Albert Finney did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning a Golden Globe, for portraying Ebenezer Scrooge in Scrooge.
When it comes to playing the miser Ebenezer Scrooge no one will top Alistair Sim for me. Sim plays the role perfectly capturing every part of his transformation and taking the right approach by making Scrooge an intelligent and shrewd businessman. Well that is not the way Albert Finney plays the part, but trying to simply copy Sim does not work as Jim Carrey's ineffective performance proved. George C. Scott did pretty well in the same realm of Sim's approach, but where the two differed Sim was stronger. Finney takes a completely different approach instead of playing Scrooge like a smart businessman, Finney plays Scrooge like a complete idiot, which is the way he is written here as well.
The casting of Albert Finney may seem a bit strange considering he was only in his thirties which is not the usual age of an elderly miser. Well they do capitalize on the fact that he can play the younger Scrooge in the flashbacks, although capitalize is probably too strong of a word as he has barely any lines as the younger Scrooge and can't barely make much of an impact there. His performance is all about his portrayal of the old Scrooge and he actually does a fine job of it. When I watch this performance I don't even think for a second about Finney's actual age as he completely becomes this rather strange character he makes out of Scrooge. Finney keeps every mannerism consist in his creation in this film.
Now to be sure this is not the most realistic portrayal of Scrooge, leave that to Sim and Scott, this is a much more colorful depiction which makes sense being that the film is a musical. Scrooge sings a lot in this version, unlike Michael Caine in the Muppets version who only sang a single song after Scrooge's redemption, including when he is miserly. It would be a bit hard for Scrooge to be taken completely seriously when he sings a song actually titled "I Hate People". This Scrooge also has no idea of his own behavior in anyway even at times stating how he really is good a man because of his penny pinching, so Finney's somewhat absurd performance is fitting for this film's depiction of the sinner.
As the evil Scrooge Finney has a hunched back, an askew mouth, and a bit of a trollish accent. In every regard Finney goes pretty far in making Scrooge a reprehensible and unsightly sort, but he stops short at the of just being a parody. Although I would not call Finney's Scrooge a real man, Finney does deliver some of his more important lines with the weight needed. He does not let the mannerisms just do the performance for him and remembers to bring the depth of character when needed. Now most of the time his performance is about the absurdity of this Scrooge, which leaves the question of whether or not Finney's mannerisms are unintentionally funny or just funny. I would go with the latter because again "I hate people" is the name of one of his songs.
The transition of Scrooge as he sees the past, present and future is rather different from other versions because this Scrooge is just so thick and even when it seems there is some leeway Scrooge returns back to his old ways. Finney is good in the emotional moments, and since he plays him as a bit of a dope it is believable enough that he would bargain away every step forward he makes. The only thing is this structure does not give his performance the power of Sim's and Scott's by any measure. He goes from A to B back to A back to B and repeat until he finally arrives at C. Finney's portrays A with all the miserly foolishness he should, and for the most part brings a poignancy as Scrooge sees his faults, but there is not much growth in his portrayal.
Well how about the singing since this is a musical. Well Finney is not one of the greatest singers who ever lived and not only that he sings in character, the character having a voice that would never be described as beautiful. It actually would have been quite wrong to have given a booming voice anyway though, and all I want from singing in a film is if they carry the meaning of the song through. Well Finney manages to do this quite well and it matches every stop of his performance as he changes his style of singing as Scrooge changes. He grumbles as the mean Scrooge, but brings a resonance when Scrooge remembers his mistakes. The highlight though of the musical side and performance side is Scrooge seeking redemption.
The redemption actually is summed up in a group of song reprises. Finney is very charming as he shows Scrooge drop any of his grumpiness and miserly behavior to fully embrace life. Finney goes all in and presents the happiness a man would most likely have if he came from literally seeing Hell. Even though the film hardly needs four songs for its ending, I don't even mind because Finney gives it his all with his extremely energetic performance. The joy of Scrooge's second chance is beautifully realized by Finney, and this is easily the best part of his performance. This end is not built to as well as in other adaptations for sure, but it's easy to buy because of what Scrooge sees before he returns to his room in this version.
Finney's performance isn't perfect as there are a few reaction just a little too odd, like when he barely reacts to a ghost carriage riding down the stairs of his house where most men would be looking for a new pair of pants (I apologize for the crudity). As I said this is not the best performance of Ebenezer Scrooge as his more flamboyant portrayal prevents his work from having the dramatic weight offered by Alistair Sim. I would put him in top five anyways, and I certainly appreciate a different take on the character. This is not the most compelling version of greedy man turned good, but looked at on its own Finney gives a fairly entertaining performance in this musical.