“And it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.”

May 20, 2009

ALASTAIR SIM 

 

ALASTAIR SIM

 

I anticipate with some trepidation the release of the new Disney film version of Charles Dickens’ story, “A Christmas Carol.” This film, due to be released in November, will be a 3-D, high-tech extravaganza in which Jim Carrey plays Ebenezer Scrooge and the spirits of Christmas past, present, and future.

Carrey has said that one of his greatest inspirations for the role of Scrooge was Alastair Sim’s performance in the 1951 British movie “Scrooge,” which was released in the United States as “A Christmas Carol.” Having read all of Dickens’ work, having read all of his novels mulitple times, having read “A Christmas Carol” at least once a year since 1955, I regard the Alastair Sim film to be the best attempt at translating the story to the screen – although I maintain that the story should be read on the page as Dickens intended, and that it can only be diminished when it is tampered with by screen writers and directors.

 

MERVYN JOHNS and ALASTAIR SIM

MERVYN JOHNS and ALASTAIR SIM

What concerns me is that the Disney bunch will trivialize Dickens’ angry attack on materialistic values – a mood not entirely out of place in the world of AIG executives and Bernard Madloff. As it is, one has to search long and hard to find an adult who reads Dickens at all. Skewed versions of his work only serve to distort its meaning and obscure its value. Millions of kids who are exposed to such a presentation will go through life thinking it represents Dickens’ intentions.

I realize that I am an anachronism for suggesting that people read the classics without being required to. It’s too much work for a generation whose reading matter must fit on the screen of a Blackberry and be brief enough to be digested before the light changes to green. I once suggested that a local book club lay off the contemporary novels for a month and read “Oliver Twist” or “Great Expectations,” and the suggestion was brushed off as if it were babble coming from a dark corner in a nursing home. 

 

JIM CARREY as SCROOGE

JIM CARREY as SCROOGE

One of the things that makes me suspicious of the Disney movie is that Carrey will play four roles and – according to the publicity – give each one its distinctive personality. What is the purpose of that? It sounds like little more than a stunt, and the fact that the producers are approaching the film in this way – and the memory of all the wacky imagery that has characterized some of Carrey’s successful roles in the past – don’t seem consistent with the mood of Dickens’ story.

Call me old-fashioned. I am.

A clip from the film can be seen at this link:

http://www.cinematical.com/2009/05/18/first-footage-from-disneys-a-christmas-carol/

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