Thursday, December 15, 2016

Ghosts of “Christmas Carols” past

No Christmas season is complete without endless versions of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” We’re subjected to it so much it’s come to rival the actual Nativity story as the defining narrative for the season. Darn near everybody has taken a whack at being Scrooge: Mr. Magoo, Henry Winkler (his is excellent – see it if you can), Bill Murray... God help us, every one!

I know it’s not good form to put multiple embedded videos in one post, but I just don’t have it in me to stretch it out over three. So here’s a sampler. Leave a comment if you watch any of them.

The good

"Karroll’s Christmas" has a few surprises for a story that’s been done to death. The protagonist Allen (Tom Everett Scott) is kind of a schmuck, but could never equal his neighbor, Zeb Rosecog (Wallace Shawn) for sheer loathsomeness. This guy makes the original Scrooge looks like Mother Teresa. Allen’s relative harmlessness cuts no ice when the ghosts get the wrong address and drag him through time and space to review Rosecog’s inconceivable (I couldn’t resist) misdeeds. By the time he’s able to convince them that he’s not Rosecog, he finds himself sympathetic to the old coot and drafts them to save him.

The ghosts are brilliantly cast: Deanna Milligan, Larry Miller, Verne Troyer and Dan Joffre as a Rasta Marley. (Yes, really.) The ending is familiar and more sappy than necessary, but what the heck? It’s worth it alone for the cringe-inducing (in a good way) proposal scene. You’ll have to watch it to see what I mean.

The bad

I started to review “Christmas Cupid” on its own and just couldn’t get through it. I’m not entirely sure it even qualifies as a Christmas Carol knockoff, as it has only one ghost. The shade in question is a train-wreck celebrity (Ashley Benson) who chokes to death on an olive in her drink and comes back to haunt her agent Sloane (Christina Milian). It’s just one eye-rolling Millennial cliche after another. Milian is okay, but she can’t redeem this stinkeroo by herself. Dear God, please make it stop.

The sublime

Everything becomes funny when you add Blackadder to it, sort of like fart jokes or LSD. This is perhaps the only genuinely original take-off I’ve ever seen. (Update: I found a better copy.) Kind, generous Mr. Blackadder is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past (Robbie Coltrane), who helps himself to the liquor and regales his target with tales of his despicable ancestors. The future sequence alone is brilliantly funny. I don’t think I really need to introduce the cast of the Blackadder shows to you; if I do, you’re reading the wrong blog. Some of the characters in the opening scenes are a little too annoying, but they're balanced out by Victoria and Albert (Miriam Margolyes and Jim Broadbent, respectively). For some reason I can't get past his Teutonic "Damn, damn, damn." And how they managed to get through the future scenes with straight faces, I cannot conceive. (A line that's used to good effect in the show, incidentally.) Watch it all and marvel.

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