Friday, December 7, 2012

Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol

One would expect Mr. Magoo would do anything but a straight adaptation of A Christmas Carol. The poor-sighted character was largely created for humor and getting into trouble.

Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol doesn't ignore that Mr. Magoo is who he is: the framing story (sometimes cut for television broadcast) is that Magoo is starring as Scrooge in a play based on A Christmas Carol, and at the beginning, singing "It's Good To Be Back On Broadway," he narrowly avoids being injured in a traffic pile-up he causes, and he mistakes a restaurant for the theater entrance. When he finally arrives, he's a half hour late, he walks into the wrong dressing room, and is hurled onstage. This causes the director to be injured by a falling sandbag. At the end, Magoo takes his bow with his back turned to the audience, then he accidentally demolishes the set.

However, Magoo is superb as Scrooge. Nephew Fred and Fan are not in this version, yet the story manages to hit all the right points without them. The social class of Scrooge's London is fleetingly represented as Scrooge chases poor caroler boys away.

An interesting switch is that the Ghost of Christmas Present is the first of the three spirits, then the Ghost of Christmas Past, and finally the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. This is hardly a flaw, however.

There are also songs: "Ringle, Ringle," which Scrooge sings as he counts his coins, then reprises with different lyrics later when he starts helping the Cratchits. "The Lord's Bright Blessing" is sung during the Cratchit's Christmas dinner, the children wishing they had better things, while Bob encourages them that while it's all right to hope for those things, they should appreciate what they do have. It is reprised as the play's finale. "Alone in the World" is sung by boy Scrooge as he sits in his school and he is joined by the older version of himself, making for a very endearing scene. This is reprised as Scrooge sits at his tombstone in the future. Belle sings "Winter Was Warm" as she reflects on happier days while courting Scrooge before she ends their relationship. This is also sung by the chorus during the end credits. Finally, the song "We're Despicable" is sung by Old Joe and his customers who are selling the dead Scrooge's things. This also allows for the crudest humor in the adaptation: Joe and his customers steal from each other and one continually has her hat beaten down onto her head.

And yet with all that, Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol manages to hit all the right emotional points. Definitely worth watching, if not for a nice adaptation of Dickens' story, then for its first animated adaptation, and the first animated Christmas special.

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