Mister Scrooge to See You, Part 1
So I imagine many of you are most looking forward to the third part of my Wintermas offering this year:
And believe me, it’s coming. Oh yes, it is coming.
But I am actually super-duper excited about this one. See, I’m kinda in love with A Christmas Carol. Yup, this atheist absolutely adores this freaking story. I collect every version I can find. So you can imagine my excitement when I discovered that a little dream of mine had actually come true: there really is a Christian version out there!
Okay, technically, it’s a sequel. Still, though.
Now, as weird as this gets, much of this will be familiar to regular readers of this blog: principally, the bargain-basement movie budget, but also the Christian travelling to the future and the recreation of a classic story, with Christianity shoehorned in.
Okay, so we begin in the past (long past, not your past), and Jacob Marley’s ghost appears to tell us that one year has passed since the events of A Christmas Carol. (Now, versions of A Christmas Carol have been set in many different time periods, but this one takes the common view that the story happened the year it was published, 1843. So it’s now 1844. This isn’t always the way they go, though: to take one random example, Scrooge takes place in 1860. So it’s pretty much up to the creators of the movies.)
Marley continues to break the fourth wall, informing us that Scrooge has indeed stayed changed, being now a kind and generous guy. During all this, Scrooge is wandering home in the dark and keeps hearing something, but not actually tracking Marley down.
So here’s the first example of our old-timey scenery. I find it almost charming, though.
Here we get our first example of shoehorning Carol stuff into this movie where it doesn’t fit. Marley blows a weird ghostly candle-thing at Scrooge’s face, and Scrooge hauls ass to his house, where a sign tacked to the door says, “Come in and know me better, man!”
Except Jacob Marley never said that. The Ghost of Christmas Present did.
Then Marley literally says “Boo!“…which causes Scrooge to wake up.
Yup, Jacob Marley was speaking to us, the audience, in Scrooge’s dream. Which he had invaded. And in which Scrooge could hear Marley talking to us, the audience.
What follows is a scene that desperately needed to be cut. Scrooge startles awake in his room, which looks remarkably unlike a bedroom and remarkably like a living room with a bed shoved in one corner.
This room is also extremely bright for 1844.
But aside from the budget really showing itself here, the whole scene is worthless. It tells us nothing we don’t already know (Scrooge is a changed man and loves Christmas), and doesn’t deepen character or anything. Marley narrates, a bit snidely too, as Scrooge putters around and gets ready for his day (which is Christmas Eve, natch).
The movie also squanders an opportunity here. You see, Marley talks and talk about Scrooge and how he’s changed, and seems a just a bit…bitter over the whole situation (as well he might be). Now, here’s what I mean about this scene being unnecessary—I thought, the first time I saw it, that Marley was going to play a big role in the events to come, perhaps guiding Scrooge, or perhaps working against him and his newfound kindness, jealous because he doesn’t have this second chance himself. But no. Shortly, Marley will completely disappear from the story, and we won’t see him again until the very end.
So, see what I mean about this scene being unnecessary?
Marley is also way too anachronistic:
“As I recall, they said [I was] ‘As dead as a doornail.’ *laughs* I kill me. *beat* Actually, that would be a bit of an oxymoron, don’t you think?”
Shut up, 1840s man! You’re ruining the atmosphere!
As Scrooge leaves (his bedroom door leads right out onto the street!), we cut to “New Britain, Wisconsin, Present Day.”
A young woman named Belle runs The Dinner Belle, an establishment that also serves breakfast and lunch. At present, she is taking the breakfast order of a group of four homeless persons. They all seem happy enough, if not particularly polite (not a “please” out of even one of them), and the reason for their happiness soon becomes clear: the Dinner Belle serves them free meals every day. This, in itself, would hardly be a bad thing, except we are told by the Dinner Belle’s only other employee, Petra:
“They’ve scared what’s left of our paying customers away.”
Petra also points out that they wheel their shopping carts right into the restaurant and leave them sitting around. We are given no reason to doubt anything Petra says, and indeed, Belle confirms it: the Dinner Belle is months behind in its mortgage payments, and Belle hasn’t paid Petra for FOUR MONTHS. And yeah, there are zero customers except for the homeless group. (Belle and Matthew, the leader of the homeless persons, refer to them as the Bridge Club because they all live under the same bridge.)
Look, I’m sure I make more money than Petra does, and I have some savings, but even so, there’s no way I would be able to work for nothing for FOUR MONTHS.
And she barely notices how bad things are: she quotes Matthew 25:40 at Petra, and Petra’s response is:
“Does that come before or after the verse that says if someone doesn’t work, there is no way they’re going to eat?”
So, yeah, Petra rocks. And despite her remark (entirely deserved though it is), she is a loyal and caring friend, inexplicably sticking around through all this bullshit.
Basically, Belle is shown in a mere minute of screen time to be someone with absolutely no business running a business. She completely sucks at it. I see this as Belle representing the opposite end of the spectrum as Former Scrooge. See, there’s nothing wrong with being a shrewd businessman and saving money, as long as you also give back. And there’s nothing wrong with giving, either, as long as you don’t give so much that you kill your own business in the process.
