Top 5 Versions of A Christmas Carol

 

The story of Scrooge, a cantankerous old man who sees the light and embraces Christmas after three spirits (the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet To Come) show him the error of his ways, is one we all know and love, but which version is the best?

There are so many versions of Charles Dickens’ masterpiece that you could watch nothing but those and fill up your Christmas week.

Therefore, we present our top five versions of A Christmas Carol:

 

  1. A Christmas Carol (1984 & 2009)

 

Originally made for TV, the 1984 version does lack the overall quality of its betters, but George C. Scott makes this worth a watch.

An understated performance that still allows Scott’s Patton-esque grandeur to shine through, he can do more with a thoughtful look than other actors can with a long soliloquy.

A close call between this and Robert Zemeckis’ 2009 motion-capture version with Jim Carrey for fifth place, which can be a tad over-the-top at times but is a visual treat.

Both capture the yuletide spirit of the story and remain largely faithful, but if push came to shove, the Zemeckis adaptation has more going for it.

But Carrey is very hit-and-miss in the role and, despite being pleasing to the eye, the motion capture and overall visuals can become a distraction.

By clumping them together, ideally you’d have George C. Scott starring the 2009 version, but both are worth watching if you’ve exhausted all other avenues.

 

  1. Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)

 

Released as a double-bill with re-issues of either ‘The Jungle Book’ or ‘The Rescuers’, this hard to find gem is not only a great introduction to the story, but impressive in how it manages to tell it in 26 minutes.

Scrooge McDuck logically takes centre stage, although weirdly considering the title, as we encounter various Disney favourites through Scrooge’s past, present and future.

Again, considering its length, it does a wonderful job of investing you emotionally, although seeing Mickey Mouse cry takes little investment to get you going as well, and the animation is top-notch as it beautifully captures Victorian London in all its snow-covered quaintness.

The perfect mix of sweet and scary for little ones, its whimsy will charm anyone of any age.

 

  1. Scrooged (1988)

 

Definitely the most offbeat version of the Dickens’ classic, Bill Murray plays Frank Cross, a contemporary-television-executive-incarnation of Scrooge who fires employees on Christmas Eve, gives his family towels as presents and wants to staple antlers to a mouse’s head.

Despite being the version with the biggest emphasis on comedy, it’s also the darkest in tone and look.

Although given great support from Bobcat Goldthwait, Carol Kane and especially David Johansen as the Ghost of Christmas Past, Murray is the focus and he will make-or-break this for you. It’s just him doing his thing while turning up his natural cynicism and dry wit.

Despite what it’s based on, given it’s a Bill Murray film, it’s slightly disappointing to see the film draw to a conventional conclusion. But there’s plenty here to give you an entertaining, alternative take on A Christmas Carol.

Not to mention, someone needs to make ‘The Night the Reindeer Died’ for next Christmas.

 

  1. Scrooge (1951)

 

This could have easily made the top spot, and for many it justifiably does.

Extremely faithful to its source material, apart from the odd minor change or expansion, the only mark you can really hold against the film is that is has slightly dated.

But considering we’re talking about a film that’s now 65-years-old, it’s a minor nit-pick.

Yes, its techniques have aged poorly and its direction is nothing more than a nuts-and-bolts job, but its storytelling is as timeless as the book itself.

Alastair Sim has become the archetypal Scrooge anyone wishing to play the character must aspire to.

Sim’s evolution over the course of 90 minutes is undoubtedly the best incarnation of the character, a seminal performance in which we see every single one of Scrooge’s fluctuating emotions, motivations and nuances played to perfection.

Sim’s especially shines in the final act as we see him full of glee and Christmas cheer in an infectious display of over-the-top emotion; it’s an unabashed performance from a man on the top of his game.

It’s also great to see Sim’s Scrooge actually seek forgiveness and eat his humble pie; often in many versions it’s just a case of buying a big turkey and all is forgotten.

Although dated, the films black-and-white photography does add a timeless quality and eerie mood to those darker scenes.

This may be a no-frills version, but often the best films are the simple ones.

 

  1. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

 

Firstly, for the two people who don’t like the Muppets, you might want to check out 1970’s Scrooge – a musical adaptation with Albert Finney in the title role.

For everyone else, you knew this was coming.

Without a doubt the most popular, accessible and enjoyable version, The Muppet Christmas Carol is an absolute treasure.

Michael Caine correctly plays it straight amongst the chaos of the Muppet universe, managing to give us a genuinely sympathetic Scrooge.

Along with displaying some far from perfect by pleasantly enjoyable singing-chops, Caine has the characters arc down to a tee: from miser, to fear, to regret, to changed man.

The Muppets themselves perfectly slot into their respective roles, almost as if they had been purposefully auditioned and cast in them.

Avoiding the trappings of other franchises that would’ve modernised the text and thrown in endless pop-culture references, it benefits from remaining largely faithful to the story and the actual words of Dickens.

Pulling at the heart without resorting to extreme sentimentality, The Muppet Christmas Carol delivers laughs, tears, picturesque visuals, an engaging story and wonderfully constructed songs that actually service the purpose they should: to help tell and advance the plot.

All Disney need to do now is find that lost footage of ‘The Love is Gone’ and put it back in where it belongs.

Yes, it does seem somewhat unusual declaring the best version of this timeless classic the one with a load of puppets dancing round a tone-deaf singing cockney, but it is what it is.

If you disagree… humbug!

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