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Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol
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 faithful rendering of the Dickens novel, with Scrooge/Magoo getting a glimpse of the bleak future in which both he and Tiny Tim have died. References are made to Jesus and the religious basis for Christmas. Certain pressure groups have complained that the Mr. Magoo concept mocks the disabled because much of the humor involves Magoo's poor eyesight.
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What's the story?
MR. MAGOO'S CHRISTMAS CAROL bowed as a 1960s prime-time NBC-TV cartoon special. In the 1980s Sir Alastair Cooke surprised many with a commentary calling the cartoon one of the best of the many A Christmas Carol adaptations he'd seen. In the cartoon the premise is that Mr. Magoo has somehow become a Broadway star in a new musical "Christmas Carol," which we see in its entirety, after Magoo arrives at the last minute backstage. Magoo plays the London miser Ebeneezer Scrooge, of course, who learns the meaning of Christmas thanks to a ghostly series of interventions, in a narrative that is almost entirely faithful to the Charles Dickens novel.
Is it any good?
The Jule Styne songs aren't terribly catchy, the line-art animation is coloring-book simplistic, and Bob Crachit looks like George Jetson. Still, for the younger set this is an appropriate Christmas Carol that does indeed preserve much of Dickens' pathos and quotes his dialogue directly, not rewriting or dumbing down. It's indeed compelling to see Magoo, even with a few bad-eyesight-gags mixed in, playing the storybook miser straight, right down to tearful regret.
Following this, more Magoo cartoons came out as mini-editions of classic literature -- casting Magoo as Don Quixote, Long John Silver, Dr. Frankenstein, and the Count of Monte Cristo, among others -- that (not unlike PBS-TV's Wishbone) treated the stories seriously and made the themes accessible to child viewers.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol so effective -- and so easily adaptable. Ask kids which is their favorite retelling and why.
Study up with animation-savvy kids on the history of the Mr. Magoo character and some of the real-life models for him, like legendary comic W.C. Fields. Mention that the original Magoo of the late 1940s/early 1950s was conceived as nastier, more adult-oriented and mean-spirited than the harmlessly silly gent he became on TV.
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