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Ebbie DVD + CD Review (Miracle at Christmas: Ebbie's Story)

Ebbie (1995) a.k.a. Miracle at Christmas: Ebbie's Story DVD + CD cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Ebbie
Movie & DVD Details

Director: George Kaczender / Writers: Paul Redford, Ed Redlich (teleplay); Charles Dickens (A Christmas Carol - uncredited)

Cast: Susan Lucci (Elizabeth "Ebbie" Scrooge), Wendy Crewson (Roberta "Robbie" Cratchit), Ron Lea (Paul), Molly Parker (Francine Scrooge, Frannie Jr.), Lorena Gale (Rita/Ghost of Christmas Present), Jennifer Clement (Ghost of Christmas Past #1), Nicole Parker (Ghost of Christmas Past #2), Susan Hogan (Mrs. Dobson), Kevin McNulty (Mr. Dobson), Taran Noah Smith (Tiny Tim Cratchit), Jeffrey DeMunn (Jake Marley), Adrienne Carter (Little Ebbie), Bill Croft (Luther/Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come), Elan Ross Gibson (Homeless Woman), Laura Harris (Martha Cratchit)

Original Air Date: December 4, 1995 / Running Time: 90 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio), Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: None; Not Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: September 25, 2012 / Suggested Retail Price: $6.99
Two single-sided discs (DVD-5 & Audio-CD) / Black Keepcase
Also available as standalone DVD ($5.99 SRP; October 9, 2012)

Buy Miracle at Christmas: Ebbie's Story from Amazon.com: DVD + CD • DVD

Most movies that were ever treated to VHS release have come to DVD, if not in the standard way than in recent manufactured-on-demand DVD-R programs. One class that continues to be less than fully represented on DVD, however, is the television movie. Once a weekly broadcast staple,
TV movies have now mostly been relegated to basic and premium cable channels. With viewership down and viewing options up just about everywhere, there doesn't seem to be much clamor for the medium's resurgence. The made-for-TV movie doesn't even exist with the connotations it once held, with today's productions ranging from HBO's Emmy bait to niche vehicles aimed at tweens, women, and Christians.

Making its American home video debut this September, Ebbie (titled Miracle at Christmas: Ebbie's Story in packaging) is very much a product of an earlier age of television. Offering an umpteenth variation on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, this 1995 Lifetime telemovie stars 20-time Daytime Emmy nominee (and one-time winner) Susan Lucci as Elizabeth "Ebbie" Scrooge, a tyrannical department store owner.

Ebbie Scrooge (Susan Lucci) is all business, to the chagrin of her overworked assistant Roberta Cratchit (Wendy Crewson). A glowing blue Jake Marley (Jeffrey DeMunn) gets directions on his 1990s-sized cellular telephone.

Ebbie remains faithful to Dickens' text, even letting certain pieces of dialogue in untouched, while updating its antihero's path to that of a career woman. Icy Ebbie is stingy with holiday bonuses and short on seasonal cheer. Her every action is performed with the bottom line in mind. Her work is her life, for she makes no time for love or family.

On Christmas Eve night, Ebbie gets a visit from Jake Marley (Frank Darabont veteran Jeffrey DeMunn in one of his highest-billed roles), her longtime mentor and business partner who died a year earlier. Transitioning from one television program to another before Ebbie's disbelieving eyes, Marley then appears right next to his protιgι, a blue glow to him. He schedules three appointments for the coming wee morning hours. Let's not pretend you don't know this story, which numbers among those most frequently retold on film and television.

The ghost roles are filled by Ebbie's employees: trendy perfume-spraying girls (Jennifer Clement and Nicole Parker) for the Past, a gift wrapper (the late Lorena Gale) dressed as a gift to represent the Present, and a tall security guard (Bill Croft) as the silent, ominous Yet to Come. As usual, a disproportionate amount of time is spent in the past, as we learn how Ebbie came to be an unscrupulous workaholic. Her sister (Molly Parker) dies in childbirth, for which Ebbie blames herself. And there is the one who got away in Paul (Ron Lea), a charming nice guy whose marriage proposals and vacation plans Ebbie dismisses.

Ebbie (Susan Lucci) and Paul (Ron Lea) have their loverly Christmas morning interrupted by a work phone call. As Tiny Tim, Taran Noah Smith might not really have the voice of an angel, but he does have the hair of three.

This Bob Cratchit is Roberta Cratchit (The Santa Clause's Wendy Crewson),
Ebbie's loyal, overworked, underpaid assistant, who unbeknownst to her, can't afford the operation needed to fix the unspecified condition crippling her angelically-singing, full-haired son Timmy (youngest "Home Improvement" star Taran Noah Smith).

