Wednesday, December 12, 2018

“I Was a Boy Here!” | Jim Carrey (2009)

Robert Zemeckis plays a lot in this animated format, unbound by the limitations of filming live action. Sometimes that's to a fault, but his instincts are pretty good in this scene. The Ghost of Christmas Past never walks anywhere with Scrooge when he can fly the two of them there at a crazy and exciting speed. So we get a transition scene of them zooming out of Scrooge's bedroom and into the snowy countryside. They continue zooming through trees and over fields until they reach a small, country town with a church and a bridge and lots of cute houses. It's very picturesque.

Jim Carrey's Scrooge has already been deeply affected by the ghosts so far. He's frightened and humbled by them, willing to listen to what they have to say. He's visibly moved by the sight of his hometown, smiling and speaking breathlessly about it. The Spirit notices that Scrooge is trembling and thinks that it spots a tear, but Scrooge claims that it's "something in my eye." (I doubt very many adaptations will stick with the lame pimple explanation that Dickens had him use.)

I'm sure I've mentioned before that Carrey is a very good Scrooge. He's acting his heart out in the role and it's touching to see Scrooge so emotional about being home again. He's truly excited by the town and his schoolmates whom he sees riding out of it on horseback and in a wagon. He doesn't call them by name, but says that he knows "every one of them." Their wagon is plastered with a big Merry Christmas banner and though Scrooge doesn't call it out as a reason for joy, he's clearly not humbugging it either.

The Spirit zooms again with Scrooge, this time through the town and to a large, brick schoolhouse on the other side. Scrooge recognizes it with less excitement. His face grows sad and pained as he looks at it, and the Spirit puts those emotions into words, talking about the solitary child neglected by his friends.

They fly again, through the front door, up a grand staircase, and down a hall to Scrooge's classroom. The building doesn't look especially run down, but it is bare and lonely looking. Young Scrooge sits alone in the classroom, singing "O Come, All Ye Faithful" to himself in Latin. He's getting a good education clearly and he's not yet given up on the holiday. He's trying to make himself merry as much as possible, but his voice is sad. As the camera swings around to his face, he gives up the song partway through and frowns in misery. "Poor boy," says Old Scrooge. "Poor, poor boy." And I believe it. There's not even any consolation in fictitious friends, either. The movie skips that part, but I feel like its for a reason: taking away even that little bit of comfort from Young Scrooge.

The Spirit invites Scrooge to see another Christmas and the room darkens and decays around them. The Boy Scrooge fades away as a Young Man Scrooge fades in at the other end of the long room, walking the aisle despairingly as Dickens wrote. He's tearing pages and throwing them on the floor, but the movie doesn't reveal what that's about. They're loose pages, not a book, so maybe it's a letter? Or maybe it's just paper. Something for Scrooge to do instead of sit and feel horrible.

Fan interrupts his bad mood with all the excitement of a young girl. She's maybe nine or ten, much younger than him. Her dialogue is right from Dickens with no embellishment, so we learn that Scrooge's dad does bear some kind of grudge against Scrooge, but we get no details about why that might be.

Old Scrooge is heartbroken by the scene. Memories of his sister rush in and he clearly loves her as he talks about her large heart. He's thoughtful as the Spirit mentions Fred, but there's no time to dwell on Scrooge's nephew. The Spirit takes Scrooge's hand again and they zoom down the long room, through a large opening that was probably a blackboard a minute ago, and into London.


Caffeinated Joe said...

Your description of the scene does it justice. I am not a super fan of this version, just never clicked. But you make a great case for giving it another try.

Michael May said...

I'm not a fan of it either as a whole. There are parts where it does some cool and interesting things, but there are just as many parts that really really bug me.


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