Our gang watched Scrooged last night, one of the two best renditions of A Christmas Carol ever filmed, the other being the Alistair Sim classic. Scrooged is quite dated—younger viewers won’t get the irony of the casting of Buddy Hackett (has-been), Jamie Farr (famous for precisely one TV role, in M*A*S*H), and John Houseman (ubiquitous at the time, but long gone). And the “Solid Gold Dancers” will make no sense at all, but they did then, sort of. There are a few bits of crude humour (Bill Murray insists on a clause in every contract that each of his movies has some gratuitous swearing and sniggering—no, just kidding), but not as many as you might think. In all, however, it is a pretty powerful, awfully hilarious rendition of this mostly secular fable of redemption. Murray pulls it off convincingly, and has a superb supporting cast to play off. Alfre Woodard in her “Bob Cratchit” role is luminous as always, and Carol Kane’s Christmas fairy is one of the funniest characters in all Christmas moviedom. I know I’ll catch hell for recommending a movie that has some wicked bits in it, but this one is really good.
A Christmas Story has entered the pantheon of Christmas classics. All I’ll say about it here is that (a) Darren McGavin is a distant relative of mine; (b) my sons think that his character is modeled on me, especially his mild, temperate disposition; and (c) Kari and I were among the 237 people who actually went to see this movie when it was first released in theatres. We’re glad our initial judgment—that it is touchingly nostalgic and surprisingly witty—has been shared by more and more people each year.
Finally, the “Santa Clause” movies. Number Three is a startlingly disappointing sequel. But the first two are a pleasure of the imagination and the funny bone. Tim Allen plays a surprisingly believable Santa Claus (good actors are scary people: would you actually want Tim Allen to be Santa Claus?), the costumes are splendid (the best use of red and green in any movie ever), and the family dynamics sit-com-ish but charming nonetheless.
Some of you will be dismayed that a theologian has recommended three movies that have almost no Christian content. Fair enough. What are your favourites and why?