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Cinema: Curdled Cheer

2 minute read

Scrooge is a high-budget holiday spectacular, a musical extracted from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol that turns out to be a curdled cup of holiday cheer. It is hard to imagine how men of supposed good will and talent could invest their time, their money and their skill in such a spectacularly shoddy enterprise. First frame to last, Scrooge is a mechanical movie made with indifference to every quality but the box office receipts.

Scrooge boasts Albert Finney in the title role of the flinty miser who learns the true meaning both of Christmas and his own life. In his first screen or stage appearance in a few years, he is drastically disappointing. Finney grumbles and hobbles through his part, employing mannerism instead of nuance. He scores now and again, as when he tipsily accepts another cup of the Milk of Human Kindness (yes, it’s that kind of movie) from the Ghost of Christmas Present, but such isolated moments from an actor of his stature are slender fare indeed. Sir Alec Guinness materializes from time to time as the ghost of Scrooge’s old partner Marley, but he plays the part floating several inches off the floor and flapping his wrists, an interpretation better suited to The Boys in the Band.

Ronald Neame’s direction plods along like your fat Uncle Harry in a snow drift, and includes such boggling episodes as Scrooge’s descent into Hell (which looks to have been inspired by the astronauts’ descent toward Jupiter in 2001). The script, music and lyrics are by Leslie Bricusse, whose previous contributions include Dr. Dolittle and Goodbye, Mr. Chips. After this fiasco, Bricusse should become as forgettable as the music he writes. The chorus of one of his tunes from Scrooge runs something like “Thank you very much, thank you very much. Thank you very, very, very much.” To which the obvious and inevitable reply should be, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

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