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 lighter version of Dickens' classic, so it is good family fare, but mediocre songs bog the story down. The long-winded ending takes a bizarre detour from Dickens's classic source material. Six-, 7- and 8-year-olds will enjoy the songs and the lively story, but the youngest may not go for the ghost angle, which may frighten them. Older kids can use an occasional reminder of what Christmas is really about. A meatier version might be in order for teens and adults.
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What's the story?
Incorrigible skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge gets the musical treatment in this 1970 adaptation of Dickens's A Christmas Carol. The songs, while unmemorable, provide a cushion for young ones who might be intimidated by scarier versions. Albert Finney stars, with Alec Guinness as an eerie, surprisingly subdued Jacob Marley.
Is it any good?
Unlike George C. Scott in the 1984 film version, or Alastair Sim in the 1951 classic, Albert Finney doesn't contribute much to the role. His performance is a mere caricature. Hearing him sing robs him of his menace (even when he's singing "I Hate People"), and what is a Scrooge without menace? Humbug! But this is a non-threatening version, good for kids, and for adults who don't want all that chain-rattling and wailing, so its lighter touch is forgiven.
Less forgivable are the songs, which slow the whole production down. Sure, it's funny to see Scrooge's death foreshadowed as a funeral parade with joyous crowds singing "Thank You Very Much," but that's as good as the musical numbers get. In the battle for the best Marley, Alec Guinness makes a convincing entrance, doing a slow, swimming sort of walk capable of raising a few neck hairs. The movie's worth seeing for Guinness alone, and for the weird ending in which Scrooge falls into his own grave and winds up in hell, where Marley offers to show him to his quarters.
Talk to your kids about ...
- In theaters: November 5, 1970
- On DVD or streaming: September 25, 2001
- Cast: Albert Finney, Alec Guinness, David Collings
- Director: Ronald Neame
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Musical
- Topics: Book Characters, Holidays, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires, Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 115 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- MPAA explanation: all audiences
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