Christmas specials can really be put into two categories: those that are based off of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and those that are not. A Christmas Carol is a very flexible story, able to fit a variety of settings and situations, but it’s been adapted so many times that when making a new version, you need to have changes or a new twist to make it interesting. We all know how it goes; Scrooge is mean, yells at nephew and charity dudes, sees ghost of his business partner, sees the ghosts of Past, Present and Future, becomes nice. Sometimes changing up the story a bit and adding new details can be a benefit –like how the 1951 version with Alistair Sim expanded Scrooge’s past – but a lot of the time, they can ruin what could be a great version of the story and just come off as hollow in comparison to the original.
So, like the Nostalgia Critic looked at the dumbest moments in Superman and Spider-man movies (well I’m more or less ripping him off already with the idea behind this blog…), I too will be looking at the seven dumbest moments in Christmas Carol adaptations.
7.) The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is an elongated Jawa
It shouldn’t be too hard to do the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. He/she/it says nothing, barely moves, and points a lot. Easy to pull off, and is pretty damn effective when done right. Just look at the Ghost in the 1984 version, who’s always hidden in shadows, and communicates with a horrendous screech. That’s the stuff of nightmares.
Then we have the 1999 version with Patrick Stewart as Scrooge, based off of a famous one-man show he did. The Ghost is still a hooded, silent spectre, but has a head like a bucket, and has two stupid LED eyes from under its hood. That’s not a spirit of Christmas, that’s a DIY Halloween garden decoration. When it points, its jarring, because its hand does not look like it belongs to it at all. One can’t help but be reminded of the old cliché where two kids pretend to be an adult by having one climb on top of the other and throwing a trenchcoat over their form. Any minute while watching this film, you feel like they’re gonna nick a joke from the Animaniacs Christmas Carol parody and have the Ghost revealed to be a happy prankster in disguise.
What makes it worse is that the rest of the spirits look superb in this version, making Yet to Come stick out like a sore thumb. Christmas Present looks festive and regal as well as somber, the scene where Scrooge sees tortured spirits outside his window is beautifully realised and there is one of the more spectral-looking Ghosts of Christmas Past I’ve seen. And speaking of…
6.) The Ghost of Christmas Past as a Horror Movie Reject
We all may look fondly on The Muppet Christmas Carol, but let’s face it, it isn’t perfect and pales in comparisons to others of its ilk in some areas. I mean, we have moments like Scrooge’s dumb little dance with the Ghost of Christmas Present – it’s supposed to show Scrooge realising the joy of Christmas, but comes off more ‘Well, I don’t want to hurt his feelings’ – and their weird-looking Ghost of Christmas Past.
There’s a reason John Leech didn’t create a Ghost of Christmas Past illustration for the original book; it’s hard to visually interpret the character as Dickens described him. ‘[The] figure itself fluctuated in its distinctness: being now a thing with one arm, now with one leg, now with twenty legs, now a pair of legs without a head, now a head without a body.’ The 1971 animated version and this comic version have come the closest to capturing the character as originally written.
The Muppet version also attempted something like this, but what they end up creating is so creepy and out-of-place in this film. Sure the film has an unorthodox setting for a Muppet movie, but Gonzo and Rizzo and Kermit look like they belong in a squalid, foggy Victorian London here. Their Christmas Past, however, with its blank stare, plastic face and monotone voice reminds me more of those scary kids from Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs then anything that should be co-starring with the Muppets. Christmas Present? Looks like he should be in a Muppet movie. Christmas Past? That doesn’t look like it should be anywhere.
5.) Santa’s Sooty Suit. Seriously.
The 1997 animated adaptation of A Christmas Carol could have been so much better. I mean, you had Tim Curry as Scrooge. Tim fucking Curry as Ebenezer fucking Scrooge. If that isn’t casting genius, I don’t know what is. Too bad the lines he was given to read weren’t up to snuff, taking the dialogue from the Dickens book and making it simpler because big words scare the little kiddies.
The dumbest bit of the whole cartoon happens during the Christmas Present segment where Scrooge is visiting Nephew Fred’s party. Fred sings a song that Scrooge apparently sang along with his sister Fan. Now I like when adaptations expand upon the relationship Scrooge had with his sister – see the aforementioned 1951 version – but not when it involves a song entitled “Santa’s Sooty Suit”. The only way a song with that title could be good is if it’s about Santa killing a certain yellow bear and making clothes out of his fur.
