Category Archives: Mister Scrooge to See You
Tim Cratchit has a busy Christmas Eve: after yelling at the office Christmas party and spooking the crazy old man who works with him by telling him when some other old man died over a century ago, he meets his lackey for lunch (or possibly dinner) in a private booth. This is really so Ron can tell Tim about the findings of the “investigation.”
“The results are back from the blood test that we gave Scrooge during his physical. The DNA test run against a sample of the original Mr. Scrooge found on artifacts in the corporate vault show an exact match.”
Damn. The Innocence Project needs to get in touch with this Ron guy. Sounds like the second-in-command at a financial firm, who also knows about “document recognition and identification,” is also a whiz at forensic analysis.
Either that, or Scrooge and Cratchit Financial is in such great condition that they can hire forensic experts with a two-week turnaround on DNA “found” on random old papers in a basement.
So Ron is shocked, but kinda accepts that this means Scrooge is Scrooge. Which makes me wonder what he thought Scrooge was when they agreed to hire him, but we’ve been over that.
And we don’t need to worry about it anyway! Ron glosses over the whole issue instantly by bringing up something Tim needs to know about Belle. He hands Tim some papers, and Tim’s response is a shocked “It can’t be!”
So, yanno how I’ve admitted I’m not great with figuring out the endings to movies, usually can’t spot the killer, etc.? Well, when Tim said that, I said (out loud, while watching the movie (yes, I’m a dork)), “It’s a V.C. Andrews story—they’re brother and sister!”
Then I laughed at my own silly notion.
What a fool I was.
But hey, forget about that, too! Ron immediately glosses over that to rub it in that he’s going to help Belle close the diner.
Time for another shoehorn, and this one I want to look at in detail, because it is SO stilted.
The original, from Carol, speaking of Fezziwig:
“It isn’t [that Fezziwig only spent a few pounds on the party],” said Scrooge, heated by the remark, and speaking unconsciously like his former, not his latter, self. “It isn’t that, Spirit. He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ’em up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.”
And here’s what Ron says to Tim:
“Y’know, it’s remarkable how some people have the power to make others happy or unhappy, to make an individual’s service light or a burden, a joy or an unbearable suffering. What is even more remarkable is that this person’s power comes from a look or a word, in things so subtle or insignificant that you can’t count them like you would money. Yet the happiness given is as great as if it cost a fortune.”
He just declares this whole little speech to Tim (who has just had some serious knowledge dropped on him and really might not be in the best frame of mind to take it right now). It just sounds stilted and silly—who says things in casual conversation like “what is even more remarkable is…” and “things so subtle and insignificant.”
Moreover, although we are shown that it kinda sucks for Ron to work for Tim, who is short-tempered and a bit of a jerk, Ron, unlike Bob Cratchit, is not underpaid, and seems to have quite a bit of power and influence in the company—enough so that it was initially his idea to turn the Dinner Belle into “boutique condos.”
If this little speech should be given by anyone, it should be Petra. It would be a way for the movie to show why she’s sticking it out with a failing business. (And don’t tell me it’s because she and Belle are best friends!!! I have a best friend, too, but if my best friend was also my employer, I wouldn’t stick it out, even with her, for FOUR MONTHS without pay.)
This all goes back to the idea that Tim should be Scrooged. For an example of how to do this, Belle, Scrooge, Ron, Petra, and the Bridge Club could look to the Christmas Carol episode of Quantum Leap, in which Sam shows a greedy jerk the error of his ways. This particular miser wants to shut down a Salvation Army shelter to make room for a multi-level mall.
(By the way, this is exactly how I thought this movie would turn out: see, in the episode, the miser still builds his mall—he just puts the shelter on the first floor! I thought for sure that Belle’s Diner would turn from a restaurant to a soup kitchen with Bible tracts…which is basically what it already is.)
Again, what a fool I was.
Anyway, I’m getting off track. I almost forgot about the next bizarre scene, in which Scrooge is wandering around by himself, and comes across some giant Wintermas inflatables.
