Welcome to The Twelve Ways of Christmas, where we discuss holiday films you’ve already seen or never plan on watching.
Why not, right? Every other damn movie site’s doing it, and since when is giving in to peer pressure a bad thing? With little rhyme or reason, check in every day from now until The Day That Must Not Be Named for a new entry. And Happy Kwanzaa.
No, this is not the one with the Muppets. It’s not the George C. Scott version. Or Robert Zemeckis’ weird vision with CGI Jim Carreys. It’s not the black and white version either. It’s THE MOVIE. Literally. 2001’s Christmas Carol: The Movie. Yeesh. That title has absolutely no ring to it. If anything, it sucks all surrounding “ring” into its black hole of terribleness. One look at the cover and this already feels like a Brady Bunch TV movie.
If you’re expecting some profound answer as to why people keep retelling the same story, prepare for a letdown. That’s like asking why we have so many different Bruce Waynes and Snow Whites. They’re all things Hollywood can’t help but indulge, and retelling this Dickensian Classic gets filed under ‘Incessant Groin-Scratching.’
One thing’s for sure, Ebeneezer should not be this young. He’s still brown on top! Simon Callow’s booming pomp and lippy trills make for a big, aloof interpretation of the old codger, but I prefer my Scrooges bitter and soft spoken and Michael Caine. For crying out loud Scrooge should at least be older than Callow’s forlorn romantic. Director Jimmy Murakami chooses a younger Scrooge, likely to better gel with the scripts oh-so-forced obsession with Belle (Kate Winslet). (For those of you asking who?: Sad song lady from the Muppets.) This expanded relationship between Ebeneezer and Belle is something new The Movie brings to the dinner table, but it never flows with the iconic, better written moments. Real estate foibles aren’t particularly riveting and the third grade caliber of romantic tension Winslet and Callow are forced to spew is beyond rough.
Characters’ relationships with Scrooge are really what’s changed in Christmas Carol: The Movie. Scrooge is strangely fond of Jacob Marley, his deceased business partner. Oh, and what’s with the mice? Shoving in a pair of cutesy mouses for Scrooge to caress and coo is as shameless an attempt to lighten the material as it is disturbing to see a middle-aged man feed a rodent from his porridge bowl. The obvious attempts to pass off Scrooge as a decent human being swing too far the other way; Ebeneezer should still be a dick.
To make matters worse, The Movie’s animation style both looks and feels pedestrian. Movements are choppy and stand out against stale, washed out backgrounds. In a refreshing moment of ingenuity however, Murakami & Co. interpret The Ghost of Christmas Future (Yet to Come, whatever) in a novel way. Fleeting in his presence, he resembles a constantly shifting fingerpainting of the grim reaper, and everyone in Future Christmas glides around on this ethereal plane of existence. It’s a burst of macabre rejuvenation among a sea of cash-grabbing ne’er-do-wells.
To return to the land of milk and negativity, Nicolas Cage deserves a trip to movie jail for his “performance” as Jacob Marley. Surrounded by an all-British cast, the Cage clearly just hunched over and died during the recording sessions because he makes no attempt to sound remotely like them. Marley whispers in breathy parables with all the diction of HAL-9000. You’ve seen those trippy 5 Gum commercials? Cage is the voiceover dude.
In the end I’m left grasping at straws for balance. There’s such little value in this hasty, vacuous journey bereft of emotion and warmth. At the least, let us hope Murakami learned one thing: Pimping your new romantic storyline at the expense of the classic elements is so so very wrong. Ever play on a team where the coach’s kid was the favorite? Even though he’d trip over his own dick trying to shag balls in left? Whiff at every pitch? Spit sunflower seeds all over himself? This guy.
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Want more Cage? You got it.