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on 19 November 2003
Well, what can be said?
To begin with, several reviews have already bemoaned the fact that Stewart doesn't 'fit' with their idea of how Scrooge should look.
Perhaps not, but this was an attempt an contemporizing this classic, and Stewart pulls this off superbly.
In a nutshell, forget the creaky old 'classic' versions (and I'll get shot down in flames for saying that!), and go for this lavishly stylish production.
The whole atmosphere of this film exudes the magic of Christmas Spirit, whilst the directing is tightly-polished enough to ensure that your whole family will quite happily watch this year-after-year.
Don't hesitate - buy it now!
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on 4 March 2004
Given the enormous potential for failure, it takes either a lot of guts or a big ego to remake a classic and step into a pair of shoes worn so well by the likes of George C. Scott and Alastair Sim - you don't have to have grown up in an English speaking country to take those two names and their portrayal of Dickens's miserly anti-hero for granted as part of your Christmas experience. And I suspect a good part of both guts and ego was at play in this production; but let's face it: after years of bringing Scrooge to the stage in a much-acclaimed one man show and after also having recorded the audio book version of "A Christmas Carol," a movie adaptation starring Patrick Stewart was probably due to come out sooner or later. Yet, while it does sometimes have the feel of another huge star vehicle for Stewart (even without the self-congratulatory trailer and brief "behind the scenes" features included on the DVD), his experience and insight into the character of Scrooge allow him to pull off a remarkable performance, and to make the role his own without letting us forget who originally wrote the tale. From a "humbug" growled out from the very depth of his disdain and his audible desire to boil "every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips" with his own pudding and bury them with a stake of holly through their heart, to the "splendid" and "most illustrious ... father of a long, long line of brilliant laughs," coughed up and spit out after years of having been out of practice, this is the Scrooge that Dickens described; and Stewart obviously has the time of his life playing him.
This made-for-TV production is sometimes criticized for its use of special effects; I don't find those overly disturbing, though - in fact, they're rather low-key and for the most part used to show nothing more than what Dickens actually described. (This *is* a ghost story, remember?) Scrooge really does see Marley's face in his door knocker; we all know that Marley's ghost does indeed walk through Scrooge's doubly locked door ... and last but not least Dickens himself describes the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come as "shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand." (Granted, no gleaming lights for eyes, though.) The script could have spared a modernism here and there, but again, mostly the lines are exactly those that Dickens himself wrote. Even where the characters don't actually speak them, they are part of their reflections - such as Marley being buried and "dead as a door-nail" (which, after all, is the tale's all-important premise) and Scrooge's rather funny musings how the Ghost of Christmas Past might be deterred from taking him for a flight (where citing neither the weather nor the hour nor a head cold nor his inadequate dress would do). Richard E. Grant, known to TV audiences as Sir Percy Blakeney in the recent adaptations of "The Scarlet Pimpernel," moves to the opposite end of the social spectrum in his portrayal of gaunt, downtrodden Bob Cratchit; and he is a very credible caring father and husband, albeit a bit too well-educated - unlike the rest of his family, who speak and come across as decidedly more cockney. Joel Grey, whose Master of Ceremonies in "Cabaret" stands out as one of those "one of a kind" performances that are few and far between in film history, is almost perfectly cast as the Ghost of Christmas Past, combining the spirit's wisdom of an old man with his child-like innocence, frail stature and luminous appearance. A great supporting cast and solid cinematographic and directorial work round out an overall very well done production.
Many actors are remembered either for one career-making role or for a certain type they have cast. No doubt Patrick Stewart, who as a teenager had to face an ultimatum between a steady job and the theater and chose the latter, will go into film history as Captain Jean-Luc Picard of Star Treck's "Next Generation." But I would not be surprised if the other major role he will always be remembered for will be that of Ebenezer Scrooge - on stage, in audio recordings *and* in this movie adaptation, which successfully brings Dickens's timeless tale of bitterness, sorrow, redemption and the true meaning of Christmas to the 21st century, and which before long, I think, will attain the status of a classic in its own right. I know that I, for one, will be watching it again with renewed pleasure next Christmas.
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on 28 December 2003
Given the enormous potential for failure, it takes either a lot of guts or a big ego to remake a classic and step into a pair of shoes worn so well by the likes of George C. Scott and Alastair Sim - you don't have to have grown up in an English speaking country to take those two names and their portrayal of Dickens's miserly anti-hero for granted as part of your Christmas experience. And I suspect a good part of both guts and ego was at play in this production; but let's face it: after years of bringing Scrooge to the stage in a much-acclaimed one man show and after also having recorded the audio book version of "A Christmas Carol," a movie adaptation starring Patrick Stewart was probably due to come out sooner or later. Yet, while it does sometimes have the feel of another huge star vehicle for Stewart (even without the self-congratulatory trailer and brief "behind the scenes" features included on the DVD), his experience and insight into the character of Scrooge allow him to pull off a remarkable performance, and to make the role his own without letting us forget who originally wrote the tale. From a "humbug" growled out from the very depth of his disdain and his audible desire to boil "every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips" with his own pudding and bury them with a stake of holly through their heart, to the "splendid" and "most illustrious ... father of a long, long line of brilliant laughs," coughed up and spit out after years of having been out of practice, this is the Scrooge that Dickens described; and Stewart obviously has the time of his life playing him.
This made-for-TV production is sometimes criticized for its use of special effects; I don't find those overly disturbing, though - in fact, they're rather low-key and for the most part used to show nothing more than what Dickens actually described. (This *is* a ghost story, remember?) Scrooge really does see Marley's face in his door knocker; we all know that Marley's ghost does indeed walk through Scrooge's doubly locked door ... and last but not least Dickens himself describes the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come as "shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand." (Granted, no gleaming lights for eyes, though.) The script could have spared a modernism here and there, but again, mostly the lines are exactly those that Dickens himself wrote. Even where the characters don't actually speak them, they are part of their reflections - such as Marley being buried and "dead as a door-nail" (which, after all, is the tale's all-important premise) and Scrooge's rather funny musings how the Ghost of Christmas Past might be deterred from taking him for a flight (where citing neither the weather nor the hour nor a head cold nor his inadequate dress would do). Richard E. Grant, known to TV audiences as Sir Percy Blakeney in the recent adaptations of "The Scarlet Pimpernel," moves to the opposite end of the social spectrum in his portrayal of gaunt, downtrodden Bob Cratchit; and he is a very credible caring father and husband, albeit a bit too well-educated - unlike the rest of his family, who speak and come across as decidedly more cockney. Joel Grey, whose Master of Ceremonies in "Cabaret" stands out as one of those "one of a kind" performances that are few and far between in film history, is almost perfectly cast as the Ghost of Christmas Past, combining the spirit's wisdom of an old man with his child-like innocence, frail stature and luminous appearance. A great supporting cast and solid cinematographic and directorial work round out an overall very well done production.
