An American Christmas Carol Review

It’s time for an American version of the classic Christmas Carol. My main issue with this one is that it doesn’t really change things up all that much from the classic story so it didn’t take advantage of the different setting. It’s not one of the stronger Christmas Carol adaptions either. It’s decent fun but you’re not going to walk away from this one a changed person. You’ll just want to go watch Scrooged again as the definitive version of the story.

It starts off with Slade having his assistant Thatcher help him with taking back all of the valuables he loaned out. Basically he planned it out just right so he would give things to everyone in town and when they couldn’t pay it back he would get everything back with interest. He basically owns the city now but everyone else is dying in the cold. That night he is visited by a ghost and this would be the beginning of 3 more visits that would haunt him in the nights to come. Are these ghosts real or is he dreaming?

You can guess the entire story from that because the Christmas Carol is a story as old as time. It is following the classic beats here. I suppose they changed up the names but that’s about it. Slade was close to getting engaged/married to one girl but he directly sent her father to the grave by convincing someone to lend money to him instead of her father. Slade also began using very dubious selling techniques to get more money and squeeze the value out of the end user. It was all rather rough but that’s just his style. Now he sees just how much he was hurting everyone and how he has to make things right.

It feels like the movie is pretty much on automatic. He does a 180 real fast by the end and agrees to help out. This Scrooge just didn’t go through as gradual a character arc. Having the actual Christmas Carol be a book within the universe was a questionable choice. It’s cliché but I would have liked him to have said Humbug at least once. It’s a staple at this point. I would also argue that this version of Scrooge as Slade was a lot meaner than the others which made it harder to redeem him.

Put it this way, the average Scrooge is someone who destroys Tiny Tim but does so unknowingly. He fires people for nothing and doesn’t donate to charity but otherwise that’s the extent of it. He’s rich and everyone can’t stand him because he’s a harsh boss and doesn’t help the community. At no point in those stories is he actively taking away people’s furniture and possessions. It is a completely different ballgame here with Slade doing all of that. Because now he is actively harming all of their lives as opposed to doing it passively.

We’re in the middle of a great depression during this film’s timetable with everyone dying out as it is and then he’s taking the piano, chairs, and everything else? They have nothing to sell or barter with now so of course everyone’s dying. This Slade already knew that so it’s less believable for him to have a change of heart when he sees the visions. At least usually the main character isn’t going that far so when he sees the end results of his actions then he is ready to change.

Additionally this Slade doesn’t seem very smart. When we get to the future ghost we see people partying because someone died and they’re all making fun of him. Slade has to ask who died several times even though it’s patently obvious from the start. He just can’t figure it out and it would almost be funny if it wasn’t just odd. Scrooge had to be a slick customer in order to get rich and mess everyone over. He should be able to very quickly deduce that the only person disliked enough for this to happen is himself. We don’t need him to be questioning this at any point.

The rest of the characters are about as you’d expect. This version of Tiny Tim is having a really tough time and is getting sicker and sicker. Thatcher tries to stay upbeat about this while his wife is furious at Slade and wants to take him down. Their daughter tends to panic about what’s going on which is rough since they were trying to play it cool. She was just a little too young to handle it. Then you have the ghosts who are here to take a lot of pot shots at Slade as they show him where he went wrong.

While it would have been a bold approach, I think maybe playing this off as a Scrooge origin story could have been good. In fact I’m surprised nobody’s done that yet. The flashback got me thinking about it because it was a little longer and more detailed than I’m used to. Seeing him rise up the ranks and always be ready to make a deal just got me interested. That would make for a very fun film and it would be completely unique. So that’s a win/win if you ask me. Now I want to see a film like that and you can even keep in the supernatural elements if you want but I don’t think you’d need them.

I’ve been comparing this one to other Christmas Carols a lot but I do want to still point out that this is a good film. True it doesn’t hold its own next to the others but if you look at the movie in isolation then it’s still a good story. It’s got a solid beginning, middle, and ending. The supernatural impact of the ghosts is solid and the writing is good. You should be engaged all the way through the movie and that’s the sign of a successful picture. You won’t get bored or anything like that during the movie.

Overall, An American Christmas Carol is an interesting idea in concept but it just didn’t work out compared to the others. The film to do this angle the best was Scrooged as it really took a deeper look into what a jaded CEO type could really be like. To convert him they really had to put him through the wringer and he was even in near death situations like being shot at. Throwing in some spice like that helps to make the story unique and would also have a more American flavor as opposed to just telling the same story again with brand new names.

Overall 6/10


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