Ossus Library Index Drama Movie Index

A CHRISTMAS CAROL

Directed by David Hugh Jones (1999, TNT)
Starring Patrick Stewart, Richard E. Grant, and Bernard Lloyd

Scrooge is visited by the ghosts of Christmas, in an appeal to have him to change his ways.

 

 

4 stars

December 22nd, 2015 on Video for the 3rd time

 
   

I still think Patrick Stewart gives a great performance in this movie, though the effects are rather lackluster (especially on video on a high-def screen), and there is a bit of overacting. The story is relevant, and is very well told.

 

 

4 stars

December 24th, 2004 on Video for the 2nd time

 
   

Perhaps because of my previous low regard for this version, I was quite impressed when viewing the movie this time around. I thought the production, from the sets to the people, with the exception of future-ghost, were really well done. It is true, as mentioned below, that Patrick Stewart was hit-and-miss with the character of Scrooge himself. Much of the time, the character was missing the emotional charge that makes us as viewers feel something for him, whether it is hatred at the beginning, or the joy of redemption. However, during his trips through the past, present and future, the character became more interesting, as he became more emotional.

I truly enjoyed the Christmases from the past, especially Fezziwig's place. The character of Scrooge's former boss is played by the same actor who portrayed the Baron Harkonnen in the Dune miniseries! Also from that same miniseries is the actress who plays Bob Cratchit's wife. While, as mentioned below, Tiny Tim had less of an impact with me, the rest of the family had more of one. In the future, only the ghost really bothered me, as it felt wrong and like a poorly executed effect.

Through the various times, especially in the present, this version of the movie gives us, I think, the best indication that Scrooge knows what he has to do, even before the spirits tell him. When they get to the future, he wonders who the people are talking so meanly about, then he begins to suspect, and then he is afraid that he knows. By the time he gets to his grave, he knows that he must change his ways, and is terrified of the change.

While there were some areas that weren't up to a level with other adaptations, and even the better moments in this movie, most of it was quite impressive, and thoroughly enjoyable. It's a good thing that I decided to give this adaptation another chance.

 

 

C++

December 17th, 2000 on Video

 
   

Enjoyable, though it lacks the passion that I expected, both from an adaptation of Dickens' novel, and based on Stewart's one-man stage production.  The sets were good, and many effects were, as well.  But the acting was sub-par for the most part, and what happened to the Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-Come?

Most of the movie was quite different in design and atmosphere from other adaptations.  The people were depicted as nineteenth century London low class, and very poor, which was excellent.  But it also seemed to mean lower quality acting by most characters.  The two exceptions were the ladies trying to pawn off Scrooge's bedsheets and bedcurtains.  That whole scene was exceptional. 

Unfortunately, I never quite got into Stewart as Scrooge.  Something seemed just wrong about it.  It could be his depiction of the man.  Instead of a mean person, Scrooge is seen here to be a lonely recluse who wants to be left alone, and doesn't realise that he desperately needs company.  He is insecure, in his own way, and he projects his insecurity as bitterness out on others. 

The beauty of this, however, is that we can see the turnaround in the character  very easily.  Stewart projects the regret of past decisions into Scrooge's face so well that we actually felt for him.  In that way, his visions of the past started him on a very visible path of redemption.  The turning point in his attitude is obvious.  For he shows simple recognition of his childhood, and we can see that although he was a loner back then, he actually had friends.  At the party, he starts tapping his toes in time to the music, and he laughs as if he was actually participating at Fezziwig's ball.  And when he sees his fiancÚ, he is struck by such heavy emotions.  The past was definitely the high point of the movie. 

Christmas present was a little lackluster.  I thoroughly enjoyed the gathering at Fred's, but Bob Cratchit's house left me quite cold.  I did not feel for Tiny Tim the way I normally do.  The scenes within the jail, lighthouse and ship on the sea were haunting, and very well done.  I liked the connected singing very much, though I wondered what exactly it had to do with Scrooge.  It seemed very disconnected.  I understand that these scenes come directly from the novel, and this is the first adaptation to include them.  Upon thinking about it, I figured out that it must have to do with Scrooge's self-isolation.  The spirit is showing him that even people who are away from their loved ones, and people who are poor, or who have no other hope in life (in the jail), still celebrate Christmas with all their hearts.  Even if it's only for one night, they all have hope.

Christmas future was terribly done, except for the pawn shop.  The stock exchange (did that actually exist back then?) scene was very standard, so that nothing stood out.  But the bedroom scene and the graveyard scenes were really bad.  And Stewart's fall into the grave was extremely poorly executed. 

I found the opening scenes, in Scrooge's offices, to be off-putting, whether because of directing or acting, I can't be sure.  Maybe it just took too long to get into this character of Scrooge.  I also did not enjoy it when Scrooge woke up, and his laugh "caught in his throat", nor the turkey scene.  Man, that's one ugly turkey! 

My favourite scene of all, when Scrooge pretends he's going to fire Cratchit, then gives him a raise, was completely ruined, also. 

As for the acting, I was not impressed with any of the ghosts.  Past looked creepy, where for some reason I was expecting warm.  Present had absolutely no emotion, and many of the speeches felt very flat.  Future was just poorly done, period, so that it was laughable instead of creepy.  I did not particularly enjoy Cratchit, but I loved Fred.  He was actually the only character who had any emotion.  Stewart was hit and miss with Scrooge.  He was stern and emotional when he had to be, but often seemed simply grouchy!  I did quite enjoy, however, the scene where he begs Fred's forgiveness and asks to join the dinner.  Not the best rendition of the scene, but still very good.  Jacob Marley was creepy, as he should be, and the part where Scrooge has to help him close his mouth was quite unsettling. 

Many of the special effects were really well done.  Seeing Scrooge and the Ghosts step through walls was spectacular.  The tornado that carried them from the lighthouse to the ship at sea was also nice.  And most of the transitions were professionally done. 

So I would say this is not the best rendition of the movie ever.  There have definitely been better ones, but it has a higher calibre than some of the versions out there, definitely.

 
   

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