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Tag Archives: Holiday Season
Susan shifted uncomfortably in her new chair as she waited for Saint Nick to respond. Too many of Benton’s awards and photographs were still on the wall for her to feel comfortable doing business in this office. The near-empty mahogany desk stretched between her and the red-suited sprite on the other side of it like a still black sea. Santa looked back at her with a quizzical expression.
“Well I don’t know about that, Suzie. I don’t suppose we’re taking anything from you. You have just as many iPhones to sell as you did before.”
“Yes, but that’s not really the point.” Susan cleared her throat. “I know you’re not sneaking into our warehouses and filling up your sleigh with purloined phones.” She deliberately let the silence hang in the air for a moment. The company had done an extensive five-year study and could find no hiccups in their inventory beyond the usual shrinkage and minor employee infractions, but security had been increased nonetheless.
Every modern adaptation of A Christmas Carol starts out at a disadvantage. No matter the strengths of its take on the material, no matter what unique flourishes or embellishments it adds, no matter how novel its interpretation, the new version will inevitably be compared to its hallowed predecessor, so ingrained in the public consciousness that it has become a part of the cherished lore of the holiday season.
I am speaking, of course, of the classic 1992 film, The Muppet Christmas Carol, starring Michael Caine and Kermit the Frog, in the production that forever proved that Dickens’s work is best realized in shades of well-trained British grump and felt.
Despite working in the shadow of that seminal work, writer and director Robert Zemeckis, of Back to the Future fame, brought Dickens’s story to life anew in his motion-captured retelling of the classic tale. The film stars Jim Carrey as the curmudgeonly Ebenezer Scrooge, Gary Oldman as his put-upon employee Bob Cratchit, and Colin Firth, Robin Wright, Bob Hoskins, and Cary Elwes who, alongside Carrey and Oldman, play multiple roles in filling out the film’s cast. While Zemeckis assuredly puts his own stamp on the source material, in the end, his interpretation is a muddled one.
Classic films tend to evoke a decidedly mixed response from me at first blush. On the one hand, I’m drawn to them. I find myself enticed to not only find out what all the fuss is about, but to consume one more piece of our national zeitgeist. Seeing a film that’s as sewn into fabric of our popular culture as It’s a Wonderful Life gives me a connection both to the scores of other people who’ve seen the film and to the America that only exists in Norman Rockwell paintings.
That connection creates a yearning for an idyllic past that never existed beyond the original celluloid. It’s perpetuated annually as families gather ’round for another holiday rebroadcast. I don’t mean this as a knock against the film. In harmony with the story of the movie itself, the viewer can see something that might have been, but never was, and use it to gain a bit of perspective. It creates a connection to the myriad individuals who find themselves reaching for that same popular myth — real people united by a shared, imaginary reference point.
Despite this, and perhaps because of this, I also watch these films with an unavoidable air of skepticism. We live in an age that thrives on and revels in the slaughter of sacred cows. Irony, sarcasm, and cynicism are the order of the day, and I am hard-pressed to resist. I do my best to keep an open mind going into these movies, but there’s a part of me that invariably has to be tamped down — a part that’s perpetually prepared to ask, “what’s the big deal?”