Monday, December 24, 2012

Review: A Christmas Carol (1999)

Box Art of DVD
And just in time for Christmas! For a special Christmas review, I present you with a review of another version of A Christmas Carol. If you remember, I reviewed in June of 2011 the 2009 movie starring Jim Carrey and gave it a bad review (let's face it, not even Colin Firth could save that movie). But this time (and for Christmas, not in the middle of June like last time), I'm reviewing a version of A Christmas Carol that I could expect more out of: the 1999 version starring Patrick Stewart. I had seen parts of this version, but not the whole thing until last week. So now that I've seen it, I can review it!

Taken from my review of A Christmas Carol (2009)
It's Christmas time and everyone is in a great mood except for Ebenezer Scroogea stingy old man who does not like Christmas. On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his former business partner who announces that Scrooge will be visited by three more ghosts.

There are plenty of familiar faces in this version of A Christmas Carol.
Actor/ActressCharacterAlso Seen In
Patrick StewartEbenezer ScroogeStar Trek: The Next Generation
as Captain Picard, various Shakespeare plays
Richard E. GrantBob CratchitThe Scarlet Pimpernel (1999)
as Sir Percy Blakeney
Dominic WestFredFrom Time to Time as Caxton
Liz SmithMrs. DilberLark Rise to Candleford as Zillah
Elizabeth SpriggsMrs. RiggsSense and Sensibility (1995) as
Mrs. Jennings
Laura FraserBelleHe Knew He Was Right as Emily Trevelyan
Celia ImrieMrs. BennettDaniel Deronda as Mrs. Meyrick

Patrick Stewart has impressed me as being a very good actor. I've seen him mainly in Star Trek: The Next Generation where he impressed me as being a good actor. I want to say I've seen him in other things, but I can't think of any at the moment (although I caught a couple of clips of him in the David Tennant Hamlet). In A Christmas Carol, Patrick Stewart was a worthy Scrooge. He played a very curmudgeon Scrooge and portrayed his grouchiness at the beginning of the story, but you get to see him develop very well throughout the story. I love at the ending how he portrays the overjoyed Scrooge (though at first it may appear like he's going to have a heart-attack!).

Scrooge with the Ghost of Christmas Past
The ghosts I thought were well represented for the most part. Jacob Marley was represented in all his ghastliness. The signs they gave to introduce him were a little more than what I've seen elsewhere. He first appears on the doorknocker which I've seen in other versions of A Christmas Carol, but what I don't recall seeing before is his face appearing in some of the artwork along the fireplace and even looking at Scrooge as he ate his food. It's been years since I've read A Christmas Carol, but I don't remember that part. After Jacob Marley leaves, the Ghost of Christmas Past soon appears. He seemed to be a quiet, but overall pleasant looking fellow (though his outfit was quite unusual!). Though, if I remember correctly, he is supposed to be childlike. This ghost looked middle aged with no attempt made to make him look like a child! But other than that, he was decent enough.

The Ghost of Christmas Present
The Ghost of Christmas Present, which I swear looks the same in every version of A Christmas Carol I've seen, keeps along the same line as previous and future Ghosts of Christmas Present. He noticeably gets older as he is on the screen which is a nice touch since by the end of Christmas day, he dies. Again, I can't remember if he gets noticeably older throughout the day in the book, so if anyone has any input on this, feel free to leave a comment. But I thought the actor did a good job with him. There were times that he became serious when repeating Scrooge's own words back to him, but then become jolly again. It was a good touch.

Top: The Ghost of Christmas
Yet to Come
Bottom: A Jawa from Star Wars
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come... Well, if the 2009 version looked like a Ringwraith from The Lord of the Rings, this one looked like a Jawa from Star Wars! Seriously, it was almost uncanny! The shadowy face, the two little lights for eyes! But anyways, he was sufficiently creepy at first, but what I thought threw off the whole persona was a human (and from the looks of it, a freshly manicured female hand) that would point every so often. The hand would have been much better if it had been older or more ghastly and probably not manicured with French Tips, but it looked like the hand of a model!

While there really isn't a year stated, judging by the fashions of the time you can pick out what year the story took place. We can assume that since A Christmas Carol was published in 1843 that the story takes place then, but scenes in the past appear to take place sometime in the Regency Era (and by Regency Era, I mean 1795 - 1820).

The scenes was very nice overall and we get a nice collection of a variety of scenes. The Scrooge & Marley storefront was appropriately dark and looked quite cold. Scrooge's home, while it was furnished and was fit for a gentleman (as far as I could tell), was still a proper home for the stingy Scrooge that was kept dark. The Cratchits home, though small and poor, had a warmness about it and you wouldn't have noticed that it was poor since everyone in it was cheerful and nice. I did have a question about Fred's home, though. If he's supposed to be so poor, why does he have such a nice home? It wasn't an extremely wealthy home, but it was still the home of a comfortable, middle class family. Or was Fred just comparatively poor to Scrooge?

Some of the effects used in this version of A Christmas Carol impressed me as this movie being made for TV, and I was right. Some of the effects did scream "Made for TV", but they weren't horrible effects either; mainly they were effects that you wouldn't expect to see in a movie for the theater.

Belle, what's your hair doing down?
There were plenty of nice costumes in this version of A Christmas Carol. For scenes that took place in the present  the costumes seemed to be 1840s fashions for the more wealthy characters while with the poorer characters had less fashionable clothes. For scenes that took place in Scrooge's past, Regency fashions were used and looked rather nice (the only exception was Mrs. Fezziwig's outfit, which looked like it came out of the 1780s(?)). My only complaint is a scene that included Scrooge's love, Belle. At the Christmas ball, her hair was DOWN. I'm not talking about mostly up with some hairs running down, it was half pulled back and the rest down. I'm sure a lady in Regency England would not have gone to a ball with her hair down like that. But her dress did look nice.

Overall: 3.5/5
Definitely an improvement from the 2009 movie! It was a good movie to watch and I wouldn't be sorry to see it again. The acting was well done: Patrick Stewart was a believable Scrooge and acted very well in the role (though I didn't really picture Scrooge to be bald). Though you can tell that the production was made for TV, it was still a worthy version of A Christmas Carol and would be a good watch on Christmas.

There really isn't much content to speak of. There may be a couple of frightening scenes when the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come appears, but not like the 2009 movie (which was unnecessarily frightening). Mrs. Fezziwig's dress is rather low cut, but she's only in there for a couple of minutes. Though it's not rated, I would probably rate this movie PG for the few possibly frightening scenes.

A Christmas Carol is available on DVD. It runs for 95 minutes.

And for an extra picture:

Laura Fraser as Belle. Notice the Regency fashions


  1. I'm not sure if I've seen this one or looks quite enjoyable, though! Perhaps another version to add to my annual watching list! Every year I have to watch A Muppet Christmas Carol, A Christmas Carol (the that one!), and the 2009 version with Jim Carrey (which I very much enjoyed, especially watching it after first reading the stays very true to the book for the most part!) at least once each.(:

    Merry Christmas!

    Decked Out in Ruffles

  2. If you want another improvement, try the 1984 version! ;) (I know, I said that last time... haha.)

  3. I very much love this version! Patrick Stewart is a wonderful actor -- his Claudius in the version of Hamlet you mentioned is the best I've seen (and I've seen quite a few).

    I think that Fred is poor compared to Scrooge, and possibly poor because he chooses to actually spend his money on a comfortable place to live and dinner for his friends instead of living in miserly solitude like Scrooge.

    Thanks for the nice review of one of my favorite Christmas movies!


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