Introduction. From Movieweb: “Consider a time when hardly anybody celebrated Christmas. By the 1600's, the holiday had died out for a variety of reasons, including the ironic antagonism of Puritans.” Christmas had become an excuse for drunken carousing and licentiousness. Then along came Charles Dickens. “When Dickens published ‘A Christmas Carol’ in 1843, it fundamentally shifted conceptions about the holiday and inspired people of all social classes with the Christmas spirit. His book was perhaps the most important factor for the ubiquity of the modern Christmas experience. It's mostly thanks to him that Christmas became a federal American holiday in 1870.”
The Story of a Story. “’A Christmas Carol’ has inspired almost countless adaptations, with literally hundreds of versions across theatre, radio, television, opera, and even video games. Cinema alone has delivered approximately 57 adaptations.” My recommended movie for Christmas this year is the story of how ‘A Christmas Carol’ came to be. By telling that story, the movie incorporates many facets of the famous book itself.
Why I recommend this movie. Nearly everyone has already seen at least one version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ in movie format, and probably several. Although I have my favorites (see below), my objective in these movie recommendations is to present something that will be unfamiliar to most of my audience. Also, unlike most modern movie critics, I prefer films that have a positive message. That is especially true for my Christmas movie selection. Too much modern holiday fare is far too dark for my taste. This one, in contrast, is described by movie critics as “a festive treat” and one that “would melt the heart of the meanest miser.”
In this film, Charles Dickens is played by Dan Stevens, the English actor perhaps most widely known to American audiences for his role as Matthew Crawley in the Downton Abbey series. Scrooge is played by Christopher Plummer. Two great actors in parts that are perfect for them.
However, in my opinion, the real star is ‘A Christmas Carol’ itself. The movie shines best when it reflects back to us familiar parts of that most cherished book.
The reason that ‘A Christmas Carol’ has resonated for generations is that it is a story of redemption: light vanquishing darkness, hope overcoming despair, good triumphing over evil. It calls us all to rise to the best within us. Scrooge is not just a caricature representing the evils of society wholly apart from us. We all have a little Scrooge within us. We are all tempted to hold back our generosity. We shrink back from reaching out to others. We fear not having enough for ourselves. We fear failure. We sense our own aloneness in this world. Christmas, and ‘A Christmas Carol’, remind us of the power of sacrificial love. We are not truly alone. There is hope. Change is possible, including change within us.
My Two Favorite ‘A Christmas Carol’ Movies:
A Christmas Carol (1951) starring Alastair Sim. This 1951 classic is widely recognized as the masterpiece against which all others are compared. It is a black and white film, which has the effect of emphasizing the dark themes and the historical rootedness of the book.
Where to Watch Alas, like so many older films, this one is not available on streaming platforms. It is available on the Netflix DVD service (which by the way has about 10X the number of titles as their streaming service).
The Muppet Christmas Carol. This version softens the dark themes of the story, but It is not just for kids. In my opinion, it is by far the most entertaining adaptation and is perfect for the whole family, adults included. I don’t often watch movies a second time, but I love this one so much that I don’t mind seeing it again and again.