Skip to main content

Review: A Christmas Carol

FX’s modern retelling of the classic Charles Dickens holiday story is darker and features more adult themes and language than other recent iterations, but it stays true to the tale of miser Ebenezer Scrooge, played impeccably by Guy Pearce, and his entanglement with three ghosts who show him the true meaning of Christmas.

'A Christmas Carol'

'A Christmas Carol'

The Steven Knight-written movie begins with Scrooge’s deceased business partner Jacob Marley (Stephen Graham) awakened from his grave on Christmas Eve by spirits in a last-ditch effort for him to earn redemption for his past misdeeds and penny-pinching. As part of his redemption, Marley has to hope for Scrooge’s soul to be saved as well — a formidable task Marley initially believes to be impossible, despite the efforts of the Ghosts of Christmas Past (Andy Serkis), Christmas Present (Charlotte Riley) and Christmas Future (Jason Flemyng).

The aloof Scrooge has lost all hope and optimism for life and for people, and takes much of his misery out on his young, loyal worker Bob Cratchit (Joe Alwyn). Overworked and underpaid, Cratchit struggles to care for his family while toiling under Scrooge’s iron fist.

FX and U.K. production partner BBC throw in several new and dark wrinkles that provide a different look for the classic tale. The movie starts slowly but finds its pace once Scrooge’s childhood is explored and the ghosts arrive.

Occasional F-bombs and brief nudity may make this version a nonstarter for the kids. Even Cratchit’s strong-but-suffering wife Mary (Vinette Robinson) hurls an expletive at the crass Scrooge during a pivotal scene, saying “I am a woman and I have the power to summon such spirits and I [deleted] will.”

Some viewers may feel the scarier content is better suited for Halloween than Christmas, but FX and BBC nevertheless deliver an intriguing, entertaining project with great acting performances that does the classic Dickens tale justice.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.