Many actors are remembered either for one career-making role or for a certain type they have cast. No doubt Patrick Stewart, who as a teenager had to face an ultimatum between a steady job and the theater and chose the latter, will go into film history as Captain Jean-Luc Picard of Star Treck's "Next Generation." But I would not be surprised if the other major role he will always be remembered for will be that of Ebenezer Scrooge - on stage, in audio recordings *and* in this movie adaptation, which successfully brings Dickens's timeless tale of bitterness, sorrow, redemption and the true meaning of Christmas to the 21st century, and which before long, I think, will attain the status of a classic in its own right. I know that I, for one, will be watching it again with renewed pleasure next Christmas.
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on 17 November 2009
The only problem with this is was made for tv and so not made in wide screen, but it is by far the best version and we watch it every Cristmas eve AND IT REALLY DOES GET YOU IN TO CHRISTMAS SPRIT.... and then Christmas day we watch the fun and light hearted but still very good Muppet Christmas carol
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on 3 December 2000
Despite being a bit of an old cynic I found this version of Dickens' classic tale really very moving. It sometimes teeters on the edge but never quite becomes mawkish. The acting is first class from all the cast. I have never really cared for Richard E.Grant but I have to say that he's really impressive in this as Bob Cratchit- I don't remember the last time I saw him ACT. He's really rather good at it and should do it more often. Patrick Stewart is very classy as you would expect. I really can't recommend this video enough. I think that Dickens would have been pleased- which is the best you can say really!
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Nobody ever prepared for playing Ebenezer Scrooge as much as Patrick Stewart, who for years did a one-man recitation of "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens during the Holiday season. Eventually his mesmerizing performance was made available as an audiotape, which was certainly better than nothing, but it was difficult not to be disappointed that Stewart's performance was not captured on video. In 1999 this situation was somewhat rectified when Hallmark put together this made for television version of the classic Dickens tale.
The story begins with the funeral of Jacob Marley, who died on a Christmas Eve, and Ebenezer Scrooge musing on why doornails are particularly to be regarded as "dead." If there is one thing that distinguishes Stewart's performance it is emphasis on how Scrooge was responsible for his own sorry state. This time around there is less of an idea that the fates were not kind to Scrooge than there is that he made choices that he refuses to regret. His disdain for Christmas and its attendant joys and practices comes not so much from anger as it does from a sense of superiority, taking a rather perverse pride in putting the two gentlemen who make the mistake of coming to Scoorge & Marley for funds in their place.
The most insightful scene into the character of this Scrooge is when Marley's Ghost (Bernard Lloyd) appears. Scrooge returns to eating while doing the "more gravy than grave" speech and his inquiries about the meaning of spirits coming to visit him comes across as utterly reasonable, the product of intellectual curiosity more so than fear and trembling, and Marley replies in kind. Scrooge cannot understand why Marley is suffering given how good of a businessman he was in life. Of course, in due time, Marley and the other spirits will educated Scrooge accordingly.
I find the cover shot for the DVD/VHS of this film to be quite appropriate because I believe it represents the moment when Scrooge goes too far and provokes the visit from Marley's ghost and the rest of the spirits. A young boy, obviously symbolic of Tiny Tim, has the nerve to stand in front of Scoorge & Marley singing a Christmas carol ("Good King Wencelas"). Scrooge can endure only a single verse before he opens the door and threatens the child with a raised cane. The boy quickly flees, but the moment stays with us, a new affront in the litany of Scrooge's crimes against Christmas that we know so well. I have to admit, I was sure the young actor (Leagh Conwell) playing the caroller would return at the end as the boy Scrooge sends to fetch the big turkey in the window, but that is not what takes palce.
The spirit of rethinking roles extends to the ghosts as well, with Joel Grey as a somewhat menacing Ghost of Christmas Past and Desmond Barrit as a rather melancholy Ghost of Christmas Present. This production is also unusual in that the supporting cast does not show a lot of recognizable names. The exception would be Joel Grey, but the rule would be veteran character actors like Elizabeth Spriggs ("Sense and Sensibility") as Mrs. Riggs. The special effects are a hit and miss proposition, and while you want to take into account that this is "just" a television movie and not a theatrical film, it is more to the point to remember that this particular production was undertaken to get Patrick Stewart in front of the camera playing Ebenezer Scrooge. Alastair Sim in the 1951 version of "A Christmas Carol" remains the definitive Scrooge, but Stewart is a most reasonable second choice.
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on 1 February 2008
I remember thinking nine years ago 'What the hell do we need yet another version of A Xmas Carol for' (as great as the story is) and consequently, I avoided watching it. But years roll on quite swiftly, and eventually, I thought I'd give it a go, spurred on mainly by seeing Patrick Stewart on a few chatshows down the years and thinking what a nice bloke he was, completely unshowbizzy. He was without doubt a star in this film version, full of awe at what his ghosts are showing him, and full of humanity when he eventually saw the light.
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on 19 September 2003
Dickens would most definitely be happy with Stewart's performance as Scrooge. He is simply perfect for this role. His characterisitc voice and dominating presence resembles on the scrooge character perfectly. I cant think of a better movie to watch around Christmas Time !!! Vey enjoyable and truly in dickens style.
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on 6 May 2012
I search in vain for the "ideal" Christmas Carol (1977 BBC Production with Michael Hordern comes closest, for my taste), but, in my opinion, this production does NOT deserve much of the criticism leveled at it. Sometimes the text is modernized without improvement. Clearly too much money was spent on Marley's funeral at the beginning. I personally hoped that the "modern" production would have better special effects (memory fades; perhaps they were impressive in 1999). The performances of young Scrooge and Belle (among other minor characters) are somewhat lack-luster, and the Bob Cratchit is too funereal. But I must defend this production for its fine qualities, not the least of which is a VERY studied portrayal by Patrick Stewart.

