrics. And those lyrics were by Howard Ashman, who had died in 1991. If he hadn’t, I might be writing a more pleasant review, because we wouldn’t be listening to the work of the lyricist of Anastasia, Seussical, and the musical version of My Favorite Year. Regardless, the show was a big hit, and 10 years later, a film version made its way to yonder television, starring a bunch of people who must have owed somebody at NBC a favor.. Seriously. Scrooge, Past, Present, and Marley are/were all stars of shows on NBC, which also aired this. They must have had them for cheap. If only Brian Williams had played Bob Cratchit and Don Johnson been Future, we could have had a clean sweep of the major cast. Anyway, enough background, on with the story!
(Yeah, that's about how I felt after finishing this, too.)
We open on a lovely shot of CGI London. How on earth did they do sweeping opening shots of cities before CGI? I guess they had to work for a living. Sadly, unlike the ridiculously sweeping intro to the 2009 movie, they haven’t the budget to sweep through all of CGI London, so we just sweep down into CGI London’s magnificent Soundstage district and I don’t have to use the word sweeping anymore. As we bustle around the 2 blocks or so worth of Soundstage London, the camera tries desperately to make it look bigger than it is, and we listen to our overture and look at extras Victorianing all over the place and wonder when the hell the show’s going to start. There was some amusing diversion when a lad in a top hat picks the pocket of a rich man, and gives the wallet to a surly gentleman leaning on a wall. These are, of course, Dodger and Fagin from Oliver Twist. So delighted was I by this, I started looking for other Dickens cameos, but was disappointed. Eventually, I decided the guy with a rag over his face for no clear reason that kept showing up was Martin Chuzzlewit, a book about which I know only that Dickens thought it his best, and everyone else hated it.
Eventually, the camera gets dizzy from spinning around the set, and we go into the Royal Exchange, where everyone sings a jolly little song as they conduct their generic business. I seriously have no idea what these guys do. They’re clearly conducting business of some sort, signing papers and wearing top hats over their suspiciously modern haircuts, but I don’t know what it is. This interests me, as the exact nature of Scrooge’s business changes from adaptation to adaptation. So far we’ve seen him as a moneylender, a landlord, and a corn guy. This time they just decided to ignore it. Also present at the Exchange is a Beadle of some sort, and holy crap, this guy’s like my favorite character so far. He only gets like three lines in the whole movie, and he bellows them madly with eyes akimbo, apparently figuring that if he’s going to be a pointless minor character, then by gum, he’s gonna be an interesting one.
So everyone goes on singing about how nice Christmas is, while a man named Mr. Smythe runs about with his daughter looking for Ebenezer Scrooge. The general response he gets is, “Oh, you poor, dumb fucker.” Then they go back to singing, because hey, why not? Now listen up, ‘cause I’ll only say it once, the filming and staging of this number sucks. There’s no real choreography or even cohesion of movement, and the camera is rarely pointing at a sensible location when a lot of people are singing. This carries on through the whole movie, so unless I state otherwise, assume all musical numbers to be ineptly filmed.
(Hee hee. Beadle.)
Anyway, after what seems like forever, Scrooge comes in and we can finally get on with our plot. Scrooge is played by Kelsey Grammer, (NBC’s Frasier) who was only 49 when the movie was made. And I seriously can’t tell if Scrooge is supposed to be a younger man than usual here. He sure walks old, though. It’s so freaking weird when actors play Scrooge with an old man walk. Not that that’s an incredibly odd choice to make, but they always drop it like a [period-appropriate heavy thing I’m to lazy to think of right now] as soon as they become good. And Grammer’s is particularly silly. He leans heavily on his cane while hobbling about all bowlegged, which only adds to the larger issue of me having no idea how old he’s supposed to be. His hair is quite long, past his shoulders, and while mostly gray, retains a distracting touch of blond. Also his sideburns look like they have a mustache ready to pounce, but never follow through. I’m being too negative, let’s get back to the plot. Actually, let me say something good first. Scrooge wears brown. That’s a really neat touch. Scrooge almost always wears black in these, but at the time, brown would be notably cheaper, and it makes him look uglier. So stylistically and character-wise, it works. Now, on we prance…
Scrooge comes in with Cratchit fumbling along behind him, carrying a portable desk, inkwell, pen, papers, and a lot of other stuff. As Scrooge bustles ahead, informing people that “The price is too high”, and other things that sound nice and businesslike. The top hat squad sends Smythe over to Scrooge, where he begs an extension on his (Loan payment/Mortgage/Corn bill)since his wife has died, and it’s Christmas eve, and he has kids. Guess what Scrooge says? If you guessed “Take the time you need, Mr. Smythe. I’m sorry for your loss,” then I hate you. I quite like this addition. It’s one thing to see Scrooge crabbing at Bob, Fred, and the Chariteers, but seeing him dick someone over like this is all the better. But then the movie has to blow my goodwill by having Scrooge join the song.
