Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Film Review: Scrooge (A Christmas Carol)

"Scrooge"  *** (out of ****)

Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" is a very familiar story yet it is one of the few stories that manages to "get me" every time. I have seen various adaptations of the story over the years, from "Mickey's Christmas Carol" (1983) to live stage productions. Here in Chicago, it is part of a Chicago tradition to see the Goodman Theater's production during the Christmas season, to various film adaptations. And, no matter the adaptation, the story always brings me to tears.

Number one, it is not often I admit that and number two it is not often to come across a story that can do that. No matter how many times I see this story, it has that strong emotional effect on me. It would seem to me, there just isn't any way you can get this story wrong. It is too good.

What effects me, and I would imagine effects others as well, is the message of the story. To show goodness and kindness towards man. Not just during Christmas but throughout the year. Life may deal us some serious blows, without question life is a miserable experience, a grueling struggle, but we cannot allow ourselves to become so jaded that hatred fills our hearts. Greed and corruption mustn't consume us (we aren't politicians after all). We must live a life of dignity and generosity.

Most American movie critics (sheep) and the public like to refer to this British adaptation as the definitive screen version. Released in Britain under the title "Scrooge" in 1951, it was released in the U.S. under the title "A Christmas Carol". Actually I am not as familiar with this version as I am the 1938 screen adaptation starring Reginald Owen. That was the version we would watch growing up. It was my late grandmother's favorite movie. She would watch it any time of the year. It became part of our Christmas tradition.

Nearly everyone should, on some level, be familiar with this classic Dickens story, so, I won't go into much detail over the plot. Instead I'll just focus on observations.

Initially the viewer notices the approach actor Alastair Sim has taken in his role of Ebenezer Scrooge. Sim, who was a well known character actor in British cinema, gives the character a bit of a comic, sardonic edge. Sim and director, Brian Desmond Hurst, try to find the comedic nature in the miserable old man. After Scrooge is met by the spirits does Sim give a more dramatic performance and by the end of the movie reverts back to a comical nature.

Something that really stuck out to me, and I am not sure why I hadn't noticed it before, is the lack of Liberal, secular Christmas symbols. There is no Santa Claus, no Frosty the Snowman. There is a moment when one of the spirits mentions a baby born in Bethlehem, of course a reference to Jesus Christ, which is suppose to be what Christmas is about, before retailers got their hands on it.

A lot of people mention the "dark nature" of this movie. They believe it is more mature than other adaptations. They believe it is more in-depth. I don't quite agree, but, I'm normally someone that doesn't follow the masses, so, I'm not the best barometer of public opinion.

"Scrooge" is a fine movie. As I say, it is difficult to not find the humanity in this story. The story is what carries each and every adaptation through.