‘A Christmas Carol’ : Three VoD versions

Of the three versions of “A Christmas Carol” available for instant streaming on Netflix, two are quite good for different reasons. One is family-friendly, but the other is a parody that might be best for older children on the wrong side of snottiness and their parents (snotty or not).

“Black Adder’s Christmas Carol” is a special one-off edition of the infamous Black Adder BBC One period British sitcom. Rowan Atkinson stars as Edmund Blackadder with Tony Robinson as his servant, Baldrick. Originally broadcast on 23 December 1988, it has Ebenezer Blackadder as the “sickeningly good” and “nice as English pud” proprietor of a Moustache shop.

Because Ebenezer Blackadder is too generous, he is often the victim of con artists, known as a sucker. As he gives all his money to people pretending to be poor and to his greedy relatives, he doesn’t have any money and his business doesn’t turn a profit. The orphans who come to his door, are all adults and overweight but he still gives them what he has.

The Spirit of Christmas (Robbie Coltrane) does visit him, and reveals how vile his ancestors were, giving us a flash back to the 16th century where Lord Blackadder competes for favors from Queen Elizabeth (Miranda Richardson) against Lord Melchett (Stephen Fry) and to the late 18th century where Mr. E. Blackadder, Esq. is the butler to the foppish Prince Regent (Hugh Laurie). In the future, he learns that if he continues to be nice, he’ll end up as a thong-wearing servant to a general descended from Baldrick.

Ebenezer Blackadder becomes convinced that “Bad guys have all the fun” and resolves to be bad. Unfortunately, this is just before Prince Albert and Queen Victoria pop in to reward Ebenezer Blackadder for his kind ways.

Hugh Laurie narrates.

A more traditional take on Charles Dickens’ story is “Mr. Magoo’s  Christmas Carol,” a feature-length animation that both adults and small children can enjoy, but I have to admit I’m not totally impartial.

Mr. Magoo and I have some things in common. We’re both short and highly myopic. Mr. Magoo introduced me to many classics in a manner that encouraged me to read the originals.  “Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol” was first aired in 1962 and was the first animated holiday program specifically produced for television. The stop-animation “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was added to the holiday tradition in 1964.

The conceit is that Mr. Magoo is a great actor and he’s bringing “A Christmas Carol” t0 Broadway.

Jim Backus voices Mr. Magoo and as such, Mr. Magoo as Ebenezer Scrooge. Morey Amsterdam (Buddy Sorrell on “The Dick Van Dyke Show”)  is James Brady. Jack Cassidy (who won a Tony for “He Loves Me” and was the father of David, Patrick and Shaun Cassidy)  is Bob Cratchit. Joan Gardner is Tiny Tim and the Ghost of Christmas Past.

The musical numbers still amuse me and the animation gives clear characterizations so that children will quickly understand who are the good guys–not that any of the bad guys are really bad.  The ending number tells us to “Have a Christmas far more glorious than rich.”

So just for a bit of nostalgia you might want to watch this on Netflix. The music is also quite good. This is a lot more fun than the 1994 animated “A Christmas Carol” that is also instant streaming on Netflix.

The 48-minute 1994 animated “A Christmas Carol”  was directed by Toshiyuki Hiruma Takashi and oddly mixes what looks like more contemporary sets with characters dressed in Victorian garb. The animation attempts to be closer to reality in contrast to the exaggerated caricatures of Mr. Magoo.

This version of Charles Dickens tale has been dumbed down so much that even your child won’t be able to appreciate it. It tends to tell you about someone instead of showing just how miserly Ebenezer Scrooge is and the text lacks the literary merit of Dickens pen.

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