Monday, November 19, 2012

Dickens' Christmas Carol dons gay apparel in Knight and Neville's SCROOGE & MARLEY

"A holiday movie for all of us," notes the tag line on SCROOGE & MARLEY's poster. Well, yes, and especially if we're gay. The real question, however: Can Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol hold up in an all-GLBT context? Hallelujah -- it (pretty much) does. The story itself, in just about any version I've read or viewed, is one of those sentimental, can't-miss tales of a reprobate's redemption, set during the annual outpouring of holiday cheer. One great, nonstop cliché (though maybe it seemed original back in Charlie's day), it has here been given a second helping of cliché that has been placed atop the first in such a way as to somehow disguise both. Either one hides the other, or maybe cancels it out, in the same odd way that two wrongs sometimes make a right. Or the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

In any case, yours truly found himself surprisingly amused and then even moved by these typical goings-on, as well as by the way in which the co-directors Richard Knight, Jr. (above, right) and Peter Neville (above, left) and co-writers Knight (again), with Timothy Imse and Ellen Stoneking have rung their funny, ditzy changes on the old, old story.

Considering that the budget for the film looks to have been around $1.98 (most of the sets resemble an old Motel 6 come back to haunt us), and the screenplay is what we would, in a generous mood, call serviceable, we must rely on the performances to get us through. They mostly do. Scrooge is played by the properly humbugged (though rather uninteresting) David Pevsner, above, and Marley (the ghostly version) by the chained and special-effected Tim Kazurinsky, at right.

But it's the younger version of both men -- played, respectively by hot and pretty actors Drew Anderson (above, right, in his film debut) and Nicholas Bailey (left) who prove more enticing. Seeing them in their gay, 1970s disco-era heyday is fun.

Particularly charming and sweet is newcomer Christopher Allen, above left, as young Scrooge's first adult love interest. The movie takes us -- via those ghosts of Christmas past, present and future -- from the swinging 70s through the 80s and AIDS, up to our current not-so-hot economic times, and while the film hits mostly the tried-and-true, the actors often goose it into something better. (That's Megan Cavanagh, below, center, as Christmas Present, doing a very small production number.)

The movie's one very canny casting choice is Bruce Vilanch, below, who plays the Dickens' character Fezziwig, who here owns a gay stripper bar and take in poor, homeless strays like Marley and Scrooge, teaching them the tricks of the trade. How they repay their mentor begins their long descent into chains, fright & rebirth.

The Cratchit family (that's Bob, played by the awfully pretty David Moretti, below) are given us as gay lovers who've adopted a rainbow coalition -- one of whom, a certain Tiny Tim, is pretty sickly. And on its goes, through three wise men (I didn't catch their significance until I checked the credits), a niece and her lover, and a scene of sudden and unintentional "coming out" to dad at home during a break from college.

None of it will set the world on fire, yet all of it works somehow to bring Dickens' famous favorite to perhaps a new audience. (Or maybe to the same one in a different way.) TrustMovies would like to think that, were old Charles himself to get a look at this "niche" re-telling, once he got over his initial shock, he'd heartily approve.

Scrooge & Marley, 90 minutes long and from Sam I Am Films, opens this Wednesday in the Los Angeles area at Laemmle's Playhouse 7 in Pasadena for a week-long, matinee-only run. It will then appear around the country at various venues. Click here to see all them all.  (A DVD appearance, I would wager, is also in the cards.)

Special Note: at the Playhouse 7 in Pasadena, Bruce Vilanch will do a special Q&A after the Wednesday, November 21, show, and after the Sunday, November 25, screening will be a  Q&A with actors David Pevsner, David Moretti and Ronnie Kroell (shown two photos above, at left), along with producers and crew.

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