Hitting every major beat from the text (even Ignorance and Poverty make a brief appearance), Ebbie means well. Dickens' story makes for a smooth update to modern times. And characters' gender changes are done without belaboring, romanticizing, or diminishment. Still, if this was a very good movie, it wouldn't have aired on Lifetime or taken fifteen years to turn up on DVD. It's an okay adaptation of one of the literature's greatest tales, but there is not much to distinguish this from the countless other interpretations.

All the accolades (i.e. nominations) that Lucci drew for her over thirty years of work on "All My Children" don't mean much in primetime. The actress gets a chance to sink her teeth into the world's most-redeemed character, but she doesn't leave much of a mark. She handles the drama well enough most of the time and I guess no more than that was expected of her in this rare opportunity to play someone other than Erica Kane. So limited has Lucci's career been outside of "Children" that this little known TV movie, voted on by just a few hundred users, still qualifies as her third "Known For" credit on IMDb. More understandably, it's also third for Taran Noah Smith, who by age 11 was not improving as an actor and also required a singing double here.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Ebbie looks a bit older than it really is, courtesy of the VHS-quality transfer that Echo Bridge Home Entertainment gives it. The 1.33:1 presentation is kind of dark, soft, and faded. If you recorded it at the slowest speed (remember SP, LP, and EP/SLP?) when it first aired and didn't watch it since then, I think your cassette would be comparable to this. But whereas you'd have commercials, here you only get commercial fadeouts, sometimes oddly placed and always creating a jump in the narrative. The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is also fairly underwhelming, dialogue never being as clean and crisp as you'd like it to be. While there is a subtitle stream, it is empty, which is typical for the studio, as is the lack of closed captioning. Ebbie proves that you can't expect all that much from a '90s TV movie, especially in terms of picture and sound quality.

The cover and menu artwork bear positively no resemblance to the movie whose title they inexplicably elongate to "Miracle at Christmas: Ebbie's Story."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Though no bonus features appear on the disc, Ebbie does not come to DVD empty-handed. It is joined by a prominently and permanently advertised bonus audio CD. Titled Peace on Earth, the 31-minute CD contains generic versions of ten fairly religious Christmas songs: "O Holy Night", "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear", "Joy to the World", "O Come All Ye Faithful", "Ave Maria", "Unto Us a Child Is Born", "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing", "As with Gladness", "How Great Thou Art", and "Silent Night." Half of these are Muzak-style instrumentals, while "Joy to the World" and "Silent Night" are performed by uncredited artists and an unidentified choir sings "Hark!", "As with Gladness", and "How Great."

This is not a disc that anyone would deliberately choose over the thousands of other holiday music compilations, and I pity anyone able to get great joy from it. But as a freebie that hardly factors into the DVD's low list price, it's tough to take issue with, other than perhaps how much of the cover's real estate its inclusion and track listing claim. Those wishing to own the movie without the CD can apparently do so for one dollar less beginning on October 9th.

The CD claims a swinging tray inside the otherwise standard, insert-free black keepcase.

The DVD's static, silent menu gives us a narrow version of the DVD's completely, bizarrely unrelated cover art. The rear cover's backdrop appears behind the untitled, unpictured chapters.

Ebbie (Susan Lucci) is shown Christmases past by perfume counter girls (Jennifer Clement, Nicole Parker) who are supposed to evoke the 1970s here. Molly Parker does double duty, playing the role of Ms. Scrooge's older sister Francine and her young niece Franny (seen here).

CLOSING THOUGHTS

A career woman version of A Christmas Carol, Ebbie has about as much success as you'd expect of a 1990s Lifetime TV movie. This faithful, dramatic adaptation is a lot easier to take than the cable network's more comedic and original programming, but it's already quite dated, a tad maudlin, and just plain routine. If you're determined to see every filmed version of Dickens' tale, then this is certainly one to watch and check off the long list. If not, you aren't missing much.

I'm always happy to see a holiday TV movie come to DVD, and in the unlikely event you hold fond memories of this one, you will be too. The DVD presentation is rudimentary, but what else did you expect from such a low-priced disc arriving after all this time?

Buy Ebbie from Amazon.com: DVD + CD / Just the DVD

Buy from Amazon.com

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Reviewed August 29, 2012.



Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1995 Crescent Entertainment Ltd., Maverick, Victor Television Productions, Disney ABC Domestic Television,
and 2012 Echo Bridge Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.