A timeless foundation that still delights.
Scrooge: A Christmas Carol streams on Netflix on Dec. 2, 2022.
Netflix’s Scrooge: A Christmas Carol is a heartfelt retelling of the classic Charles Dickens story. It's familiar to a fault, with a predictable conclusion. That said, thanks to some solid animation, a lively cast, and strong musical performances, Scrooge manages to delight nonetheless.
Directed by Stephen Donnelly, Scrooge: A Christmas Carol depicts the exploits of miserly old Ebenezer Scrooge (Luke Evans) during Christmas Eve. A businessman with zero holiday cheer to give, he can often be seen hounding his debtors for money or berating the poor for their lack of wealth. That is when he isn’t chastising his nephew Harry (Fra Fee) for daring to invite him to a Christmas dinner. He detests all things merry and rarely enjoys the company of others. Ultimately, Scrooge lives a solemn life that’s free of familial obligations and the common decency one would typically expect from folks during the holidays. As long as he remains wealthy, he can’t be bothered – a silly notion that’ll eventually falter over the course of a long winter’s night.
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A Christmas Carol is a classic for a reason. Presented as a cautionary tale, it delivers a potent message about reaping what’s sown through a man’s encounter with time-traveling spirits. The basic premise is almost always as engaging as it is fanciful. That’s not to say that its charm doesn’t wane at times. Given how each rendition is more or less the same, most all of them suffer from being overly familiar; the timeless nature of A Christmas Carol doesn’t circumvent the fact that it’s been retold several times in all manner of film and play. The audience knows what to expect. And while Scrooge: A Christmas Carol certainly entertains, its plot only slightly deviates from what’s come before.
The good news is that deviation helps to humanize Netflix’s Scrooge. He shares a similar upbringing as his predecessors except in this version, his descent into bitterness is slightly more understandable given certain story shifts. His desire to hoard wealth, for instance, comes from a basic need to secure a solid financial footing as opposed to just being greedy for the sake of it; he never wanted to be like his father, who always seemed to be indebted to someone. Scrooge’s reasons for hating Christmas also differ slightly. The emphasis is placed more on the loss of loved ones over “wasteful” holiday shopping. Scrooge is as cold hearted as ever but his self-induced state is more relatable this time around.
Scrooge believes he’s a good man who worked hard for his station in life. This notion is often contradicted by his actions, none more obvious than his treatment of Bob Cratchit (Johnny Flynn), his poor office clerk. His fear of becoming poor outweighs his love for money. This realization makes the latter parts of the film shine when Scrooge is confronted with the results of his wrongdoings. The ending is predictable, even to those who haven’t seen any version of this story. That said, this shift in tone colors that way the final scenes come across in a nice way.
Luke Evans does a wonderful job at showcasing the different sides of Ebenezer Scrooge.“
None of this would matter, of course, if the cast didn’t provide strong performances. Luke Evans does a wonderful job at showcasing the different sides of Ebenezer Scrooge. From grumpy old miser to grief-ridden hopeful, Luke seamlessly captures the essence of this classic character. Olivia Colman and Trevor Nicholas are also great as the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present, respectively. Their distinct portrayals of these characters match that of the vibrant animation, resulting in lively and charming performances. The same can be said of Johnny Flynn’s Bob Cratchit and Rupert Turnbull’s Tiny Tim. And that’s before mentioning the musical numbers, some of which are rather moving.