A CHRISTMAS CAROL

(1999 -TV)
With Patrick Stewart, Seymour Hicks, Richard E. Grant, Joel Grey, Desmond Barritt, Bernard Lloyd, Dominic West, Saskia Reeves
Directed by David Hughes Jones
Reviewed by JB

"That's Deanna Troi! I haven't seen her since the future!     Your enjoyment of TNT's lavish television version of the Dickens classic will depend mostly on how you feel about Patrick Stewart's portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge.  Stewart starred in a one-man show of A Christmas Carol on stage for a decade, and so was an obvious choice to star as Scrooge.  Like watching Kelsey Grammer in the the 2004 musical version, it may take a little while to shake visions of Stewart's Captain Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation.  However, he gives a subtle performance that grows deeper as the film goes on, and you may find yourself thinking that he compares with the best of filmdom's Ebenezers.  In short, his portrayal is considered by some to be one of the best, and by others to be a misfire.  I fall in the former camp - in the end, he had won me over.

     However, I will brook no arguments on Joel Grey as the Ghost of Christmas Past.  A combination of makeup, special effects and the fact that he's Joel Frakkin' Grey makes this one of the most memorable incarnations of the character you will ever see.  Likewise, Dominic West ranks with the most affable nephew Freds and Richard E. Grant and Saskia Reeves are among the finest Cratchits.  (When is the last time you saw people with bad teeth on television?).  The script contains passages from the book not often filmed, such as the Ghost of Christmas Present (a fine Desmond Barritt) taking Scrooge on a tour of England to show him how common folk everywhere celebrate Christmas.  

     If there are disappointments in this version, they are minor.  The entrance of Marley's Ghost is as creepy as anything out of the best horror movies, but the character, as played by Bernard Lloyd, is strictly standard stuff.  Likewise, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come would have been much more frightening had the special effects department not given him glowing eyes that do nothing but make you think "gee, that looks stupid."

     There have been many television adaptations of A Christmas Carol.  This is one of them.  If you're a fan of Stewart, this could be the one for you. 4 - JB

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