Where do I even begin with this song? How about the fact that it contains the phrase ‘Scrub-a-dub-a-dub?’ Throughout the song, the guests at Fred’s party are all awkwardly reflected in Christmas tree baubles, which is just plain surreal how often it is used. Also, I know the phrase “Santa Claus” was about before A Christmas Carol but it still sounds too modern and American for what should be the quintessential British Christmas story.
Also, in this version, Scrooge has a dog. Yes, he does.
4.) Another Terrible Ghost of Christmas Past
2004’s A Christmas Carol: A Musical already has a lot going against it. You’d think Kelsey Grammer would make a good Scrooge, considering Frasier showing doubts about the season in Cheers, but no; if you randomly tuned into this show, you might think you stumbled across an episode of Frasier where he’s forced to play Scrooge against his will or something. They also go way overboard with the special effects in places, and the acting and dialogue is pretty fucking wooden.
The worst of the lot is Jane Krakowski as the Ghost of Christmas Past. The Muppets version may have been creepy and wrong, but there was at least an attempt to do service to Dickens. Krakowski’s Past, however, seems to be the movie’s way of waking up the men in the audience; she wears next to nothing – she wears the type of outfit that would be considered indecent exposure back then – and pole dances on Scrooge’s bed. Yeah.
Sad thing is, they try to expand on Scrooge’s past like the Sim version did, but it’s hard to take it seriously when it’s being introduced by some magical nymph attempting to do This is Your Life.
3.) Reggie Ain’t A Good Scrooge
Some Carols hold up decades after they first aired, and some, ahem, don’t. For example, I would have put the terrible 1949 version narrated by Vincent Price up here, but I actually think that one is more “so bad it’s good” really. The 1938 version with Reginald Owen, however, is so bad it’s boring. I guess it is kinda amusing that Scrooge’s hair in this version makes him look like a big wrinkly baby, but that doesn’t save this one.
I guess I should give this Scrooge credit for actually calling the authorities when Jacob Marley pays him a visit, but I don’t know why the film had to have Scrooge fire Cratchit for accidentally knocking his hat off. It barely impacts the plot, and Cratchit seems to have a pretty nice house and Christmas dinner too. Also, this Scrooge pretty much reforms way too fast. When he’s being visited by Christmas Present, he cries, ‘I LOVE CHRISTMAS!’ So yeah, Christmas Yet to Come was pretty much redundant in this case.
2.) For Better or Hearse (hah, I crack me up)
The 2009 version with Jim Carrey was a pleasant surprise; it stayed close to the original novel, and didn’t skimp on any of the dark bits. Sadly, it may have not skimped a little too much. I’m glad that they included the bit with Want and Ignorance, but I’m bewildered that they had Want and Ignorance turn into screaming maniacs and have Christmas Present rot away into a chuckling skeleton.
The Christmas Yet to Come segment is especially over the top. Not only does the Cratchit house blow away so Scrooge can sink into his own grave, but before that, Scrooge gets chased by a demon hearse. He gets chased by a demon hearse that shrinks him so he spends a good amount of time talking like a chipmunk. He sees dark shadows and horses with blazing red eyes, but it has nothing to do with his reclamation or the plot. It’s just there because they could put it there. What is Scrooge even supposed to learn from it? If you’re bad, undertakers will put you on their shit lists? I know it’s supposed to be a reference to that scene in the book where Scrooge sees a hearse go up his stairs, but that makes it worse; turning a quiet, ominous moment into a big fat bombastic one.
And this isn’t the only version that mucks up Yet to Come…
1.) Drag Me to Hell
Ah yes, the Hell scene from 1970’s Scrooge. The film is actually a pretty good adaptation of the story, despite some bad acting from Albert Finney as Scrooge. The songs are catchy, the sets look decent and I love their amusing little Ghost of Christmas Present and his milk of human kindness (it’s gone off, Baldrick).
Their version of the Christmas Yet to Come scene starts off good, with everyone singing in celebration of Scrooge’s death (I wonder how many people sang that song when Thatcher died) and a surprisingly touching, haunting rendition of Tiny Tim’s death.
Then the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come becomes the Cryptkeeper and throws Scrooge into his own grave. That would be enough, but no, Scrooge finds himself in Hell, given a tour by none other than Jacob Marley. Neither Scrooge or Marley are well-acted in this scene, but how can you tell someone Satan has made them their clerk and make it sound natural?
Scrooge is given an office in Hell, which looks like Mr. Freeze’s summer house, and then hordes of demons march in to wrap Scrooge in a chain bigger than Marley’s. When Scrooge cries for help, we don’t fear for his soul, we laugh at how far this adaptation went.
As you can tell, I only looked at stupid moments in traditional adaptations. Trust me, there are modern versions that are just as dumb, if not more so.