I’m not saying Grammer can’t sing. We all know that’s not true, whether from the end credits of Frasier or the Simpsons episode where Sideshow Bob sings HMS Pinafore to Bart. I guess we’ll have to say he just doesn’t sing. He talks his way through most of his lyrics, and more often than not his voice strains and wobbles when he actually tries out a tune. His accent stays in the usual Frasier Crane mid-Atlantic mold, but he occasionally attempts to Brit it up, resulting in some really weird pronunciation. (“It’s a wonder you don’t go into Pahr-lee-yuh-mant!”) If only we could have had Scrooge played by an actual Brit with musical theater experience and a great skill at playing crabby characters. Tim Curry would be nice, and he played Scrooge on stage. Fortunately, Grammer only gets a bit out before being accosted by the usual squad of well-wishers.
The charity guys seem made for singing, and it’s kind of too bad they mishandled them so much here. For one thing, there’s three of them. Isn’t four the traditional number for close-harmony groups? So if you’re going to add to Dickens’ two, why stop at just one more? I wouldn’t mind if there was a point to the third, but one has a bag for donations, one has a book for names, and one holds nothing and has no lines to himself. POINTLESS. Scrooge dismisses them in song, or maybe poem, ignoring Bob, who is asking if he might run home early, as his son is sick. Scrooge finally listens, giving in a bit too quickly, and starts off home, meeting his nephew in the street.
Fred was made for musicals, wasn‘t he? The guy’s so cheery when not busy being Roger Rees, and hearing him invite Scrooge to dinner in song just seems so right. He should sing in non-musical versions. As I mentioned, they meet out on the street of Soundstage London, rather than the office. (“I was just on my way to see you, Uncle!” exclaimed Fred. “Don’t beth-har,” pronounced Kelsey Grammer.) Too bad this is one of those ineptly filmed numbers, and we don’t see Fred’s face clearly until he’s halfway through his first verse. Sadly, I was already pretty much used to it. Scrooge bahs and humbugs him off with some truly silly lyrics - does rice have anything to do with Christmas, or did they just need a rhyme for twice? - and Fred just sort of wanders away. Nice guy, but when a character makes his appearance in such a short scene, he or she needs to be played by an actor with a little something extra to really stick in the audience’s mind. Someone like a young Tim Curry.
(Oh, look. It's Almost-As-Tall-As-His-Dad Tim)
As he continues galumphing his way through Soundstage London, he comes across a lamplighter, played by Jane Krakowski (NBC’s 30 Rock) who falls from her ladder and asks Scrooge to help her reach the light, saying that her husband’s sick, and he’ll lose his job if she doesn’t do it. And boy did I just explain it a lot more eloquently than the awkward lyric replacement they used to make the character a woman. Scrooge does not care. He then passes a barker (Jesse L. Martin, NBC’s Law and Order) selling tickets for a charity music hall show. Scrooge has no time for this. Then a black-clad blind beggar accosts him for change. Scrooge tells her to go forth, be fruitful, and multiply, though not in so many words. (If you don’t like that joke, I defend myself by pointing out I stole it from Woody Allen.) They all tell him in turn, that he will regret not helping them, and since they’re played by celebrities and their way of telling him vaguely relates to the past, present, and future, you get no points for guessing what comes next.
Scrooge continues on his lumber home, and passes Mrs. Smythe’s funeral procession, whereupon the Smythe daughter turns to him and songs him a little “God Bless Us Everyone” song. Wait - they’re just having the funeral now? Close to dark on Christmas Eve? And less than 15 minutes after meeting with their (Banker/Corn dealer/Gendarme)? That just seems weird.
What’s more, he seems to wobble back and forth between caring and contrite and bitter and hard-hearted at the drop of a hat, even before he sees any ghosts. When the funeral passes him, he tips his hat and looks all remorseful while the Little Smythe Girl sings at him. And by the way, thanks for stealing Tim’s catchphrase.
Speaking of Weirdly-Tall Tim, they add him in earlier here, showing him accompanying Bob on the way home. They stop to buy a chicken from the poulterer, who will be the same guy Scrooge gets the turkey from at the end. Nice touch, that. Sets up his knowing who Bob is, and adds a personal level to his bringing him the bird later. Then Bob and Tim head home, with Tim up on the shoulders and all. They really look great together, and this is the first Cratchit we’ve seen who looks really Cratchitty. Short, thin, poorly dressed, and balding, with a stubbly little beard and a lower-class accent. He also sniffles and sneezes throughout the film as a sort of running gag, but it contributes a lot to his looking pathetic, so I don’t mind. By the way: Do you suppose Peter and Belinda and Martha and the other two ever get jealous of Tiny Tim getting all this special attention from their father? Maybe they want to go to church, too! Oh, who am I kidding, No kid wants to go to church.
Anyway, Scrooge harrumphs his way to his apartment, wobbling like a mime with CP and choking out a reprise of his earlier musical Christmas hate. He finally gets home, and it’s aboot dang time. I’m ready for some ghosty action here. True to form, Marley’s face appears on the knocker. I’m gonna be honest now, and admit that I’ve almost never liked this scene in movies. The book describes the knocker as becoming Marley’s face without “undergoing any intermediate process of change”. And that looks stupid in a movie. You need like a morph effect or something. But almost every live action movie has the face just appear superimposed on the door, and it never looks even kind of good. In this particular case the absurdity is heightened by the fact that it’s broad daylight out rather than the usual foggy darkness, and the fact that Scrooge doesn’t react with fear or awe, just some sort of constipated puzzlement. It’s kind of like the same face he makes for the rest of the movie, but with a PA pulling on his neck to stretch it back a little.
Scrooge has a brief exchange with his housekeeper, berating her, naturally. Well, she’s gonna steal your shit when you die and sell it to a scabby hobbit, so just you wait. I guess she’s not grave-robbing level fed up with him yet, since she just rolls her eyes and wanders home. She probably thinks he’s tired from a busy day of (Banking/data entry/pimpin’). Once inside, he locks the doors, gets his gruel, and proceeds to shuffle around in his bathrobe and mutter crabby things to no one in particular. Like Fred Sanford. But before long, the wind’s a-blowin’, the doors are a-slammin’, and the bells are a-’ringin’, and who should walk in but… George Costanza in Kabuki drag.
(You can stuff your sorries in a sack, mister!)
Okay, that was unfair. Jason Alexander (NBC’s Seinfeld) doesn’t really look or sound much like George Costanza, and he’s a highly experienced and talented musical actor. I also don’t have a problem with a short, round Marley. I’m all for different body types in these things. Nonetheless, he still doesn’t work for me. While Alexander’s good at nice guys and jerks, scary is something he can’t quite handle. He also doesn’t use an accent, and when he tries to do a pained scream… Well, danged if he doesn’t sound just like George Costanza. Ah, if only the Marley role had gone to another actor. Actually British, maybe, with a similar rotund physique, but a more scary edge. Maybe Tim Curry.
Anyway, his song is all about how miserable he is and how torturous his afterlife has become. He’s joined by a squad of ghosts whose maladies are all lame puns. They wander forward in between verses and say things like “I was bad to the bone!”, “I never had a heart!”, and “I wouldn’t lend a hand!” And I’m not describing them to you, because you’ve already guessed. You probably think I’m going to mock this, but I seriously love lame puns. I have three seasons of Rocky and Bullwinkle on DVD. And a season back then was like 400 episodes.
After Marley is gone, it’s time for The Ghost of Christmas Past, and her introduction starts out pretty cool, with her appearing in the smoke of Scrooge’s candle. She then manifests, and sure enough, she’s a clean and sassy-haired version of the lamplighter. After fully forming, she… um… does a sexy pole dance on Scrooge’s bed. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for sexy pole dances by Jane Krakowski, but there’s a time and place. Frankly, Krakowski is just weird in this role, and unlike all my high-minded protestations of being able to see past a sitcom past to the actor within, I don’t think that applies to the Actor of Sitcoms Present, as I keep feeling like I was watching Jenna Maroney in a role typically unsuited for her. The role was originally played onstage by diminutive Irishman (read: possible leprechaun) Ken Jennings, who played the role with bright and cheery energy, and was male, as opposed to this film, where the role is played slow and seductive and in a terrible fake accent, with lines awkwardly changed due to gender. What we need is another short man with a legit accent and high energy. Tim Curry?
