My last Christmas films until next December (#SFWApro)

We’d hoped to squeeze in Star Wars: The Force Awakens last weekend but that didn’t happen.

After I wrote recently that Albert Finney’s Scrooge is defined by being anti-joy, I watched Alastair Sim’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1951) for comparison. As I recalled, Sim is a pure, coldblooded man of business, the face of the “vested interests” of capitalism in contrast to his former boss Fezziwig who runs a small family firm and cares about more than money (the adaptation by Noel Langley drives this home by having Scrooge buy out Fezziwig’s firm, then cut the staff’s wages). Though what makes this one worth rewatching is that Sim makes Scrooge so believable: almost from the first moment he realizes how badly he’s ruined his life, but like so many of us he resists changing (“I’m too old.”) for as long as possible. “All these are shadows of things that were — do not blame me because they are what they are.”

CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS (2004) is a forgettable comedy in which Jamie Lee Curtis and Tim Allen decide to take a cruise instead of their usual spectacular Christmas at home; this horrifies everyone to a ludicrous degree, leading to increasingly insane clashes with the neighbors who refuse to accept the lack of Christmas spirit. Dan Ackroyd and M. Emmett Walsh are among the actors wasted in this. “I can’t believe you’re refusing to do this over a little thing like $600.”

A CHRISTMAS STORY LIVE (2017) adapts the Broadway musical version of Ralphie’s quest for his beloved Red Ryder BB gun, with the most familiar faces being Matthew Broderick as narrator (weird how he’s aged so much since I saw him in War Games — I’m sure I haven’t aged anywhere near as much! 🙂 )Jane Krakowski as Ralphie’s teacher and Maya Rudolph as Mom. The score and musical numbers are kind of “meh” and some of the added material felt like the writers had an itch to “fix” fan problems (e.g. Ralphie confesses he lied about learning the f-bomb from Schwartz). “You have a choice of three categories — modern economic theories, culinary delicacies of fascist Italy or crossword puzzles.”

Despite the chaos this Christmas Day, we found time to rewatch A CHRISTMAS STORY (1984) once again and it far outshadows the stage version (or at least the TV production of it). Part of that is that there’s not much to improve on here, and some bits that get lost in transition (the magic of film makes the bully Schwartz into a recurrent blight where the Live version only has one major encounter before Ralphie decks him). One that deserves its status as a Christmas perennial. “I, alone, stood between my tiny, huddled family and insensate evil.”

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