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An American Christmas Carol

An American Christmas Carol

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An American Christmas Carol  In Depression-era New England, a miserly businessman named Benedict Slade receives a long-overdue attitude adjustment one Christmas eve when he is visited by three ghostly figures who resemble three of the people whose possessions Slade had seized to collect on unpaid loans. Assuming the roles of the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future from Charles Dickens’ classic story, the three apparitions force Slade to face the consequences of his skinflint ways, and he becomes a caring, generous, amiable man.

Excellent re-imagining of the concept

 

First, disclosure: I’m a giant Dickens fan, scholar of his life and work, and total Charles Dickens fanboy geek all the way around.

An American Christmas Carol  This movie is NOT a version or update of Dickens’ ‘Christmas Carol’. It’s written as if the writers had never heard of the Dickens story, were handed a one-paragraph summary of the plot, and told “Go!” And everything about it works. I especially like the way they improved on some of the weaknesses of the Dickens story. Just three examples: Slade stays gruff, socially awkward, and highly competent after his transformation, instead of becoming a loony old fool, which is fakey. He quotes business theory to justify his actions, as if it were a religion. Also typical of real-life Scrooges. And — skirting spoilers — the changes he makes in his life afterward are much more uplifting and realistic. He’s just much, much more interesting than Scrooge. (Sorry, Chuck!) I could go on. These writers do Dickens better than Dickens.

The 1930s New England setting is brilliant; the small town works better than London (which comes off like a small town in the Dickens story, but it’s not.) And, gosh Henry Winkler is outstanding! A young actor, playing “old” in a ton of make-up, and totally believable.

Anyway, I won’t rave on. Like many other reviewers here, I say, Give it a try! I’m astonished to see this movie get two stars in TV listings and hear commentators in the media sneer about it, like it’s the dumbest Dickens “adaptation” ever. First, it’s not; I could write a book about the total crap passing for “Dickens'” Christmas Carol. And second, it’s not. As in “not Dickens”. It’s a little bit better, and a whole lot fresh.

 

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