Joyeux Noel, friends and readers, and thank you for joining me for the 2018-2019 installment of 12 Days of Muppet Christmas!
Because I’m a Muppet heretic, I can admit without hesitation or shame that Muppet Christmas Carol is not my favorite adaptation of the story. For nearly 20 years now, my favorite adaptation has been the 1999 made-for-TV movie starring Patrick Stewart and airing originally on TNT.
However, given my relatively new appreciation of Muppet Christmas Carol, I want to see how the two versions measure up to one another. So for the next 12 days, coinciding with the traditional twelve days of Christmas, I’ll be comparing and contrasting the individual elements of these two different adaptations of the classic story and assigning an advantage to one or the other each day, because what’s the fun of comparing and contrasting without arbitrary value judgments? Then I’ll share the final results on January 6th (Epiphany).
Without further ado, let’s start by taking a closer look at our protagonist:
Michael Caine and Patrick Stewart are both actors renowned for their vast talent. Though playing the same character, each has his own unique interpretation. It’s not a question of right or wrong, good or bad. Though different from one another, each actor’s take on the character is completely valid, which makes it interesting to see how each approaches the same character from an entirely different angle.
Michael Caine’s is a more sensitive Scrooge. Beneath his flinty exterior, you’ll find his emotions surging just below the surface. Scrooge is a something of bully at the beginning of the story, and like most bullies, Michael Caine’s Scrooge is really a coward. On the other hand, however, it takes a lot less to get him to embrace the spirit of Christmas.
Patrick Stewart’s Scrooge has his emotions buried much more deeply, hidden beneath layers of bitterness, frustration, and disappointment. His is a defiant Scrooge; he pushes back against each of the ghosts, including Marley, with dry sardonic wit.
There is, perhaps, one line taken from the original text and common to both interpretations that best illustrates the difference between the two: following the visions provided by the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, Scrooge asks, “Why show me this if I am past all hope?” (or words to that effect):
When Michael Caine’s Scrooge asks the question, he’s basically already given up. He doesn’t seem to see a path to redemption and seems to think the spirits have just been toying with him this whole time.
Unfortunately, I can’t find a clip of Patrick Stewart performing the line, but his read is entirely different. He punctuates it with an “aha!” at the end, triumphant that he’s caught the ghost in a logic trap, ready to stand up to make his case and fight for his salvation.
For me, since Patrick Stewart’s Scrooge is a much tougher nut to crack, it makes it all the more satisfying when the spirits finally do get through to him. Also, I’m more of a fan of Patrick Stewart than I ever have been (and probably ever will be) of Michael Caine. Therefore, in my heart there can only be one Ebenezer Scrooge: Patrick Stewart.
Advantage: Christmas Carol ’99