Many "traditionalists" here criticize his decisions as an actor, but every choice he makes is perfectly motivated. One person was very upset that he did not anticipate his name on the tombstone until he actually saw it, but considering he does not even recognize his own room in which the body lies, this willful ignorance is not extraordinary. His fear of the body, as a neglected body, not as his own, is described in detail by Dickens in the book: "Oh cold, cold, rigid, dreadful Death, set up thine altar here." His sarcasm with Marley, the fact that he is still a curmudgeon after his awakening (just one that can laugh at himself) and his approach to just about every line (his quiet condescension as he says "I wish to be left alone") are clearly deliberate choices of one who knows the text VERY well. Traditional it is not, but it is believable and consistent, and the mark of a fine classical actor.

Other positive qualities of this production include (for the purists) that more detail from the story is found here than in any other version (although the Jim Carey cartoon takes a close second). For example, the ghost of Christmas present takes him to see the many "Christmas lunatics", as in the story. Usually his trips to the sea and to the mines are cut as extraneous, but here they also serve to tear him away from Fred's party, the one place he would like to be, and the one place he damned the day before. Fred's party is also the best of any production I have seen, as is the portrayal of Fred himself. I find it intriguing that the Ghost of Christmas yet to Come has the hand of a woman (although the costume is a bit obviously built up), and the I find the graveyard scene to be truly disturbing. Also, Joel Gray plays a Ghost of Christmas past that is both congenial and creepy.