But the movie doesn’t see it this way. This is just my own interpretation.
We know this because just that moment, two guys enter, and Belle immediately recognizes one of them as her almost-boyfriend from high school, Tim.
Timothy Cratchit. The Sixth.
Petra notices Tim’s good looks (he is pretty cute), and can’t believe Belle dumped his ass, but we learn that both Belle’s father and Tim’s forbid the romance. Tim assumes it was because of class differences, Belle just states that her father “had his reasons.” Whatevs.
Belle greets the men with a “Merry Christmas,” which seems a tad premature since it’s only December 11th, and Tim shoehorns some Carol in:
“What’s merry about it? It’s just an excuse to pick one’s pocket every December the 25th.”
That’s a fun song!
By the way, Matthew the Homeless Leader won’t even let Belle handle other customers for 35 seconds (literally, I watched the movie timer), before demanding more coffee.
So Belle goes to give them more coffee, and asks them if they need anything else. “Just our foo–ood,” sing-songs Matthew, as though they’ve been waiting for an hour, when it fact it has been three and a half minutes since they placed the order.
I mention this because it is very clear we’re supposed to like Matthew, and I already hate him. Belle heads back to her actual paying customers, and explains the situation to the guys, with the manner as though the Bridge Club is the most precious and adorable thing ever.
And then we get our first example of actual wit in this movie!
Belle: I inherited the Dinner Belle [when my father died two years ago], all lock, stock, and barrel!
Tim: And the debt?
Belle: Excuse me?
Tim: The debt. On this property. Upon your father’s death, you inherited debt.
Okay, the way he says it, with that emphasis, makes it sound like a nice little Dickensian wordplay. I can dig it.
Tim also reveals that his father died recently and he also inherited the family business. It is driven home that Tim is Scrooge-ish when he says of his father’s death, “What loss? I got the business.”
Anyway, Petra’s hopes for paying customers are quickly dashed—Tim isn’t actually here to eat, but to inform Belle that because she has been delinquent in her payments for lo these many months, his firm has snatched up the mortgage, and is going to foreclose on Christmas unless Belle pays up.
Belle has the audacity to react with complete shock when the term “foreclose” is used, even though she hasn’t made a mortgage payment in eight months.
She then retreats to Petra, who, loyal friend that she is, instantly proposes spiking Tim’s coffee with laxatives.
I love this chick so much.
Petra (facing away from us), Belle, Tim, and Ron. I don’t like the color scheme of the Dinner Belle—it looks like a preschool.
(The two actors are brothers, btw.)
Belle doesn’t let Petra go ahead with her spiking plan, and as Tim and Ron leave, the second moment of wit happens. Belle says their coffee is on the house, and Tim has something to say about that:
“Some advice, Miss Dickenson: business transactions such as this, and…many more that I’m sure are made around here, are the reason the Dinner Belle will soon ring no more.”
*he smugly back away, bonking his shoulder on an actual dinner bell hanging on the wall, which rings*
I’ll admit it, that was pretty cute.
And yes, Belle’s last name is Dickenson.
Sigh. If it bends, it’s funny, if it breaks, it’s not funny.
Back in 1844, Scrooge is in his office, and pulls the same trick on Bob Cratchit that he did the year before—pretending he’s still a jerk, then surprising him with money. Except this time, he’s surprising him with a partnership!
(To be honest, Scrooge drags the gag out way too long, to the point where it seems a bit cruel. He succeeds in making Bob believe he’s gone back to his old ways, and that he’s firing him. Again, if it bends it’s funny, if it breaks, it’s not funny.)
But then he springs the partnership on him, and they exposit for a bit about how Scrooge paid for a vague operation for Tiny Tim, who doesn’t need a crutch anymore. In fact, he gifts the crutch to Scrooge, which is…sweet? Bizarre? I’m not sure.
And we get a little taste of Marley here—Bob wonders “what about Mister Marley” (in regards to changing the firm’s name to Scrooge and Cratchit)…and Marley whooshes the door of the office open with a burst of ghostly fog.
Both men seem little affected by this, and Scrooge gives Bob the rest of the day off. Then Scrooge heads off to buy some Christmas presents for the Cratchits. Locking up the office, he stoops to pick up his dropped keys…
…and when he straightens, he has traversed time and space to New Britain, Wisconsin, 2013!
Just critiquing all this, it’s very clear to me that these scenes are completely out of order. The movie should have started in Scrooge’s office. I mean, check that picture—they don’t look too bad. And then Scrooge could have played with the audience, as well a with Cratchit, with the whole is-he-changed-or-not routine. But Marley spoiled all that in the first minutes of the film. And that bedroom scene serves no purpose. So what they should have done was do the office scene, then, after we see Scrooge land in Wisconsin, cut to the diner. That way, we see the results of the Scrooge and Cratchit partnership in a more dramatic way: Scrooge give Bob the partnership…169 years later, history is repeating itself…but this time Scrooge is a Cratchit! It’s much more fun that way.
So, there’s our setup. Next time, another Christian fish out of water.
Oh, and it’s never really Christmas until this music plays:
BEST. VERSION. EVER.