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A Christmas Carol (1984)
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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that in A Christmas Carol, the granddaddy of morality tales, Dickens' timeless material looks unglamorously at 19th century English life and shows us how wrong turns, if not righted, can lead good people astray. This adaptation originally premiered as a TV movie in 1984. The music dramatically complements a finely adapted script. Delivered dryly, the humor hits its mark; you can't help laughing at Scrooge's expense. Despite the valuable message, this version may be too dark and frightening for some. There's plenty here for the entire family to enjoy, and even shed a few tears over. But the scenes are bleak. Glimpses of desperate families and sickly children. A once bitter and resentful man anguishes over the pain he's caused others. Glimpses of a tortured childhood place partial blame for Scrooge's condition on an uncaring father.
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What's the story?
In A CHRISTMAS CAROL, the ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge's business partner pays him a visit on Christmas Eve. Bound in the chains of greed and contempt he forged in life, Marley warns tightfisted Ebenezer that he awaits the same fate if he doesn't change his ways. "You will be visited by three spirits," Marley tells him, and at the stroke of 1 a.m., Scrooge awakens to the first of them, who leads him through his past to revisit the poor choices that made him the man he is. A second spirit shows him the present, and the dreadfully silent final spirit presents grim shadows of Christmases yet to come. At the sight of his own lonely grave, Scrooge breaks down and begs forgiveness, vowing sincerely to carry the spirit of Christmas in his heart all year round.
Is it any good?
This 1984 retelling of the Charles Dickens classic is perhaps the finest version yet of this often-told story, right up there with the 1951 version starring Alastair Sim. It boasts an exceptional cast (among them Frank Finlay as Jacob Marley and David Warner as the put-upon Bob Cratchit), splendid costumes and backdrops, and a timelessness that comes from smart filmmaking and avoidance of gaudy effects that too soon show their age.
This version of A Christmas Carol isn't for everyone, though. It's a painfully expressive movie filled with bleak, chilling imagery. Children may shudder at the sight of crutch-ridden Tiny Tim, whose pale flesh and sunken eyes make him in some ways a more disturbing apparition than the shrieking, milky-eyed ghost, Marley. Scrooge, magnificently played by George C. Scott, is a sneering, despicable tightwad who delights in his humbuggery, yet goes almost willingly with his phantom guides as only a man seeking atonement would. When he breaks down at the end and pleads for forgiveness, he's a pitiable sight, and there can be no doubt that he is truly saved.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how we make right our wrongs, as Scrooge does in A Christmas Carol. How do you recognize your wrongs? Do you find them on your own, or do you, like Scrooge, need someone else to help you see them?
- In theaters: January 1, 1984
- On DVD or streaming: October 5, 1999
- Cast: David Warner, Frank Finlay, George C. Scott
- Director: Clive Donner
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Classic
- Topics: Book Characters, Holidays, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Empathy, Gratitude, Integrity
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic intensity
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.