(Man, the Jackie Jormp-Jomp movie got weird.)
So she shows Scrooge a great big book of his life, and suddenly they’re flying through the air, which is odd, since every so often they flash back to them looking through the book in the bedroom. Are they flying around inside the book? Who knows. The first place she takes him is a new one. In a typically spooky Victorian courtroom, we see Scrooge’s father being sent to a debtor’s prison, thus providing a motivation for his son’s future miserliness and greed. At first I didn’t mind this addition. After all, so much of Dickens’ writing was based on his own miserable childhood, when this very thing happened to his father. But then I realized that if this was the defining moment for young Scrooge, he wouldn’t be all in favor of hurling everyone else into prison for being poor. So never mind. Scrooge’s mom comforts the kids, and… wait… I though she died giving birth to Fan! Oh, whatever. I’m too lazy to analyze that now, so let’s pretend none of this has happened. We find Scrooge typically miserable in school, until his sister comes to get him and he is whisked off to Fezziwig’s to be an apprentice (banker/solicitor/rubber chicken manufacturer), and we find ourselves in the most obvious setup for a musical number ever, “Mr. Fezziwig’s Annual Christmas Ball”. It’s a fun number, though the dancing is horribly filmed, as usual. Mr. and Mrs. F skip about telling everyone to enjoy themselves and talk about how awesome their parties are. It’s actually a lot of fun. Mr. F is played by Brian Bedford, making him the first Robin Hood to make an appearance in this blog. He’s full of energy, eminently likeable, and has a lot of heart that really shies through. This is not to say that Tim Curry wouldn’t have done a fine job.
Young Scrooge is also poking around, naturally. The final straw in this change in format thing came about because I was considering the addition of a Young Scrooge category to avoid making the main Scrooge section too long, but I didn’t like the way it flowed. Wasn’t that fascinating? Along the lines of the Muppet’s Y.S. not sounding a damn thing like Michael Caine, this guy takes it a step farther and doesn’t look even slightly like Kelsey Grammer. He actually looks like Neil Patrick Harris filtered through Marc Warren. And boy do I wish one of them was in this movie, because this guy is hella boring. Well, someone’s got to make his fiancee look like she has the faintest glimmer of charisma. And she needs all the help she can get, being played by Jennifer Love Hewitt. Scrooge sees her dancing at the party and is instantly seized with an urge to brush her mane and feed her some oats. I’m mightily disappointed in the lady of the film, named Emily here instead of Belle, for reasons unclear. Well, the name only comes up once in the book, maybe they didn’t notice. She sings an awkward little song with him as they dance, and I get weirded out. Everyone’s dancing, so there’s music playing for reals, so are they dancing to her song, or is she singing to the music that’s playing, or are they in their own little thing here? Damn, musicals should just try to avoid this sort of thing. They should also try to avoid casting Jennifer Love Hewitt. She’s not terrible, certainly good enough for an okay supporting role in a high school play, if the town was small and not too big on art education. I just think they could do better.
(No silly hat to make fun of. Just payois and TP shreds. And that mocks itself.)
We now go to the opening of Scrooge and Marley’s, and to the movie’s credit, young Marley is a creditable young Jason Alexander in both looks and voice. This kicks off a sort of montage where we see Scrooge and Marley’s strengthening bond, their mutually growing greed and ruthlessness, and old Scrooge’s regret. There’s one fabulous moment where Fezziwig himself comes asking for a loan and Scrooge turns him down, ignoring his good advice and appeal to his humanity. Damn, this is good stuff. This movie better crap up soon, or I’m not going to - Oh, good, it’s Jennifer Loves Chachi.
