EBBIE (1995) Balladeer’s Blog’s Ninth Annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon rolls along with this 1995 telefilm starring soap opera queen Susan Lucci. The eternally-sexy Lucci plays Elizabeth “Ebbie” Scrooge, our regulation “grasping and covetous” business magnate who runs the Dobson’s department store empire. This version of A Christmas Carol is kind of cute and it tries hard.
At its core Ebbie combines the Dickens tale with elements of the Diane Keaton movie Baby Boom. The dialogue self-consciously uses Big Business/ Executive Culture cliches in various exchanges. For example, where Scrooge normally says “Can’t I take them (the Ghosts) all at once and have it over with” Ebbie instead says “Can’t I just Conference Call them all in and have it over with?” Plus Marley’s Ghost refers to Scrooge “taking meetings” with the three Spirits. Sometimes these substitutions are amusing, other times just eye-rolling.
Ebbie is one of those Carols which make the Ghosts look like people that the Scrooge figure knows in real life. Personally I don’t care for that approach but others do, so it’s all just a question of taste. An interesting note is that outside of Susan Lucci and the guy who plays her late partner Jake Marley (Jeffrey DeMunn) virtually NOBODY in the cast is recognizable. It’s like The Susan Lucci Community Theater Players Present A Christmas Carol.
Taking the crucial elements of the tale in order:
SCROOGE OPPRESSING BOB CRATCHIT is instead Ebbie oppressing Roberta Cratchit, her much-abused Executive Assistant, as well as abusing the entire staff at Dobson’s department store.
NEPHEW FRED’S VISIT becomes a visit from Ebbie’s perky and cheerful niece Fran, the child of her beloved late sister Francine.
THE CHARITY COLLECTORS are basically the same but with updated dialogue for them and Scrooge.
THE DOOR KNOCKER scene instead features Ebbie seeing Marley’s Ghost dressed as a doorman at her penthouse apartment.
MARLEY’S WARNING to Scrooge presents him first showing up in television shows Ebbie is watching and on computer displays on her laptop. Then he materializes in person for the rest of his schpiel. As part of Marley’s damnation he is as harried and abused by his infernal bosses (by cell-phone calls no less) as his and Ebbie’s real-life underlings were/are by him/her.
MORE OF GRAVY THAN OF GRAVE ABOUT YOU becomes a bit where Ebbie blames the medication she just took for causing what she wants to dismiss as mere hallucinations.
GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PAST – For just plain no reason we get TWO actresses portraying the Ghosts of Christmas Past. The joint spirits are played by Jennifer Clement and Nicole Parker, who also portray two of the Perfume Sample Girls in that department of Ebbie’s store.
I did research to see if the pair were a comedy or singing duo (they perform a number at one point) that have dropped off the radar but no, there are two of them just for the hell of it apparently.
SCROOGE’S SISTER is Ebbie’s pregnant sister Francine who dies giving birth to Niece Fran at Christmas time. (Their father is a nasty drunk.)
SCROOGE’S LOST LOVE is Paul (Ron Lea), who outdoes even the other faceless, unmemorable cast members at being non-descript and instantly forgettable. If this guy robbed me at gunpoint with no mask on I STILL wouldn’t be able to describe him to the cops for a composite drawing.
THE FEZZIWIGS become the Dobsons, the husband and wife who owned the eponymous department store empire before their employees Scrooge and Marley stole it from them in a hostile takeover. Mr Dobson (Kevin McNulty) goes by the initials “F.Z.” as a kind of Fezziwig reference I guess. Mrs Dobson is played by Susan Hogan, who was required by law to appear in Christmas Carol adaptations. (I’m kidding, but she IS in a lot of them.)
GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT – For this Ghost we get a wisecracking and street-smart black woman played by Lorena Gale, who also portrays Rita, one of Ebbie’s abused employees at Dobson’s.
TINY TIM is Timmy Cratchit (Taran Noah Smith), the most annoyingly cute of Roberta Cratchit’s children. He is very ill, blah blah blah, yada yada yada, “empty seat” line.
GHOST OF CHRISTMAS YET TO COME- This unspeaking spirit is played by Bill Croft, who also filled the role of Luther, a Store Detective who gets fired by Ebbie on Christmas Eve.
THE SCAVENGERS who robbed everything in the vicinity of Scrooge’s unmourned corpse in the novel become instead callous Emergency Room nurses who couldn’t care less to see a fallen tycoon like Ebbie pass away.
SCROOGE’S MORNING-AFTER CONVERSION is one of the weakest, if not THE weakest, renderings of Scrooge’s Christmas Morning happiness in any version of A Christmas Carol. Lucci is not a great actress in any of her other scenes, either, but she becomes painful to watch here. She portrays Ebbie’s joy over getting a second chance at life as unconvincingly as a Dobson’s department store mannequin faking an orgasm.
REUNION WITH NEPHEW FRED- This is pretty heart-warming as Ebbie shows up at Niece Fran’s house on Christmas Day to at long last accept one of her yearly invitations to Christmas Dinner. An added bonus is a heart-breaking card that Ebbie’s sister left to her daughter regarding her love for the child’s Aunt Ebbie.
HEAD-GAME WITH BOB CRATCHIT – The telefilm closes with Ebbie’s visit to her niece’s house on Christmas Day so in place of it we got an earlier scene in which Ebbie shows up at the Cratchit house with a turkey, gifts and a promotion for Roberta.
I will say again that this version tries very hard so it’s difficult to dislike, but it falls short in a lot of ways. I kept thinking that it might work better as a stage musical, in fact, since songs always help patch together otherwise unsalvageable versions of the Carol.
None of the performers seem the least bit impressive and that adds to the amateurish feel in what could have been a classic. Lucci’s (apparently) undying beauty can cover up the supporting cast’s shortcomings just so much.
Usually having a bunch of unrecognizable faces in a film helps the viewer lose themselves in the character being played, but only if the thespian involved has a reasonable level of talent. The bunch of stiffs backing up Susan Lucci in Ebbie seem like they were dragged out of the Federal Witness Protection Program and forced to perform at gunpoint.
This movie is also available on video as Miracle at Christmas: Ebbie’s Story. ++
FOR DOZENS MORE VERSIONS OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/category/a-christmas-carol-2/
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