And battles them.
Why is this Scrooge portrayed as a childlike doofus so often?
Oh, and he continuously quotes from Henry V. Because he’s into Shakespeare, you see!
Around the same time, Tim is walking alone, too. And as he stares in a Wintermas window, he sees Marley’s reflection. Of course, since he knows nothing about Marley or the whole Carol story, he really doesn’t know what significance Marley in particular might have.
Or his chains!
So he’s reduced to just being scared by a random ghost:
“Who are you?”
“I am Jacob Marley.”
“Jacob Marley? No…no, you’re dead!”
“And this surprises you, how?”
“Well, on two fronts, actually: 1) because I’ve never seen a ghost before, and 2) I’ve never heard a ghost talk to me like a 20-year-old hipster.”
Marley says they have a lot in common, then shows Tim an image of himself in ghostly chains (again, Tim has never been taught the meaning of ghostly chains, as this is a world without the story of A Christmas Carol), and then the Ghost of Christmas Future appears and spookily points at Tim, but again, he doesn’t know the meaning of this beyond that particular Ghost looking like the Grim Reaper.
Tim runs away, yelling all the time that he can change (though, once again, he has no context for any of this, and would have no real reason to know why these two ghosts want him to change, or what exactly they want him to change). He gets a little ways away before darting out into traffic…and Scrooge, who just so happens to be there, yanks him out of the way.
Tim asks why Scrooge saved him since he’s been such a jerk and doesn’t “deserve to be helped,” and Scrooge uses this perfect opening to point out that nobody deserves help (?????) but Jesus is there to help us anyway.
Helluva way to look at things.
And it’s so fortunate that this conversation takes place here, because they’re in front of a big church!
That Matthew pastors.
This pisses me off to no end—AND LET ME TELL YOU WHY:
All this time, Matthew has been slumming, passing himself off as homeless when he is the pastor of a big, well-appointed church.
He’s been mooching off Belle and her kind, way-too-generous heart, and encouraging others to join him, thus running her business right into the ground.
Plus, he spends all his time loitering at Belle’s place with, at most, three other people. WOULDN’T HE BE RESPONSIBLE FOR PASTORING MORE THAN THREE OTHER HUMANS???
How frakking DARE he use Belle’s business as a free soup kitchen that HE should be running?
Oh, and as previously pointed out, it’s Christmas Eve. And Matthew’s beautiful church is not having any services. Nope, Matthew is just loitering around as usual, just waiting for TWO whole people to show up so he can condescend to them.
“This congregation called me to be in the streets.”
“Yeah, they told me they didn’t need any sermons or services at all. Funny, the kids even seemed relieved that there wasn’t going to be choir practice. But hey, when you’re ‘called’ to pretend to be homeless and never do your job, how can you say no?”
Now, Belle does know what’s gong on, but has agreed to never being paid, apparently, because “She loves people, she loves the Lord.” Loves ’em so much that she can’t make her mortgage or pay her employee.
Tim, no fool, points out that “Belle’s the one who needs help.”
To which Matthew oh-so-sensitively responds, “Maybe there’s a Belle-like person out there for her.”
Yeah, maybe. OR MAYBE YOU COULD PAY FOR FOOD ONCE IN AWHILE AND NOT DRIVE PAYING CUSTOMERS AWAY.
Really, this is all very short-sighted of Matthew. He’s driven Belle out of business, so now where will he take his congregation of three for free food?
Oh, and Matthew’s not done:
“Besides, who better to help Belle than her loving Father in Heaven, through the most glorious gift ever given, Jesus, his son?”
That’s one helluva religious get-out-of-responsibility-free card Matthew’s got going there.
Then he drops some great logic:
“In here, I’m reminded of the One who never changes.
With what I get in here, I know I can always face what may come out there.”
Well, isn’t that ducky for you, Matt. As we sit here Christmas Eve with no services. Little did his parishioners know what they were paying him for—using the church solely for himself and three homeless people, but providing nobody else with the comfort he claims can only be found in church.
