Billed as "a holiday movie for all of us," "Scrooge & Marley" is in fact very niche, being of and for that segment of the gay community that enjoys watered-down camp and syrupy empowerment messages.

Billed as “a holiday movie for all of us,” “Scrooge & Marley” is in fact very niche, being of and for that segment of the gay community that enjoys watered-down camp and syrupy empowerment messages, which are not to be confused with the good kinds of either. This spin on “A Christmas Carol” delivers a heavy-handed morality play that Dickens himself might have found gauche, sugar-coated with weak songs and broad performances. Playing scattered theatrical runs between now and Christmas, the pic figures to do modest but better biz from its home-format release next month.

Raining on his employees’ seasonal cheer (even firing one of them), Ebenezer, aka Ben, Scrooge (David Pevsner) shutters the gay nightclub he ripped off long ago from a former benefactor (the inevitable Bruce Vilanch) and settles in for a grumpy solo Christmas Eve. But he’s visited first by Marley (Tim Kazurinsky), his former partner in ruthless gay-community bilking, now a salvation-seeking denizen of purgatory.

As in the Dickens story, three more ghosts follow: Christmas Past (Ronnie Kroell), who helps Ben revisit his homophobic father and other contributors to his greedy, mean adult personality; Present (Megan Cavanagh), who shows how forgiving the people around him are; and Future (JoJo Baby), who promises Scrooge’s customarily bleak reward. Scrooge redeems himself, natch, though the maudlin final scenes are cringe-inducing.

Of course, it’s impossible to do a “Carol” without sentimentality — Scrooge’s whole journey is about thawing his heart. But “S&M” (get it?) is so crude and literal-minded in its gay reinterpretation that no genuine emotion can get past the script’s compilation of cliches. Execution isn’t much better, with a low budget that might’ve been turned to a more imaginative pic’s advantage, but here is charmlessly obvious, with tacky f/x and stagy interiors; indeed, the material could translate to a proscenium with little alteration.

Shot in Chicago, the pic clumsily uses frequent blackouts to transition between scenes in a mediocre tech/design package.

Scrooge & Marley

Production

A Sam I Am Films release and production. Produced by Tracy Baim, David Strzepek. Co-producers, Richard Knight Jr., Ellen Stoneking, Peter Neville, Ronnie Kroell, David Moretti. Directed by Richard Knight Jr., Peter Neville. Screenplay, Ellen Stoneking, Knight Jr., Timothy Imse, based on "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Andrew Parotte; editor, Neville; music, Lisa McQueen; production designer, Robert Steffen; costume designer, Jill L. Dunbar; sound, Jesse McAlpin; sound designer, Cory Coken; re-recording mixer, Jamie Vanadia; supervising sound editor, Stosh Tuszynski; assistant directors, Holli Hopkins McGinley, Daniel Lamkin; casting, Heather Schmucker. Reviewed on DVD, San Francisco, Nov. 19, 2012. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

David Pevsner, Tim Kazurinsky, Rusty Schwimmer, Bruce Vilanch, Megan Cavanagh, Richard Ganoung, David Moretti, Ronmnie Korell, Drew Anderson, Nicholas Bailey, Chirstopher Allen, JoJo Baby, P.J. Powers, Scott Duff, Amy Matheny, Fawzia Mirza, Peter Mohawk, Michael Joseph Mitchell, Judith Light.

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