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Film / A Christmas Carol (1999)

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A Christmas Carol (1999) is yet another adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, starring Sir Patrick Stewart as the old, hard-hearted miser Ebenezer Scrooge. It was produced by TNT and Hallmark Entertainment for TV. It sticks very close to the book for the most part, including several minor sequences usually left out of adaptations.

This adaptation also features Richard E. Grant as Bob Cratchit, Joel Grey as the Ghost of Christmas Past, Desmond Barrit as the Ghost of Christmas Present, Tim Potter as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Bernard Lloyd as Jacob Marley, Dominic West as Fred, and Laura Fraser as Belle.


This film contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • In the book, Marley's funeral is only referred to. This film, however, starts with his Lonely Funeral.
    • Scrooge going to church after his reformation was an offhand mention in the book and is here expanded on when he goes, realizes he doesn't know the words to the hymns, and a kind parishioner helps him remember.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Scrooge's sister Fan had her name changed to Fran.
  • Adaptational Badass: Scrooge in the book is utterly terrified of Jacob Marley, especially when he unhinges his jaw, while this Scrooge is unnerved but more nonchalant and even helps him fix his jaw when it gets stuck open.
  • Ambiguous Gender: Joel Grey as the Ghost of Christmas Past has a feminine appearance and a masculine voice, similar to popular depictions of angels.
  • Benevolent Boss: Mr. Fezziwig is a large, jovial man who is adored by his workers and throws a generous Christmas dance every year. When Scrooge revisits the memory with Christmas Past, he starts reminiscing about the advice Fezziwig used to give him, too.
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  • Big Eater: Mrs. Fezziwig is on a diet but eats a lot to get the strength to go through with it.
  • Big Fun: Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig are rotund, cheerful, and out to make sure everyone has a good time at the Christmas party.
  • Black Comedy: When the priest and coroner remark sadly on Marley's Dying Alone, with no relatives to grieve, Scrooge says appreciatively "at least he was spared that in his final hours."
  • Blinded by the Light: When Scrooge attempts to cover the Ghost of Christmas Past with its cap, the more it's covered the brighter the light becomes.
  • Bookends: Scrooge starts the film sitting in his cold, dark, bare room in a drab dressing gown, with a meager meal. He ends it sitting next to a roaring fire, wearing fine clothes, enjoying a glass of wine/sherry/brandy, showing that he's learned to treat himself better as well as others.
  • The Comically Serious: Marley’s ghost is temporarily dumbfounded by Scrooge attributing his appearance to bad food, ie moldy cheese or an underdone turnip. Then he reaches his Rage Breaking Point and starts screaming.
  • Creepy Child: Ignorance and Want, who are terrifyingly scrawny and haggard. Ignorance moves towards Scrooge hungrily until Christmas Present pulls him back and warns Scrooge to beware of him especially.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Marley's scream in response to the "more gravy than grave" line is accentuated by a thunderclap.
  • Epic Tracking Shot: After the funeral, the scene changes to the sky above London and slowly descending through the rooftops and bustle to Scrooge's business—in a remarkably similar fashion to The Muppet Christmas Carol, except that this London is smoggier.
  • The Faceless: The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come has no face visible under its hood except for its Glowing Eyes.
  • Floral Theme Naming: All of Fezziwig's daughters are named after flowers.
  • Foreshadowing: At Marley's wake, one of the men comments on Scrooge's 'dead as a doornail' remark by suggesting 'dead as a doorknob' or 'door knocker' would be better. Marley first appears to Scrooge with his face in his door knocker.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Pausing the frame while Scrooge signs Marley's death certificate lets you see the person just before him, Edmund Swinbank, who died via "decay of nature." Marley himself is listed as having died via a visitation from God.
  • Freudian Excuse: Downplayed compared to other adaptations, as while Scrooge's father blamed him for his mother dying and sent him away he later repented and asked Fran to pick him up.
  • The Grovel: When Scrooge takes Christmas dinner with his nephew's family, it's clear that he knows his treatment of Fred has soured his reputation with Fred's wife, so the first thing he does after Fred welcomes him is apologize.
    Scrooge: And you, my dear. Can you...forgive a...stupid old man who doesn't want to be left out in the cold anymore? Will you take me in?
    Emily: [pauses, then smiles] Merry Christmas, uncle.
  • Heel Realization: It really hits Scrooge when he's taken to the Crachit house and he sees how his "fifteen-bob-a-week Bob" lives—realizing, in fact, that he has a life outside of being Scrooge's clerk.
    Scrooge: I didn't realize that Crachit had a crippled son.
    Christmas Present: Why didn't you ask?
  • Informed Poverty: Fred is an affluent Victorian living in a nice house with a maidservant, but Scrooge still sneers at his finances.
    Scrooge: What right have you to be merry? You're poor.
    Fred: Well, what right have you to be miserable, then? You're rich!
  • Interscene Diegetic: The Ghost of Christmas Present showing Scrooge people all over (and out to sea from) Great Britain singing "Silent Night".
  • Leitmotif: Fran has a sweet melody that's heard when she appears in the past to pick up Scrooge from school and later on in the Present sequences where Fred's wife plays it on the piano and Scrooge holds up the Ghost of Christmas Present so he can listen.
  • Lonely Funeral:
    • Marley's funeral is attended only by his business partners, and his wake is attended by only three people, one of whom is the priest.
    • Scrooge's funeral in the future has no one mourning him.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Scrooge begs his past self to go back for Belle, but he doesn't.
    Old Scrooge: Go after her! (tearfully) GO AFTER HER!
  • Nostalgia Filter: Invoked when Scrooge sees the Christmas party and wonders if it was really that wonderful. Then he sadly admits that it was.