Wait, WHY AM I TELLING A PASTOR TO PASTOR MORE???
Sick of hearing Matthew talk only about himself, Tim asks if it’s too late for him?
“You’re here [in church], aren’t you?”
“Well, then, it’s not too late.”
“Yeah, good thing you caught me here on the extremely rare occasion when I’m actually inside the church at which I am paid to pastor!”
I’m surprised Matthew doesn’t make the hard sell here, but he abandons his possible conversion prospect to head out to Belle’s. Well, I guess it’s only nice that he help Belle pack up the business, when he’s the main reason she’s going out of business.
Tim agrees to go with, but adds that he needs to tell Scrooge and Matthew something about Belle.
FADE TO BLACK
At the Dinner Belle, the other homeless folks, Ron, and Petra are helping Belle pack and clean. Again, WHAT was Belle’s plan for getting the money, which she swore on several occasions she would do?
- Accept that you are delinquent in your mortgage
- Run the business just as you always have
Yeah, not seeing it.
Neither is Belle. After all that trouble teaching Scrooge coffee-ordering and Spanish-speaking, she has one bit of stragtegy left: “Pray.”
Pray in one hand and crap in the other, and see which piles up first.
But without anyone praying, Scrooge and Matthew enter, with Tim standing outside the door until he can be beckoned in dramatically.
Ron immediately jumps in, saying Belle “has until midnight to make the payment!”
That’s adorable, the way he says it like it might just actually happen!
Tim cuts right to the chase (I still like this cutie!), by handing Belle the deed to the diner. (Still doesn’t solve the problem of no income because of all the homeless loiterers, but it’s the thought that counts, I guess.) Then Tim hands a big check to Matthew for “his ministry with the Bridge Club.”
I mean, maybe it’s so that Matthew can actually pay for the food they eat every day, but somehow it doesn’t seem like it.
Carol shoehorn! Tim says, “This is the first of many, I assure you.”
Then Tim drops the real bomb!
“I’ve come here to claim my family, my sister.”
Belle: “You know???”
Wait, Belle, YOU know???
Yup, she knew all along. See, when her father forbad her from dating Tim, he revealed to her that she and Tim are brother and sister. So wait, how did Belle’s father know? Belle never mentioned being adopted: was she? Or is Belle’s father Tim’s father, too? What about Tim Cratchit the Fifth? Did he know? Or was his forbidding the dating really because he didn’t want Tim to date anyone below his social class?
And get this: they’re TWINS.
I’m sorry—I know brothers and sisters don’t always look much alike, but Belle and Tim don’t look like second cousins, let alone twins.
“Belle, why didn’t you tell me?”
Hey, YEAH. Seems kinda cruel of Belle to keep such important information from Tim for so many years.
“Would it have changed anything?”
Um, YEAH. He would have known he had a twin sister. That would have changed PLENTY.
“The way I was, probably not.”
Yeah, I bet.
Then Tim asks Belle’s forgiveness, which she bestows. Hey, how about asking his forgiveness, Belle, for keeping this from him all these years???
But there’s still this little matter of Tim carrying a torch for (and a picture of) Belle all these years.
Better sure the audience knows he still doesn’t have incestuous feelings for his twin! So Petra hits on him, now that he’s “tall, apparently nice, and handsome.”
And Tim immediately returns her feelings of attraction! (I suppose it’s fitting that the two best actors end up together…)
I guess it’s like having a Case of the NotGays.
At that moment, Scrooge sees Marley, who beckons him. So Scrooge magically knows that it’s time for Marley to take him home, even though it makes no sense that Marley was in charge of all this in the first place.
“Yeah, Scrooge, your work here is done. Your work ordering modern coffee and listening to some asshat preacher condescend to the person who really needed to change.”
Scrooge goes upstairs to Belle’s apartment to change back into his 1844 suit, and Belle and Tim catch him there.