She trots in wearing some kind of a burlap shawl with her hair all undid, looking quite sloppy. This is really inexplicable. She wasn’t portrayed as poor in the prior scene, and she’s engaged to a prospering young businessman. So why does she have no proper dress, or ridiculous hat? Maybe she was too bummed to put it on, since she’s dumping him. And dump she does, walking away. There’s some good acting here as Grammer pleads with his past self to follow her, and the way the young guy’s considering it, you see him just on the verge - until he tosses her ring in a cashbox with the rest of the assets. Following this is the return of Alexander and Grammer in shorter wigs giving us the Death of Marley. This is an okay scene, but the romantic part is the high point, and this scene doesn’t really tell us anything except that Marley’s dead, which I think we already got. I’m probably being a little harsh, but that’s because before Horseyface walked in, the ghost said that she had one more thing to show Scrooge. This is two things. Your time is up, Past. Let’s make with the Present. He’s played by the only likeable character in Rent, so I‘d like to see how he handles this piece of crud.
As Marley’s death rattle fades, we cut to Scrooge lying in bed as if waking up from a dream. The ghost flickers in his candle’s smoke, nagging at him until she is unceremoniously extinguished, and that’s the end of (OBSCURE JOKE ALERT) the Blonde Phantom. Scrooge is immediately awakened by a mysterious light and goes to his sitting room to discover it is emanating from… um… Jesse L. Martin’s crotch.
(In lieu of a photo of his crotch, here's a photo of his staff. Wocka wocka.)
Seriously, when Scrooge enters, the ghost is surrounded by an unearthly glow that seems to center itself, for some reason, just below his waist. “Boo,” he says, because he is a ghost. So far my favorite actor in the movie is off to a rough start. Fortunately, he gets right to the singing, wandering around Scrooge’s apartment and making fun of him, including a fun moment where he tosses an apple to Scrooge, who just stares at it as it hits his chest and thumps to the floor. But that’s hardly the biggest move the ghost has, as Scrooge finds himself magically transported to a theater where the ghost puts on a vaudeville/music-hall/pantomime show about how great charity is and how Scrooge is missing out. You know, I always thought this story needed more dancing girls in it. At one point they throw toys into the audience, and Scrooge catches one and sticks it in his pocket, looking around all paranoid. Yeah, those kids are really about to try to jack your crappy free prize. The Little Smythe Girl is in the audience too, and looks at him all gloomy. Man, don’t bring him down, he’s trying to enjoy the show!
Actually, there’s little chance of that happening, as the actors bring Scrooge up onstage, which he reacts to about as well as (OBSCURE JOKE ALERT) Wayne Jarvis. I can’t really tell you what happened next, because at this point, I found myself distracted by the clarinet player’s sideburns and his enthusiasm for clarinetting, both of which are prodigious. The next time I look at the screen, the ghost is walking down the stage holding his robe open as the girls walk out of it. I imagine this is meant to give a clown-car effect, but since his back’s to the audience, and he’s right at the edge of the screen, it’s obvious he’s just walking down the line. Seriously, you’re a movie, you could do some editing here. At the end of the show, Scrooge tosses the Little Smythe Girl his toy. Hooray! He’s redeemed! Can we end the movie now?
No, because now it’s time for a stroll around Soundstage London, where a boy is leaning out a window and shouting “Happy Christmas!” at everyone. I’m glad the ghost told me this was Tiny Tim, because I don’t think I would have remembered otherwise. Kid’s bland. Also, I think part of his disability is that he has spastic arms. His waving out of the window is more like he’s got an invisible cocktail shaker in each hand, and as we go into his room and he begins singing, his arms awkwardly jut about like he’s the inflatable tube guy that’s outside the Arby’s on the way to my school every Wednesday. (I know that‘s a very inside reference, but you know the kind I mean.) At one point, he literally makes the Strong Bad heavy metal gesture. So so awkward. And his hairstyle is so modern, I thought I was watching Robin Hood for a second. Anyway, soon Bob comes in and takes over the bulk of the song, which is just better for everyone. The Cratchit family dinner is usually a bit of a morose affair in these adaptations, so it’s nice that in this one, they really do seem just insanely happy to be with each other. And their happiness is shared as the song spills out into Soundstage London with its wonderful scenic views of Matte Painting London.