  • Nothing Personal: When Marley talks about how the suffering he and Scrooge caused is being repaid in the afterlife, Scrooge attempts to alleviate his anguish by saying it was business. That doesn’t help in the slightest.
    Marley: Business? Mankind was my business! The common good was my business!
  • Not So Above It All: When Scrooge watches one of Fezziwig's Christmas parties, his feet start tapping to the music.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Mr Fezziwig's party song is the lament of a man who wants to marry Rose... but does not want to marry her uncle and her brother and her sister and her mother and her aunties in dozens and fat-headed cousins.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: When he wakes up on Christmas Day, Scrooge walks out into the street wishing a Merry Christmas to all he meets. A number of people, undoubtedly more familiar with his usual Jerkass self, look at him like he's grown two heads. And on Boxing Day, Bob Cratchit is so shocked by his boss laughing and offering to raise his salary that he grabs the fireplace poker, clearly thinking that Scrooge has gone mad. But as Fred's ending narration noted, Scrooge didn't really care.
  • Parlor Games: Fred's party group plays Blind Man's Bluff.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Scrooge and Marley were genuinely friends in this version, and at his wake he tells him to rest content while promising to make their firm prosper.
    • Scrooge admiringly remarks that Martha Crachit, arriving late because of her job, is clearly a very hard-working young girl. (Christmas Present points out that she has to be.)
  • The Pollyanna: This version of Fred is incredibly jovial and undeterred by his uncle's umpteenth lecture on why Christmas is a humbug. When Scrooge does show up the next day, Fred pumps his hand up and down in unbridled glee.
  • "Psycho" Strings: The coffin opening to reveal Scrooge's corpse is accompanied by some frantic strokes on the violin.
  • Rapid Aging: Grey hairs start appearing in Christmas Present's beard in the afternoon, and by the end of the night he's bent and haggard, with his age evident in his voice.
  • Shipper on Deck: Fred and Emily are clearly trying to set up their friends Topper and Betsy during their Christmas party.
  • Sidetracked by the Analogy: The "dead as a doornail" is done as a conversation between Scrooge, the priest, and the coroner in which the coroner wonders aloud why a nail is supposed to be the deadest piece of ironmongery.
  • Significant Wardrobe Shift:
    • In the present and Christmas Future's vision, the Cratchits are in worn, threadbare clothing as they go about their meager Christmas. When they visit Scrooge's house for Christmas in the ending, they are turned out in much nicer fabrics and look much healthier to boot.
    • Scrooge also. Although he's wealthy, his house, clothing, and meal are very sparse, indicative of his miserly ways. At the film's conclusion, he's sitting in front of a roaring fire, surrounded by much nicer furniture, dressed in a fine suit, and enjoying a glass of wine/sherry/brandy, showing that he's learned to treat himself better as well as others.
  • Signs of Disrepair: Scrooge is content to leave the sign unchanged because the rust and weathering is doing a fine (if gradual) job of erasing Mr. Marley's name for free.
  • Starts with Their Funeral: Quite famously, Marley was dead to begin with. This version opens with him being laid to rest and Scrooge promising to carry the firm ahead just as they have been, rather than it being a vision of Christmas Past.
  • Talking to the Dead: After Marley's burial.
    Scrooge: The firm of Scrooge and Marley will miss your shrewd brain and keen eye, Jacob. We went through some hard times together. But we pulled through and we thrived on the idleness of others. Rest content, Jacob, that the firm we built together will prosper. I promise.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: When Fred sees the two charity collectors heading to Scrooge's office, he knows that it's gonna turn out badly.
  • Time Passes Montage: The timeskip from Marley's funeral to seven years later is marked by the sign above the door going from black to covered in rust.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: After Scrooge asks if Tiny Tim will live, Christmas Present repeats Scrooge's earlier words about "reducing the surplus population." Then he absolutely lights into him, only stopping because the Cratchits are speaking again (just in time for Mrs. Cratchit to deliver her own polemic on Scrooge).
    "Man... if you be a man in your heart, forbear that wicked cant until you've discovered what the surplus really is and where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man's child. O God, to hear the insect on the leaf pronouncing there is too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust!"
  • Tranquil Fury: Christmas Present clearly finds Scrooge an unwelcome chore on a busy day, but tolerates him, allows him to linger at Fred's, and patiently corrects him until they get to the Crachits. When Scrooge starts showing sympathy for them, Christmas Present loses it and quietly but mercilessly tears him a new one for his hypocrisy in being sad when he is the direct cause of their poverty.
  • Truer to the Text: This adaptation includes three scenes almost always omitted from other adaptations—the lighthouse workers, coal miners, and sailors on a ship at sea. We see them in montages with different groups of people in different sections of the country singing Silent Night. Ignorance and Want are also included, as are the young debtors relieved at Scrooge's death, the ghostly hearse, Bob sitting by Tiny Tim's body and mentioning Fred in the future, and the other chained spirits Marley shows Scrooge. (On the other hand, Scrooge making amends with the charity collectors gets Adapted Out.)
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Scrooge as a child adored his sister, and as a young apprentice was merry, friendly, and did sleight-of-hand tricks to amuse his employer's son.
  • Visual Innuendo: The womanizing Topper uses a lit fire poker to make hot gin punch when ladies are around, making the pot boil over.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Downplayed, but Scrooge raises his cane threateningly at a group of children, scaring them into backing off.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Scrooge's reaction to the charity collectors is a visible eye-roll before telling them to get lost.


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