It is beautifully filmed and will adequately "Spirit" up any house for Christmas, and you get more of the story than in any other production. Plus for the price you can't beat it. If you want a bit of Christmas spirit in combination with a bit of artistry, but don't want to spend alot of money, this will serve splendidly.

Also, my non-existent ideal Christmas Carol would include the Fred, Fred's party and the graveyard scene from this one, but that's just me.
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on 22 November 2011
Opinions as to which is the best adaptation of A Christmas Carol seem to vary greatly - everyone has their favourite, and everyone has a different reason for their choice. For some, it will be the film they grew up with as a child, for others it will be its faithfulness to the book.

Each film will stir different emotions in people, and regardless of what the majority think (for example, Kelsey Grammar's poorly received 2005 effort) each will always have its fans, and at the end of the day if a person gains pleasure from a film (no matter how good or bad it is) then so be it.

So, I'll add my sixpence to the pudding, and say that if I could only choose one version to watch, then Patrick Stewart would be my Scrooge of choice.

It has a somewhat cold and bleak feel to it, which in my opinion is how the book conveys the messages - it is a ghost story after all. With such a well read book, everyone already knows the ending, so any film has to work doubly hard to give the viewer something to get stuck into, something to make them feel they're experiencing the events for the very first time. For me, this version achieves this, and is what makes the ending all the more emotional. You really feel Scrooge's pain as he stands by and watches helplessly as events unfold before him, you feel his fear at what may be, and his guilt for his past deeds. I don't mind telling you that there were tears towards the end!

Patrick Stewart acts his little socks off, and this is one film that never fails to get me in the Christmas spirit. Merry Christmas one and all!
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