Back in the day, I was asked to write a stage adaptation of A Christmas Carol for a local youth theatre group, and reading the original Charles Dickens novella for the first time, I was struck by how moving and witty it was. In my humble opinion, the ideal screen adaptation would emphasise the gut-wrenching pain and sadness of the “Christmas Past” and “Christmas Yet To Come” segments, and not be too shy about making the Ghosts seem properly scary and otherworldly… but sadly, I don’t think anyone has approached Guillermo del Toro to provide us with his take on the classic tale yet, so I guess we’ll just have to make do with what’s already out there. Sigh…
Yesterday I watched the 2004 musical version, starring Kelsey Grammer as ‘Ebenezer Scrooge’, and I really wish I hadn’t bothered. I guess the song and dance numbers were pleasant enough in themselves, and there were some fun performances from actors I admire, but all that the razzle-dazzle did for me was sand the sharp edges off the story, and defang the biting satire of the original text. I love me some Jane Krakowski, but her “British” accent and coquettish ways didn’t really seem such a good fit for the ‘Ghost of Christmas Past’… although you can’t really blame her for trying to vamp it up a bit, considering she had to share a scene with Jennifer Love Hewitt (and her décolletage), in the rather underwritten role of ‘Emily’, Scrooge’s lost love. It’s a sad commentary on the state of the interwebs, that the only picture I could find of Krakowski’s character was a crappy screencap posted in a JLH fan-gallery! Meanwhile, I have very fond memories of Jesse L. Martin reducing me to a blubbering mess during the London production of Rent, but couldn’t summon up much enthusiasm for his turn here as the ‘Ghost of Christmas Present’… who was kinda creepy, but not in a spooky way.
Oddly enough, just before watching this (supposedly) stirring story of a miserable miser learning to open his heart and his wallet to all and sundry, I’d been researching a philosophical movement called Objectivism, founded by the Russian-born-but-American-made writer Ayn Rand, which contends that altruism is the foulest evil known to man, and that the secret of true happiness and virtue lies in rational selfishness and laissez-faire Capitalism. Which makes perfect sense, assuming you believe that we exist in a godless, mundane universe, where human beings are born merely to breed, consume and die. You also have to be adept enough at “doublethink” to be able to swallow the idea that past atrocities committed in the name of Communism and Religion prove that they are inherently, irredeemably flawed and icky systems… while past atrocities committed in the name of Capitalism simply prove that we haven’t quite given it enough gas yet, and should just keep slamming our foot down on the accelerator pedal! Personally I find that a teeny bit problematic. Apparently they’re big fans of Christmas though, because of all the shopping and industry involved… frankly I was a little disappointed to see that they’re still happy to use the name “Christmas”, rather than trying to change it to “Commercialmas” or something snappy like that. Shows a lack of ambition, if you ask me.
Of course, Scrooge was lucky enough to live in a demonstrably mystical world, where the spirits acted directly to change the course of his life, and save his soul… while the rest of us are merely left to wonder and speculate and hope… or “rationalise” all the magick out of our lives, as the case may be.