Bah, Humbug!


I saw the Christmas Carol movie this weekend, and I have mixed feelings about it.

On the one hand the animation was amazing! Five years has certainly done wonders for 3D performance capture — compared to Zemeckis’ 2004 Polar Express, Christmas Carol looks phenomenal! The musical score (especially Bocelli’s God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen) was hauntingly beautiful too.

I’m glad Disney didn’t “cutesify” this movie, but for a holiday flick, it didn’t do much for my holiday spirit, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to ComeĀ  terrified quite a few kids in the audience — a bunch of parents had to take their kids out of the theater because they started screaming and bawling. I think the film lacked the warmth and goodwill that the classic story evoked.

Anyway, this post isn’t the start of my Christmas posts, but it is related to A Christmas Carol.

marly'sI found a copy of Marly’s Ghost (#181 for 2009) at a bargain bin (where else) a few months back, and I was thinking it was a retelling of A Christmas Carol, but it was primarily the teamup of David Levithan (who is, incidentally, one of the series editors of The 39 Clues) and writer-illustrator Brian Selznick that had me excited so I didn’t read the blurb.

I started reading the book, which Levithan refers to as a “remix” of A Christmas Carol, but was surprised to find that it wasn’t a Christmas story but a Valentine’s story!

In Marly’s Ghost, Ben’s girlfriend (Marly) has passed away, turning him into a mean-spirited grouch who doesn’t believe in love. So when February rolls around, Ben denounces love,decries the holiday that was once full of meaning for him, and sneers at all those who believe in Valentine’s Day. On the eve of the day of hearts, Ben gets a visit from Marly’s ghost, who warns him to mend his ways or suffer the same fate.

Just a few weeks ago I read a “remix” of another classic (Darcy’s Story, of Pride and Prejudice) and was disappointed so I was wary about this one. As a remix, Marly’s Ghost generally follows the same plot as Christmas Carol, but I think it was a great idea to have applied it to a contemporary setting, a different holiday, and an edgier feel without losing the spirit of the classic.

And from while this remix borrows some lines from the classic, it does propose a few inventive ideas along the way — Ben’s mantra is “Love is humbug”; Marly is shackled by the giant charm bracelet Ben gives her; the Ghost of Love Past takes him back to their memories as a couple, from their first meeting, the parties they attended (Fezziwig is a senior who throws mean parties) down to the time Marly was getting treatment for her condition (presumably cancer), which proves to be too much for Ben to bear; Fred is Ben’s best friend and Tiny Tim is split into a couple — gay freshmen named Tiny and Tim; the Ghost of Love Present takes him to the Valentine’s ball and Tiny and Tim’s Valentine’s dinner; and the Ghost of Love Yet To Come shows him a split-up Tiny and Tim as well as his own death, presumably by suicide.

The story remix works well for me, but I found the spot illustrations to be somewhat of a miss. Don’t get me wrong, Brian Selznick is one of the illustrators I worship, and the illustrations for this book, which were “remixed” in the style those by Dickens illustrator John Leech, while beautiful on their own, don’t exactly match the edge of the story and seemed to be more appropriate a book for younger readers. I don’t have a photo of the illustrations at the moment (too lazy to dig up my camera) but I think Selznick could have gone darker, even a bit towards the macabre, given the edginess of Levithan’s text.

Marly’s Ghost definitely puts a fresh twist on the Christmas Carol story, establishing its own identity while allowing the classic we all love to still ring true.


My copy: trade paperback

My rating: Marly’s Ghost 4/5 stars; Disney’s Christmas Carol 3/5 stars

11 thoughts on “Bah, Humbug!”

  1. Oh, this book sounds interesting. Problem is, where to find a copy. Usually those in bargain bins aren’t stocked at regular bookstores. Trust in luck and in my sis to root around for it in Manila. :)

  2. @Ms. Zarah – I think Janet Aylmer could have incorporated more of her personality into Darcy’s Story rather than sounding like an Austen robot…

  3. I too saw the movie a weekend or so ago and while I definitely agree that it could be upsetting to younger viewers (heck the ghost jumping out and so on could do the same for some adults!), it actually stuck with the original text from Dickens…a fact of which I did not know until my current read. It’s amazing to see the liberties directors and even writers take when “re-doing” a classic book. Regarding the book, how interesting to see a remix on the Christmas story done at an entirely different holiday season…sounds like a potential adventure to me!
    Thanks for sharing and happy reading!

  4. Hi Gina, I liked that the script was faithful to the book, too :)

    I was surprised that “Marly’s Ghost” was able to adapt the story perfectly into another holiday

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