In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_men_women_and_children

Men, Women & Children

A potentially interesting premise is handled so badly that what might have been a provocative drama quickly and irrevocably devolves into the technological equivalent of…

Thumb_boxtrolls_ver13

The Boxtrolls

"The Boxtrolls" is a beautiful example of the potential in LAIKA's stop-motion approach, and the images onscreen are tactile and layered. But, as always, it's…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives

Reviews

Scrooge

Scrooge Movie Review
  |  

The notion of Albert Finney playing Ebenezer Scrooge is admittedly mind-boggling, and so is the idea of A Christmas Carol being turned into a musical. But "Scrooge" works very nicely on its intended level and the kids sitting near me seemed to be having a good time.

Bricusse's songs fall so far below the level of good musical comedy that you wish Albert Finney would stop singing them, until you realize he isn't really singing. He's just noodling along, helped by lush orchestration. To get the lead in a big-studio musical during the long dying days of the genre, you apparently had to be unable to sing or dance. How else to account for Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood in "Paint Your Wagon"? Or Finney in this one? Finney adopts Marvin's singing style, which is a sort of low-register growl. Meanwhile, countless dancers and a children's choir keep up the pretense that music is happening.

So if all of these things are wrong, why does "Scrooge" work? Because it's a universal story, I guess, and we like to see it told again. Ronald Neame's direction tells it well this time, and the film has lots of special effects that were lacking in the 1935 and 1951 versions. I was less than convinced by Scrooge's visit to a papier-mâché hell, but the appearance of Christmas Present (Kenneth More) surmounting a mountain of cakes and candies was appropriately marvelous.

The whole problem of the Ghosts of Christmas have been handled well, in fact. Reviewing the 1951 British version of "A Christmas Carol" for The Chicago Sun-Times, Eleanor Keen noted appropriately that the three ghosts are "a trio that resembles fugitives from an eighth-grade play in costumes whipped up by loving hands at home." My memory of that version is that she was right and the ghosts looked ridiculous.

In this version, the ghosts are handled more believably (if that's possible). The Ghost of Christmas Past is a particularly good inspiration: They've made the role female and given it to Dame Edith Evans. She plays it regally and sympathetically by turns, and seems genuinely sorry that Scrooge's childhood was so unhappy. Christmas Present, played by More, is a Falstaffian sort of guy with a big belly and a hearty laugh, who doesn't look like a ghost at all. And Christmas Future is simply a dark, faceless shroud, not unlike Lorado Taft's figure of Time in his Fountain of Life sculpture on the Midway at the University of Chicago. All three figures are miles better than conventional eighth-grade ghosts.

Alec Guinness contributes a Marley wrapped in chains; the Christmas turkey weighs at least 40 pounds; Tiny Tim is appropriately tiny, and Scrooge reforms himself with style. What more could you want? No songs, I'd say.

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

The Unloved, Part Ten: "The Village"

Part ten in Scout Tafoya's The Unloved series tackles "The Village."

Why my video essay about "All that Jazz" is not on the Criterion blu-ray

Bob Fosse's masterpiece "All That Jazz" jumps back and forth through the past and the present, and through memory and...

Tonight is What It Means To Be Young: "Streets of Fire" at 30

An appreciation of "Streets of Fire" on its 30th anniversary.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus