Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Carol: The Movie

2001 brought a new animated adaptation of A Christmas Carol. Titled Christmas Carol: The Movie, it featured Simon Callow as Scrooge (and Dickens in a removable framing sequence, notably Mr. Callow has reprised the role twice on Doctor Who), Kate Winslet as Belle, and Nicholas Cage as Marley.

The animation on this one is nothing to write home about. While a well-designed production, the overall appearance looks definitely more suited for a television production rather than a theatrical release, which this one got.

Now, the story adaptation. Belle is given an expanded role in the present. Instead of marrying, she works at an orphanage that is having trouble and she sends a letter to Scrooge for help. Old Joe appears early and does business with Scrooge. It is suggested that Tiny Tim dies of pneumonia brought about by Scrooge tossing cold water at him as he sang carols with a group. (Presumably, it compounded on his already weakened condition and had a fatal effect.) Marley appears at Scrooge's office just after Bob leaves (Scrooge closes it) and tells Scrooge of the three ghosts. Later, he reappears as the knocker. And finally, two mice appear and are made the subject of many scenes for seemingly no reason other than to give children cute animals to look at.

It is as if the creators attempted to streamline Dickens' tale (in the live action epilogue, Dickens notes that this version differs from the book), but in doing so, muddied the message. A lot of emphasis is placed on Scrooge's relationship with Belle, made clear by the creators having Kate Winslet sing the song "What If," which became a hit. It's a good song, but is just about one of the few highlights of the film. Scrooge's neglect of the poor is glossed over. Yes, I'm sure the orphans need help as well and do deserve attention, but this feels like such a simplification.

Very much, this one comes down to "why did we need this take on A Christmas Carol?" The answer: we didn't.

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