Christmas Carol: The Movie
Released in 2001 ▪ Review posted December 22, 2014
“I wear the chain I forged in life. I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”
Jacob Marley, A Christmas Carol
Christmas Carol: The Movie is an 80-minute cartoon that fails by operating under the presumption that the Charles Dickens story A Christmas Carol is too boring for children. In it, Nicolas Cage delivers his least interesting vocal performance ever as the ghost of Jacob Marley. This movie does a disservice to film and classic literature both. By missing the core message of the source material, Christmas Carol: The Movie is as hollow as a rotten Yule log.
The story is ludicrously modified. Two mice like the ones in Cinderella were added for unknown reasons. The mice are likable enough, but Scrooge—a character who is so curmudgeonly that his name has become synonymous with it—seems to love them so much that he can’t help but show them affection. This attempt to pad the movie with extra narrative undermines the premise that Scrooge is so miserly he needs spectral intervention. The whole point of the visits from the Christmas ghosts is to show Scrooge possesses a capacity for joy and empathy. The climax of the tale is Scrooge’s Christmas morning revelation. Thus, the tension in A Christmas Carol comes from wondering if that change will happen. The whole falling action is watching Scrooge be kind to everyone he spurned in act one. This means the addition of the mice was just something an idiot did to capture kids’ attention. It means there was a serious disconnection from the source material. The whole thing is an embarrassing train wreck.
There’s also an original song performed by Kate Winslet.
Everyone in the cast is British, except for Nicolas Cage. This is…bizarre. I have no problem with Nicolas Cage as Jacob Marley, but for him not to use a British accent in the setting of 19th-century England where everyone else is speaking with accents is a little jarring. This has been tried before and it doesn’t work. What’s worse, Cage phones it in. He does a generic spooky ghost voice for his three-minute scene. The recording couldn’t have taken more than 30 minutes out of any given day of Cage’s life. Even this is better ghost vocalizing.
It’s all a pity because the role of Jacob Marley can be incredibly fun. The character is classic enough that you can take big risks with it. Marley is so canonical among both Christmas characters and literary spirits that, unless an actor puts some moxie in their portrayal, it will end up trite. There was plenty for Nic to work with for this character too. He’s on heavy exposition duty, establishing the history of his and Scrooge’s business relationship. He regrets his life and how greed got him bound in chains for eternity, and desperately wants to save his old partner from the same fate. It’s a playground for an actor like Cage. Too bad he didn’t give two shits.
It’s easy to hate a Christmas movie, especially one that’s been remade so many times. I wanted something good to come of this. There is potential to tell a story that’s still relevant in 2014, with people lining up late Thanksgiving night to trample over each other in pursuit of consumer products, and profit margins being treated with more respect than human lives. The super rich are increasingly hostile to people other than themselves. There’s tons of relevance in this story that gets missed for reasons unknown. Probably because no one with enough money to make a movie wants to make it about how cruel the rich are. Merry Christmas.
- How was the movie?
- Bah, humbug
- How was Nic Cage’s acting?
- Did his performance make the movie worse?
- Yes, he turned bad into worse