“Well, if it isn’t the wombmates!”
Stop with the anachronisms!
Scrooge tells Tim that he’s glad “God did not give up on either of us.” Yeah, because Tim talked to an asshat preacher for five minutes! He’s a real RTC now!
Then we get proof that the writers of this skipped parts of A Christmas Carol!
“You know, I once knew another beautiful young woman named Belle.”
“What happened to her?”
“Sadly, I do not know. But I think I would like to find out.”
YES YOU DO TOO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO HER!!! SHE MARRIED SOMEONE ELSE AND HAD SOME KIDS!!!
Scrooge gives Belle a key.
Scrooge and Belle quote Shakespeare at each other one more time (Belle adopts a horrible British accent this time!), then Scrooge flies off the balcony, becomes a spirit, then is transported back to 1844.
Because that’s…not at all how he arrived! The hell???
By New Year’s Eve, Belle has made Petra a partner at the Dinner Belle (hope she gets paid once in awhile, now!), and Tim has made Belle a partner at Scrooge and Cratchit.
Ron has brought up a box from the archives, and . It’s from Scrooge, from the past. This is admittedly a cool touch, but also a bit of a paradox—hasn’t the box been there for over a century, now? Wouldn’t somebody have broken it open before now? (This is why time travel plots are tough.)
The box contains a letter (which contains more mentions of Jesus than the entirety of A Christmas Carol), Tiny Tim’s crutch, and a Bible.
What it doesn’t contain are a few more of those coins so they can have a nice nest egg and give even more money to those less fortunate. Tim and Belle seem happy enough with it all, though.
ONE YEAR LATER
In the movie’s final attempt at “humor,” Scrooge arrives at his door, Christmas Eve 1845, only for Tim to suddenly appear! Marley spontaneously transported him from the company gym to London!
Har. I guess.
Next up, what we’ve all been waiting for!
Yanno, it really is the best time of the year…
So Scrooge has landed in Wisconsin, and we get his moment of shock—he hears sirens, and is almost run over by a car (which is inexplicably speeding down an alley).
“What is this place? Marleeeeeey!!!”
That’s kinda weird: as though Marley does this sort of thing all the time, and Scrooge just knows that this is his doing.
Except that in Carol, Marley really didn’t have much to do with the actual proceedings. He didn’t take Scrooge all over time and space; the Spirits of Christmas did. Sure, Marley could do a few parlor tricks, but there’s no reason I can see why Scrooge should automatically assume this is Marley’s mission.
Now, this is all very reminiscent of the events in Time Changer…and what is also reminiscent is the hero being surprised by things which should not surprise him, and not surprised by things that should surprise him.
Case in point: Scrooge peeks into a dumpster, and make a face. Okay, yeah, garbage is icky and all, but the guy is coming from Horse Dung Central, so you’d think modern small-town Wisconsin would smell like Heaven in comparison.
Anyway, cut to the offices of Scrooge and Cratchit, where Ron is trying to talk Tim out of foreclosing on Belle. (And then what, Ron? Let her run the business even more into the ground than she already has?) Tim speaks truth:
“We’re doing her a favor. The woman has no business sense. Foreclosing on her now will keep her from sinking into further debt. She owes me a thank you.”
Ron also bring up the fact that the Bridge Club will be “displaced” (by which I assume he means they won’t get three free squares a day from Belle anymore), and Tim shoehorns in a comment about “decreasing the surplus population,” which doesn’t make a ton of sense since Tim isn’t suggesting they should die…just stop being the only “customers” of a failed restaurant.
But the music of villainy is playing, so we know for sure that Tim is doing the wrong thing.
Hilariously, Time ends the scene with these two comments:
“Remember, survival of the fittest.”
Hmm, a veiled slap at the “evolutionists”? You decide!
“There is no room for the weak.”
Damn straight. ‘Cause mercy is for the weak.
Sweep the leg, Tim.
Tim then pulls out a photoshopped picture of himself and Belle in high school that he keeps in his desk, and stares at it.
