Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962), Lookback/Review

Continuing our stroll into TV Christmas Specials Past: a loving look back at Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol.

Charles Dickens’ story, A Christmas Carol, has seen many different incarnations over the years. Even the hapless, painfully nearsighted Mr. Magoo got his own 52 minute musical special, which can be found on YouTube in its entirety or broken down into six parts. I chose to watch it in pieces, as my home environment can get a bit, shall we say, “distracting,” with two kids and three dogs running around.

By telling A Christmas Carol as a story within a story, we still get to see some of Magoo’s bumbling, even though the main focus remains on the actual story of Ebenezer Scrooge. The cartoon begins with Magoo (voiced by Jim Backus, Thurston Howell, III on Gilligan’s Island) singing about being back on Broadway, as he is the main character (Scrooge) in a successful play. He drives the wrong way down a one way street, crashes his car (yet remains unharmed) and stumbles through a restaurant before making it, a half hour late, for his own show. The director is furious, but Magoo is oblivious…once he gets into costume, the story begins.In the opening credits, it says that the cartoon is “liberally adapted” from Dickens’ story, but the plot and most of the characters are basically the same as any of the remakes. Magoo plays Ebenezer Scrooge, obsessed with his gold (which he can’t even count properly). He thinks “orphans are pesky” and that anyone who loves Christmas should be “buried with a stake of holly through his heart.” He reluctantly allows his assistant, Bob Cratchit, to take Christmas day off, then goes home to find the face of his deceased partner, Marley, on the knocker to his door. “Very strange…could I need spectacles?” he asks. Well, yeah…you’re still Mr. Magoo after all…Marley tells Scrooge he will be visited by the three ghosts, with Present showing up first, looking like Santa Claus and having his own little feast right outside Scrooge’s curtained-in bed. He takes Scrooge to Bob Cratchit’s house where, upon seeing what poor accommodations there are, Scrooge says, “These people mean nothing to me.” (Insert political candidate joke here…?)The Cratchit family is poor, but they sing about their dreams for Christmases in the future. Bob sings, “So I suggest you dream of them and prize what we have now.” Which isn’t much. But he has a good attitude.  After the song, the play goes into its second act, where the ghost of Christmas past arrives in the form of a gender-ambiguous young person with a flame above his head holding a holly branch. They return to Scrooge’s home town, where the ghost asks if he recognizes anything. “I could walk it blindfolded!” Scrooge exclaims, which is funny, because he’s legally blind anyway…Scrooge sees himself as a young boy, sitting alone in a school room. He sings about being all alone in the world, a boy no one wants, but this isn’t really explained. Is he an orphan? Is this why present-day Scrooge dislikes homeless kids?  Afterwards, the ghost and Scrooge visit Mr. Fezziwig, Scrooge’s old boss, as he and his two employees (one of them a young adult Scrooge) prepare for a Christmas party. Fezziwig is a warm, generous soul and the party is where Scrooge falls in love with the beautiful, blonde Belle, who refuses to dance with anyone but him. As time goes by, however, Scrooge’s love turns towards money, not people, and Belle decides to leave him.The ghost of Christmas past, too, is ready to leave, and as soon as he/she does, the ghost of Christmas future arrives in Grim Reaper fashion. He takes Scrooge to see three of his former “friends” having a laugh over Scrooge’s death, complaining about how cheap he was and wondering who will be getting all the money, if anyone. At the next stop, a pawn shop, four of Scrooge’s servants have arrived with everything they’ve stolen from his house, hoping to make a quick buck. They look like Halloween characters with green skin. Right in the middle of their song, my teenage daughter walked by and said, “This is stupid.”Kids nowadays…no appreciation for the classics.After Scrooge sees his grave, the play enters its third act, where Scrooge wakes to find that he has not missed Christmas day. He’s so giddy with happiness that he kind of freaks out the townspeople, ordering the largest turkey from a shop down the street and going out to say hello to everyone. The turkey is delivered to the Cratchit family, but Scrooge stops there in person to give Bob a raise and to give gold coins to the entire lot of them. They sing one final song before the curtain falls and the play is over…with Magoo bowing the wrong way, showing his rear end to the audience. When he goes to push the director onstage, Magoo’s foot gets caught in a rope, which releases the entire set onto the floor. Magoo says he’s “brought down the house” and mistakes the falling set for more applause from the audience.  Final review: I love any retelling of A Christmas Carol, and this is a lot of fun to watch. Because Mr. Magoo is already an older man, he fits right into the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, showing that he can play a mean guy instead of just being his accident-prone self. The songs are a little dated, but I think most kids would like this, even if they’re not old enough to remember who Mr. Magoo is. I don’t even know if he’s on Boomerang. Throwing some of his little mishaps into the beginning and end, while keeping the integrity of the story in the middle, makes for a great Christmas combination.Best moments: The old and young Scrooges singing a lovely duet about being alone, while in the schoolhouse. There is also a pretty funny moment when Scrooge goes into his teeny-weeny coin purse and pulls out a GIANT sack of gold to hand out to the townspeople.Worst moment: My daughter was right.  The song sung by the four servants was really bad.  Skip over it.