(The Ghost of Pimpin' Present)
I know I said I wasn’t going to make a big deal out this, but holy god, this number is filmed so badly. In our previous group numbers, everyone was singing, and the camera was just positioned awkwardly. In this one, small groups sing in turns, and if the camera’s pointing at the wrong ones, it’s really weird. Like when two or three women are singing about helping the poor and “saving the sinners from sin”, and the visual is a young couple dancing with each other. Or maybe that was the sin, I don’t know. Other notables in this scene include a guy in a brown top hat and purple coat, a.k.a. Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka; the Victorian versions of the sailors from On the Town (“New York is thataway, man!” “Thanks, Kid!”), some alcoholic bums, and some dancing urchins being chased by dancing bobbies. They, too are darn happy it’s Christmas. And speaking of happy it’s Christmas, let’s check in on London’s blandest cheermeister, Fred Holliwell! (Spellcheck update: Cheermeister corrects automatically to choirmaster. Also, the credits inform me that Fred‘s last name here was Anderson, for no reason. It‘s not even mentioned.) Fred and his friends are less harsh on Scrooge than usual, good-naturedly pitying him. Harshest is Fred’s son, whooooo…. Son? What the hell? That kid’s like thirteen! Fred’s like… I don’t know, twenty-five. Anyway, the kid’s an ass, and sings that he hopes Scrooge’s dinner gets cold. Yeah, shut up, kid.
In the big finale, we see the Smythes at their sad yet optimistic dinner, and we cut between the Smythes, the Freds, the Cratchits, and one chunk of outside where everyone has joined. Two thoughts spring to mind. One: If they’re going to be jump cutting between the locations, why limit themselves to just those spots? Let’s movie it around a little bit! Go all over England, the world even! Oh, right. They have no money. Second, for every Beadle, there is an equal and opposite Fred’s Fat Friend. This guy looks so bored through all of the song, leaning against the fireplace as if the effort of being an actor paid to be in a musical film is sooooooooo draining. Sorry if I’m inconveniencing you by watching this, you ass. Gods know it’s inconveniencing me.
Once we’re done, we go through the usual rigmarole where Scrooge cares about Tim, and the ghost gets pissed at him, what with the prisons and the workhouses and half of his friends have AIDS and Benny just lost his cat. He then opens his robe which reminds me: I never thought to look carefully at what the Ghost wears under his robe but he’s usually shirtless. In the Scott version, the only other one where he specifically opens his robe, his legs are hidden. So… is he naked? No wonder Ignorance and Want are so messed up. Anyway, in this version, he’s fully dressed in brown slacks and a white shirt, and Iggy and Want are teenagers, so none of that nonsense. They are not only teenagers, but also two of the ugliest human beings I have ever seen in my life. I want to credit the makeup guys for a fantastic job. And if that’s not makeup… I hope the actors don’t read my blog.
(The website didn't have any shots of the hideous children, so here's a hideous wig.)
As usual, Scrooge is left wandering alone in the streets of London. I can tell he is repenting because his limp is better. Then… there’s a knock on his door. No clever way of getting him back to bed, nor a creepy Ghost of Christmas Future appearing in the streets. She just knocks on his door. And unlike the last two, who Scrooge just vaguely recognized as the lamplighter and hawker, she just shows up as the crazy blind lady. Scrooge tells her to lead they way and show what she must show and… and… Shit. Gets. Nuts.
As she prepares to lead Scrooge away, the Ghost sheds her cloak, revealing herself dressed in shimmering white cloth, her face fully visible. She takes Scrooge straight to the graveyard, where an enormous crowd is singing about dancing on his grave. The song is appropriately moody and spooky, as is the crowd of gravediggers, undertakers, and hooded priests singing the song. They all move in an exaggerated, theatrical dance that’s probably unchanged from the original stage choreography, but it really works here.
As they sing, all the usual future scenes float mistily through the graveyard as short songs set to reprises of earlier numbers. First we see Scrooge’s old colleagues, who here not only didn’t go to his funeral, but don’t remember his name. More importantly, we see THE BEADLE HOLY FUCK YEAH, HE’S BACK!!! Their song is to the tune of the opening, only they changed the opening number from the original stage version and never fixed this part, so they wind up singing a reprisal of a song that’s not actually in the movie. Whoops. Next, we see Mrs. Dilber and the undertakers stealing Scrooge’s sheets and curtains and even the nightshirt from right off his body. His dead, extremely hairy body. They sell them to Old Joe, and then Mrs. Dilber gets beaten up by the men, who steal her cut. You just can’t trust some people. Finally, we see Tim’s family praying over his pathetic wooden grave marker, Bob singing a slow version of a song he sang to Tim earlier, with the exact same lyrics.
