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.