Top positive review
22 people found this helpful
THE BEST OF THE FEMALE SCROOGES ... and a grand updating as well!
on December 14, 2006
Charles Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL is a story that can be easily translated into any time period that you can think of (and has been on more than one occasion, although not always successfully). In 1995, the first of (to date) four made-for-television movies in which not only was the story updated but the gender of the "Scrooge" character changed from male to female was released and shown on the Lifetime cable TV network ... and to date Susan Lucci's "Elizabeth (or 'Ebbie') Scrooge" is by far the best of them all! The story itself is a very straightforward updating and keeps all of the elements of the classic story (I am particularly pleased that the segment of "Christmas Present" dealing with Want and Ignorance has been kept and filmed in such a way that it is just as wrenching as Dickens himself could have wished!), and even the updatings work (the "Scrooge" catch phrase is now "Spare me", which is just as bad when Ebbie uses it like "Bah Humbug" but which becomes a plea for mercy in the "Christmas Yet-to-Come" segment, and Ebeneezer Scrooge's "Are there no prisons? ... And the union workhouses, are they still in operation? ... If they'd rather die, they'd better do it and decrease the surplus population" is now Ebbie Scrooge's "Aren't there shelters? ... Aren't there foster homes? Aren't there orphanages? ... [If they'd rather die,] then that's their decision; too many people in the world anyway.").
Ms. Lucci, who is primarily known for her tenure as a lead on the ABC-TV soap opera ALL MY CHILDREN, turns in a stellar performance as the hard-hearted and ruthless owner of a department store, and both sies of her character are completely believeable. Ms. Lucci is backed up in this production by some outstanding performances: Molly Parker does double duty as both Ebbie's older sister "Fran" and Fran's daughter/Ebbie's niece of the same name (and does both wonderfully); "Bob Cratchit" is now "Roberta Cratchit" (played charmingly by Wendy Crewson), Ebbie's administrative assistant and a single mother with two children: Martha (Laura Harris) and Tim (Taran Noah Smith, who must be singled out as the best of the modern "Tiny Tims" if for no other reason than he never makes the part too "sweet"); Scrooge's fiancée is now "Paul" (played by Ron Lea), who in one of the most touching moments of the film sadly bows out when Ebbie chooses her career over him (close observation will show that while he tells her that he loves her, Ebbie never tells him that she loves him); and "Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig" are now Mr. and Mrs. Dobson (Kevin McNulty and Susan Hogan), the kindly owners of the department store where Ebbie works and from whom Ebbie and her mentor/later partner Jake Marley (Jeffrey DeMunn) practically steal control and ownership of the store (Note: Mr. DeMunn does a fine job as Marley, playing him cold-bloodedly while living and eerily tormented as a ghost; his ghostly plea to Ebbie is "Change the agenda, Ebbie. Reverse the priorities!"). Honorable mentions should also be made of Adrienne Carter, who plays "Ebbie" as a little girl possibly abused by her (possibly) drunken (and definitely hateful) father who can only find companionship and love with her older sister; the duet of "Christmas Past" spirits (Jennifer Clement and Nicole Parker) whose costumes change with the eras they visit; Lorena Gale, who does a wonderful job as "Christmas Present"; and Bill Croft, who presents one of the most chilling "Christmas Yet-To-Comes" I've ever seen on the TV screen.
If you can find it on Lifetime during the Christmas season, I heartily recommend that you watch it. The only thing that bothers me is that while the other "Female Scrooge" films have been released on both VHS and DVD, this is the only one that hasn't (at least not in the United States)! We can only hope and earnestly pray that Lifetime will see the error of its ways (just like Scrooge did!) and release this film in time for an upcoming Christmas!