Back at the Dinner Belle, Belle is staring at the same picture. Ooookay.
Out of all the buildings in New Britain, Wisconsin, Scrooge walks into the Dinner Belle. Petra waits on him, but not before making a snide comment to Matthew, who is still hanging out there, in a booth all by himself, sipping coffee and reading a newspaper. Because I guess he has nothing better to do.
So I don’t blame Petra one bit for making a comment. One way of looking at this: he has all-but-singlehandedly cost her a wage for the past FOUR MONTHS.
So Scrooge sits down, and instead of being shocked by, say, electric lights or women wearing pants, his attention is taken by…a ketchup bottle. (Ironically, ketchup is one of the few things in that diner that Scrooge might understand.)
Scrooge asks for “a spot of tea,” and then, again of all things, fixates on Petra’s accent (Hispanic).
And that’s pretty rich, considering the caliber of English accents we’ve heard so far.
He then asks for the date, which again is odd, because Scrooge has never time-travelled to any date other than December 24th or 25th. He finally gets around to asking the year, and Petra (quite reasonably) thinks he’s crazy and heads off to get his tea, pawning him off on Belle.
Belle, of course, takes a shine to Eb immediately, and they chat about Shakespeare. Why? Hell, I don’t know! But it’s going to become a theme. And I don’t mean they discuss the thematic elements of Shakespeare’s work—they just toss random lines back and forth, citing Act and Scene. Because that’s all that fans of Shakespeare can do, I guess.
Eb finally gets around to orienting himself to time and place, and when Belle tells him that it’s 2013, Scrooge suitably freaks out (as well he might, since it’s the first time he’s travelled more than one year into the future, and the first time he’s made it to “the colonies“). He mentions the spirits, and Belle assumes he’s been drinking (as well she might). He also mentions his firm, and Belle then assumes that this apparently drunk and disoriented man is Tim’s partner, sent by Tim to “spy on” and “harass” her. Which doesn’t really seem like something Tim would do, but okay.
Scrooge tosses a coin on the table to pay for the tea and heads out, but not before asking Matthew for directions to Scrooge and Cratchit.
Matthew asks, “Why?”
Um, because he wants to go there, you snide jerk! What, you need to vet his reasons before you give directions to a stranger?
There really aren’t words at this point to describe the depth of my hatred of Matthew. But he finally gives the directions, and Scrooge thanks him with more civility than Matthew deserves.
“You’re wellllll-come,” responds Matthew, with a weird waggle of his head, and I can’t decide if the snideness is intentional or not.
(The acting in this movie is all over the map. Tim and Petra are the only ones with any sense of comic timing…which isn’t a good sign when the movie is meant to be at least partly comedic. David Ruprecht (Scrooge) is a TV veteran, and does a perfectly fine job. Belle…eh, she’s very…overdone. And her style is totally at odds with Scrooge’s which makes their scenes together very jarring.)
Anyway, Scrooge gets lost almost immediately, which isn’t too surprising, since he’s understandably freaked out by all the cars. But he soon comes across a sarcastic bell-ringing Santa.
And he thinks he’s the Ghost of Christmas Present. This is quite natural and works pretty well. Especially since the Santa’s reaction is similar to Petra’s—he assumes the ranting guy is crazy, and shoves him into a cab to his destination. Thus Scrooge takes his first car ride.
(Yanno, thinking again of Time Changer, there is a big difference between 1844 and 1890. Russell Carlisle would have some understanding of cars and electric lights, Ebenezer Scrooge would not. Yet Eb, like Carlisle, is unfazed by the things that should faze him, like women walking around in pants, clean streets, and electric lights. The biggest shocks he’s had are the cars (good one there), and the fact that strangers refer to each other as “buddy.”)
Finally, we arrive at Scrooge and Cratchit Financial, and I guess we need more evidence that Tim is a money-grubbing jerk. He okays the annual gift to the local youth center…then raises their rent. We also see that his office is adorned with portraits of all the past generations of Cratchits…and of Scrooge.