(Sarcastic hand gestures help no one, The Ghost of Christmas Future.)
The ghost then shows Scrooge his own gravestone, and he reads it aloud. It begins “Here lies Ebenezer Scrooge, the miser. Died scorned and unmourned…” and gets worse from there. I love this way of doing things. It calls to mind the crazy nightmare future of Richard Donner’s parody Scrooged. And it only makes sense. This is supposed to be Scrooge’s worst nightmare, so let’s go nuts. After the reading, the Ghost vanishes and Scrooge, alone in the graveyard, sings a song of repentance, and not too badly, either. Maybe they filmed this scene first and he blew his voice out. Once everyone knows that he’s good and sorry, the cemetery gates swing open, and who should walk in but the Little Smythe Girl. What, again? Jeepers. Hold on - is she responsible for all of this? Did she lay a hoodoo curse on him? Well, she sings the same God Bless Us Everyone song from before, and a choir of children comes in to join her, symbolizing Scrooge’s forgiveness or something and OH MY CRAP, I AM SO TIRED OF THIS MOVIE.
After the kids sing their song for a few verses, Mama Scrooge and Fan come and join them. Why? Are they ghosts? Did they do all of this? Why does Fan look 8 if she died when she was in her twenties? Why is Dodger in the crowd? DID HE DO THIS? Anyway, Scrooge is very moved, which doesn’t seem to work out for him, as the ground beneath him cracks, nearly sending him tumbling to his grave. Then the Ghost comes swooping down on him from out of the sky grinning like a (INCREDIBLY OBSCURE JOKE/BAD PUN ALERT) Gwynnplane, whereupon Scrooge wakes up in bed.
Delighted, he runs downstairs and accosts a boy singing a carol outside his home. Hey, it’s Dodger again! Maybe it was his doing. Unlike the usual shouting from the window, Scrooge bodily drags the kid inside and slams the door. You’d think this would concern people, but this was before the invention of Chris Hansen. As per usual, he sends for the turkey, and offers a tip. Unlike usual, he seems absolutely giggly over it. “Keep… heeheehee… KEEP THE CHANGE!” he says. Jeez, I hope the novelty doesn’t wear off. After the kid leaves, Mrs. Dilber comes by, and Scrooge bodily lifts her off the ground and kisses her, presumably hoping to seduce her away from grave robbing him. He also mentions her name, which is not Mrs. Dilber, but something else that I‘m not going to bother with remembering. This scene marks not only the third pointless name change of the film, but also the first and only time it takes advantage of the fact that Kelsey Grammer is a giant gorilla of a man. Such are the pitfalls of playing an enfeebled Scrooge.
(Dignity, always dignity...)
Speaking of which, as Scrooge walks out of his home it becomes clear that, as predicted, he has dropped the limp like I dropped that Tim Curry joke. He prances about all over the place, handing out checks and charity and cheer and cheesecake, all the while coming off as smug and self-satisfied about the whole thing. He helps out Smythe (Who, in another lovely little moment, looks about ready to punch Scrooge in the face as he approaches), he helps out the charity guys, and he buys a load of tickets off the barker for all the kids. The barker, the lamplighter, and the blind hag all sing about how wow, Scrooge is nice, and maybe the spirit of Christmas got to him. Then they all skip away together. at this point, I still have no idea if they were really ghosts or not. And not in a way like the movie left it up to me to decide. More like the movie decided, then changed its mind, then again like fourteen times. Okay, almost done - Tim jumps up on Scrooge’s shoulders, everyone from Mrs. Not-Dilber to Martin Chuzzlewit dances down the street near a really fake-looking snowman, and we end on a freeze frame. Seriously. Like a damn Family Ties episode.
So that's that. All in all, it was a pretty enjoyable, fluffy version, albeit with some real ridiculous stuff thrown in. By the end, I was pretty desperate for it to be over, but I can see myself enjoying it with friends, or showing it to my students. To that end, I tried to show it to my students, but the other 5th grade teacher wanted to show them the Scott version. Yes, it's one of the best ones out there, but it's not going to hold the attention of a bunch of ten year olds. Well, I'd like to close with something really witty, but my final note just says "evryone singin' gnoin'." So... yeah, whatever that means. Thanks for spending some of your February reading 206 pages about Christmas.
(Everyone singing and... Gnoing?)