November 29, 2017

A Christmas Carol (1999)

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Hey, gang! It's #HolidayMoviepalooza time again! And this week, Derek and Larry sat down to watch and record a commentary for the 1999 TNT/Hallmark version of A Christmas Carol starring Patrick Stewart, Richard E. Grant, Joel Grey, and a cast of amazing actors.

Ebenezer Scrooge (Patrick Stewart) is a grumpy, angry man who hates everybody and everything, especially Christmas. (This is not a sudden change; he has been like that his entire adult life.) He also tends to take this anger out on his long-suffering assistant, Bob Cratchit (Richard E. Grant).

Mr. Scrooge, I'm here to count. Why must I clean the chamber pot, as well?
Scrooge's business partner, Jacob Marley (Bernard Lloyd), has passed away, but Scrooge continues on running the counting house the two of them shared.

On the seventh anniversary of Marley's death, Scrooge is visited by his nephew, Fred (Dominic West), who is the complete and total polar opposite of his uncle, something Scrooge clearly takes personally. Therefore, when Fred tries to spread a little holiday cheer and invite his uncle to Christmas dinner, Scrooge refuses and mocks poor Fred for getting married. What a jerkface.

After a visit with two men (Edward Petherbridge and Jeremy Swift) who are collecting for charity leaves Scrooge in an even worse mood, he berates Cratchit for wanting Christmas Day off and then goes home to his cold, dark apartments.

As he is about to enter, he sees what appears to be the face of his long-dead partner on the door knocker, which kind of freaks him out a little bit. But then it goes away and he heads upstairs to put on his dressing gown and eat some soup as loudly as he possibly can. (No, really...It sounds super gross and wet.)

His soggy lip-smacking is (thankfully) interrupted when he is visited by none other than the ghost of Jacob Marley himself!

Or, possibly, Mick Jagger.
Marley is there to warn Scrooge that he is currently on the same path Marley himself went down, leading to his spirit wandering the face of the earth, seeing the terrible things everybody was doing, but unable to stop them. But now, this one time, he has been given the opportunity to contact hs old partner and tell him what needs to be done to change his potential future.

He tells Scrooge he will be visited by three ghosts--ghosts who will show him the error of his ways. Scrooge, naturally, is not particularly thrilled about the idea, but he is not given a choice.

The first ghost appears shortly after midnight, waking Scrooge with a bright light. A quick investigation directly outside his bed curtains reveals the Ghost of Christmas Past (Joel Grey).

Or, possibly, Edgar Winter.
The spirit takes him to the school he attended and shows him a young Ebenezer (Rowland Sterlng, and then Josh Maguire), whose father does not want him to come home. Young Ebenezer is a loner...a loner who dresses like Angus Young, but completely fails to rock out.

When his sister, Fran (Rosie Wiggins), arrives a few years later, she tells him that their father finally wants him to come home, the two leave, but we don't get to see what happens because the Ghost takes them away to Mr. Fezziwig's (Ian McNeice) business, where Scrooge worked as a young man (Kenny Doughty). And just in time for the Christmas party! (What are the odds?)

During the party, young Scrooge meets the lovely Belle (Laura Fraser). The two of them begin seeing each other, promising to marry once Scrooge is making enough money to support them. However, once he hits that level, he is not willing to put Belle ahead of his work, and she leaves him.

Returned to his home in the present, Scrooge is immediately met by the Ghost of Christmas Present (Desmond Barrit)--a large, hairy man with a disturbingly low-cut robe and a booming voice.

Or, possibly, Harry Knowles from the future.
He takes Scrooge on a tour of the city on Christmas Day. They stop off at the Cratchit residence, where Scrooge discovers for the first time that Bob does, in fact, have a family, including a fiercely protective wife (Saskia Reeves), and a young son, Tiny Tim (Ben Tibber), who is crippled.

The Ghost is so very disappointed in Scrooge that he does not know Cratchit has a family, although, for his part, Scrooge takes an interest and asks about whether Tiny Tim will live. When the Ghost tells him that he sees "an empty chair and a crutch without an owner," Scrooge has his first twinge of real concern. Oh, sure, he was disappointed in himself for not choosing Belle over his work, but he is finally seeing the effect he is having on those who more-or-less depend on him. And he's even touched that Cratchit insists they toast Scrooge, even though he treats Bob like garbage.

Their next stop is Fred's house, where he and his wife, Martha (Claire Slater), are hosting a dinner party for their friends. Bob also insists on toasting his uncle, and everyone seems agreeable, for the most part, although his wife wonders why he keeps inviting Scrooge to Christmas dinner when he knows the old man will refuse. Then it's time to play some games!

Scrooge asks the Ghost if they can stay for a bit and watch, because games! Another chink in the hardened exterior that is Scrooge's armor against the world...

The Ghost of Christmas Present, whose red hair is now grey, announces that his time is up, and he disappears, leaving Scrooge standing on a street in the middle of the city. Not for long, however, because he is in the presence of the Third Spirit (Tim Potter).

Or "Jeff" to his friends.
Their first stop is the stock exchange, where they see a group of men taking unsympathetically about a colleague that has died. They discuss whether or not they are going to the colleague's funeral, and they come to the consensus that, so long as lunch is served, they might consider it.

The next stop is a pawn broker (Trevor Peacock), who is looking over some items that some locals stole from the home of someone that has recently died. Very recently. In fact, one of the items is a shirt that is still warm. Ick.

Disheartened by all of this greed and negativity, Scrooge asks the Third Spirit to take him somewhere that is sympathetic and caring.

They visit the Cratchits, who are mourning the loss of Tiny Tim. Bob is taking it especially hard--understandably--but manages to hold it together for the rest of the family. For the most part. Scrooge is deeply troubled by this, and asks the spirit about the dead man they heard about earlier.

They visit a morgue, where a body is laid out on the slab, but Scrooge refuses to pull off the cover and see who it is the others spoke so poorly about. This seems to anger the spirit, and he takes them to a cemetery, where he shows Scrooge his own grave. With his body in it.

Will this be enough for Scrooge to change his ways? Will he wake up in time for Christmas? Will he have the most awkward laughing fit ever committed to film? You'll have to tune in to find out!

Larry was a newcomer to this version, having been brought up on the (very popular and well-made) George C. Scott version. That said, he seemed to enjoy it. He has issues with Mrs. Cratchit's dental issues, but was otherwise impressed by the whole thing.

Derek, having seen this numerous times before, thought this was a perfect time to bust out his killer Patrick Stewart impression. He also worries that Scrooge thinks changing his ways will somehow keep him from ever dying, because that's how the character acts.

So throw one tiny piece of coal in the fire, put on your night cap and dressing gown, and tune in to this week's commentary episode!