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A Christmas Carol (1997)
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a poor version of the classic tale. The message -- that greed has its own price -- does come through, but barely. Don't be lured by the songs and the animation; there's much better material out there for young viewers. They may be compelled to watch it, but grade-school children will forget it soon after. These lackluster ghosts aren't likely to stir up any goosebumps.
What's the story?
Grouchy moneylender Ebenezer Scrooge (voiced by Tim Curry) makes his feelings about Christmas well known. He lays into his clerk, Bob Cratchit, for wanting the day off, sets his blanket-ripping bulldog after the charity minded, and goes about with his face twisted into a perpetual scowl. His ex-partner, Jacob Marley, pays him a visit, followed by three spirits who show Scrooge glimpses of his past, present, and the dreadful future that awaits him if he doesn't change his ways. Scrooge is convinced, and wakes on Christmas morning a better man.
Is it any good?
Somebody thought he could actually improve on Dickens' story; sadly, he couldn't, and poor character designs, low-quality animation, and dreary songs further cripple the production. Take a dumbed-down script, add lackluster character designs and crude animation, sprinkle in a handful of dreadful songs (like "Santa's Sooty Suit"), and half-bake the whole thing for 72 minutes. There's your recipe for disaster. Yes, this version of A CHRISTMAS CHAROL is a bad one, maybe the worst thing that's yet been done to Dickens' classic tale. Why is Scrooge obsessed with the novel Robinson Crusoe? Whose idea was it to give him a bulldog named Debit? How can Dickens' eloquent language have been so degraded? (Example: "I'm not gonna take it anymore! You hear me, spirits? No more!") These questions simply have no answers.
One can barely recognize the voice talents of Whoopi Goldberg, Michael York, and Ed Asner; it's as if they were trying to disguise their involvement. Only when Scrooge breaks into song does Tim Curry occasionally shine through, reminding us of his most famous role, that of transvestite mad scientist Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. And if you think the ghosts might in some way redeem the production, think again. Christmas Past is a little blonde boy with a sprig of holly and an excruciating cockney accent. Jacob Marley is just a floating fat guy with a moustache, no more threatening than a green balloon. What's really needed here is the addition of a fifth spirit, that of Charles Dickens himself, who would appear to the responsible parties and tearfully moan, "Oh, the unbearable anguish! Butchers, all of you!"
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