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.