Ebenezer Scrooge looked up from his bowl of gruel as the bells rang, the chains clanged, and Jacob Marley's ghost came wafting through the door.
Scrooge was not especially surprised; not any more, since Marley had been showing up every single holiday season since the mid-19th century, in recitations, stage productions, radio dramas, movies, TV shows and Christmas-shopping ads. For someone who was dead as a doornail, he sure got around.
This time, however, something was different. "Jacob?" Scrooge asked. "What's happened to you? You look weirder than ever."
"That's because," the ghost answered, "I've been performance-captured."
"You've been what?"
"The latest film technique, used in this year's new movie of 'A Christmas Carol.' They film live actors, then do some computer thingamajig that turns them into illustrations of themselves. A bit like cartoons."
"The cartoon bit again," Scrooge grumbled. "They've inflicted that on me before, when I was played by Mister Magoo and Scrooge McDuck. Feh."
"It's wilder than that," the ghost continued. "They go nuts with this computer-generated 3-D stuff. You're bouncing all over the screen, somersaulting through the air, taking pratfalls."
"What!" Scrooge cried. "They would never inflict such indignities on the great actors who have played me before, the George C. Scotts and the Patrick Stewarts. And especially not the greatest screen Scrooge of them all, Alastair Sim in the 1951 movie. I tell you, Sim made me proud to be a grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner."
"It's the 21st century, Eb. Moviegoers want splashy special effects. But look on the plus side. It's a big holiday-season tentpole movie, with a chance for sequels and spinoffs."
"I'm up for a part in Tim Burton's next flick, 'Marley Versus The Ghostbusters.'"
"So what do I look like," asked Scrooge, "in this movie?"
"You have a very slight resemblance to the actor Jim Carrey. You know, the rubber-faced guy. But with a nose you could use for an ice pick."
"No!" Scrooge thundered. "I insist on keeping my dignity. There is only one man in London who can keep this from happening."
Scrooge rushed out the door into the fog-shrouded London streets. He kept walking until he had reached 221B Baker St.
"Mr. Holmes," Scrooge said as he walked into the study. "Sorry to disturb you, but I come on a matter of the utmost — oh, excuse me!"
Sherlock Holmes was standing there, naked to the waist, smiling a suave smile. "You seem startled, Mr. Scrooge," he said.
"Well, yes," Scrooge said. "I didn't think Sherlock Holmes ever took his clothes off."
"That is what you would deduce," Holmes said, "from my previous screen appearances, by Basil Rathbone in the movies and Jeremy Brett on television. I further perceive that you have not seen the preview trailers for my upcoming movie, which gives me an image makeover."
"In the person of Robert Downey Jr., I am no longer a purely cerebral being, whose most vigorous physical activity is the raising of an eyebrow upon finding a clue. This time, I appear to be something of a Victorian James Bond. I engage in elaborate fight scenes, dodge explosions, battle a Bond-esque super-villain. There may even be a suggestion that — dare I say it — sex is not entirely absent from my life. Hence the touch of beefcake."
"Unbelievable," Scrooge gasped.
"The Baker Street Irregulars do think it's a bit, well, irregular. But between the two of us, Scrooge, we'll sell a lot of popcorn."
"Are all of us classic fictional characters fated to get fiddled with?"
"You have to keep the product fresh, Mr. Scrooge. My confidential sources tell me Hollywood has innovative plans for the next Tarzan movie. He will have superpowers, thanks to his radioactive loincloth."
"So is there nothing," Scrooge moaned, "you can do to help me on 'A Christmas Carol'?"
"Maybe if you could work Irene Adler into the plot. Do you think she could be the Ghost of Christmas Office Parties?"
Shaking his head, Scrooge left. Back on the street he found Marley's ghost waiting for him.
"Did you hear what's happening to Sherlock Holmes?" he asked the ghost.
"I suspected something," Marley said, "when I passed the grave of Conan Doyle on my way here. He was turning over in it like a rotisserie chicken."
"Nothing's the way it used to be," Scrooge moaned. "I wouldn't be surprised if — oh, look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's..."
"It's Mary Poppins," said Marley. "They're shooting a remake of her movie, where they're going to give her some sex appeal. Man, she looks hot in that Spandex."
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