Saturday, December 17, 2016

Dec 11 - Rich Little's A Christmas Carol (1978)

Oh goodness, what a silly little time capsule. It seems kinda silly to include it and try to rank it, like comparing a plastic squeaker toy orange to real apples. But I couldn't pass up a few oddities like this. It might be difficult to put them head to head with true adaptations in any meaningful way, but they are important as they illustrate just how much of a phenomenon the novel is and how enormous a footprint it's made in pop culture.

Okay, so first things first...just to get this out of the way, it's not a great adaptation. That's not it's goal, but just to get all the facts out there. The jokes are priority one and if the story kinda came through in the end, great! In general, as far as ranking, I'm going to end up ordering everything in the vague, all-encompassing sense of how entertaining they were. A lackluster adaptation could still be funny or worth watching for other reasons. Maybe even better summed up, the list is an assumption of how likely I am to watch them again. And, for me personally, this lackluster adaptation also isn't terribly funny and worth keeping in the holiday movie rotations.

To explain a little, for anyone not familiar, Rich Little was/is an impressionist extraordinaire and here he plays every part in the story as an actor or character he is impersonating. Scrooge is WC Fields and Bob Cratchit is Paul Lynde, to name a couple. It's the kinda crazy, goofy gimmick you only see once in a while when a performer briefly brushes against and becomes part of the zeitgeist of their time. It's kinda like Garth Brooks being able to invent and become Chris Gaines for a little while, it's a very special set of circumstances and fanaticism and tolerance from the viewing world that lets this happen.

The problem is...and it's not exactly the show's fault, I don't think anyone made this planning on it being a timeless holiday tradition watched decades's completely locked in 1978 and is hard to relate to and connect with. Heck, even in 1978 I doubt audiences were howling over WC Fields or Laurel and Hardy impressions, but it didn't matter if they were outdated because they were easy impressions and strong among his repertoire, even if irrelevant. Like someone today who still busts out their Austin Powers impression. It's really twice as long as it probably should be, it gets dull after a while.

Credit where credit is due, since Little was the main cast member, it meant a lot of clever shoots and reshoots of the same scenes from different angles to assemble the necessary footage. That it came out looking this cohesive and managed to maintain a decent comedic pace and timing is impressive.

While watching I kept thinking about what a modern version like this would look like. Ten years ago,TBS really coulda had something if they made Frank Caliendo's A Christmas Carol...

William Shatner as Scrooge
Robin Williams as Marley
Jerry Seinfeld as Fred
George W. Bush as Bob Cratchit
John Madden as Ghost of Christmas Past
Bill Clinton as Ghost of Christmas Present
Morgan Freeman as Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

Watch it on YouTube
  1. A Christmas Carol (1951)
  2. Scrooge (1970)
  3. A Christmas Carol (1938)
  4. Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol (1962)
  5. A Christmas Carol (1971)
  6. Scrooge (1935)
  7. A Christmas Carol (1910)
  8. Rich Little's A Christmas Carol (1978)
  9. A Christmas Carol (1977)
  10. Shower of Stars: A Christmas Carol (1954)
  11. Scrooge, or, Marley's Ghost (1901)
  12. The Christmas Carol (1949)

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