December 10, 2009: I've decided that the Patrick Stewart (TNT) version of "A Christmas Carol" may ultimately be my favorite, unseating the very dear version that stars Quincy Magoo. Call it the special effects, or perhaps just seeing Joel Grey wearing that Gregg Allman wig, but something about it buoys my heart and makes me wholeheartedly glad I'm not a Jew. (No offense Bonnie, David, Efrem, Mrs. Goldblatt -- the whole lot of you people!)
No one can deny that Stewart is a very gifted actor (although I'm beginning to suspect that achieving greatness in acting merely consists of being English and orating grandiosely with a shaky timbre). The nice thing about seeing him play Scrooge, however, is that he dances like he means it. I also thought he embellished the role with some keen touches, like a bald head, and while I found his gagging scene a bit confusing and disconcerting -- at first I thought they'd left in an outtake -- overall I found myself carried along and appropriately despising his guts.
Richard E. Grant proves a fine Bob Cratchit, despite his large forehead. (I'm very wary of people with large foreheads for a variety of reasons, and you should be too.) He affects such a striking collection of twisted pathos-ridden faces, you'd think he really was some awful Camdentown wretch with nine mouths to support. His teeth, in particular, play a fine role, and one wonders what work he had done in order to even get the chance to try out for the role.
One thing I didn't like was the outfit worn by Belle in the break-up scene. The hood just seemed so overproduced, and I found I didn't even follow the dialogue because I kept looking at that stupid hood. Looking closer, I think I may have also recast the role of Feeziwig as well. While Ian McNeice was adequate, I thought the bulk of his fat chin and neck weren't matched by a believable girth, and so I found myself -- much to my own disgust -- wondering, for the sake of continuity, what he looked like naked.
I remain a fan of both the Reginald Owen and Alastair Sim versions, although I find the idea that someone created a musical version of this fine tale (which I've read numerous times) despicable. (I won't even touch the idea of Kelsey Grammar recreating the role, and will instead continue to pretend he doesn't even exist.)
To summarize, if you're only going to watch one version of this classic Christmas story this holiday season, try the Stewart version, though it's somewhat hard to find. TNT, which also created the greatest version of Stephen King's "Salem's Lot" has done it again, and while it took me 10 years to finally notice, I'll stand by my record of only supporting the best.