As Tim and Ron talk business, Scrooge ceaselessly taps on Tim’s glass door, which seems very rude for a professional man like Ebenezer Scrooge. (Not infrequently, the direction is quite “off” with Scrooge, showing him like some kind of innocent, overeager child, instead of a mature businessman.)
But Ron eventually introduces him, and we have a title!
“Mr. Cratchit, a Mr. Scrooge to see you.”
Tim is immediately taken aback, because this Scrooge looks like his Scrooge:
Though his portrait doesn’t look a whole lot like typical portraits from the 1840s.
Eb and Tim have a talk, and Eb tries to convince Tim that he is actually a time-traveler, a theory Tim takes with more patience than I would have expected.
By way of “proof,” Eb says he was born on February 7, 1786. Now, February 7 is Charles Dickens’ birthday, and only a few versions that I’ve seen even give Scrooge a birthdate (written on his tombstone, natch). In A Christmas Carol: The Musical (a version I find all but unwatchable), Scrooge’s birthdate is February 23, 1795, and his death date is in October (????????) of 1850.
But anyway, back to Tim and Eb. Now, it’s not like I expect Ebenezer Scrooge to have any working knowledge of time travel paradoxes and the like (hey, he’s not Captain Picard!)…
WAIT A MINUTE
But it’s also kinda odd that he thinks anyone would believe him.
It also doesn’t help his cause that he immediately decides to backhandedly insult Tim:
*sees a portrait of Tiny Tim*
“Ah, Tiny Tim! Older, not quite so tiny, but I would recognize him anywhere. Your great, great, great grandfather. A remarkable person—a joy and a pleasure to be around. *long pause for discomfort* And you…his descendant. Who would have thought…”
But then something strange happens: Scrooge ruminates on his predicament, and says to Tim that he has…
“…resolved to make the best of it, for…
*loooong pause as he gazes at Tim*
Tim: So what does this have to do with me?
Scrooge: I fear, much.
OMIGOD, you guys, GET IT??? Scrooge is going to “Scrooge” Tim Cratchit! He’s going to use the past, present, and future to show him the error of his ways and fix the future!
Well, that’s what I thought was going to happen.
But it’s not. At all.
Bah, humbug, indeed.
So when the only reason Scrooge can give Tim for sticking around in the office is “Christmas,” Tim tosses him out. I’m trying hard to blame him, but I really can’t.
So Scrooge wanders the streets of New Britain, as a contemporary Christian song plays. The self-pitying little ditty is called “Say a Prayer for Me,” and it indeed implores the listener to pray for the singer when he is “all AY-lone and every friend has deserted me.”
As the singer continues to mournfully sing about how bad he has it, we see people who really do have it bad: Scrooge, lost in time and space, Tim, drowning his sorrows all alone in his office, and Belle, poring over her finances (okay, I don’t feel so sorry for her—she acts like she’s just now realizing she might just be in a bit of financial difficulty).
Scrooge ends up on a park bench, and he’s just settling in for the night when Matthew turns up!
Like a bad penny, this guy.
After initially being an asshole and trying to kick Scrooge off “his” bench, Matthew is actually nice for once: he gives Scrooge something hot from a thermos (not sure I want to know what it is) and they chat about Belle:
“Too bad about Belle’s diner, how she can’t make the mortgage payments and all.” [says Matthew]
Yeah, too bad how you and your “club” have claimed her business as your own personal shelter and free fridge, driving away anyone who might want to actually pay for food.
Scrooge agrees that it sucks, and then then they talk about Scrooge meeting Tim. In a cute moment, Scrooge says that Tim “reminds me of someone I used to know, someone I knew very well,” whose fate is “yet unresolved.”
It all ends with Matthew giving Scrooge a blanket and ominously saying “I’m here to serve. How about you?”
Next time: the rest of Scrooge’s night as a homeless person!
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.