It's Christmas Eve in nineteenth century London. Ebenezer Scrooge (voice of Jim Carrey) berates his shivering clerk Bob Crachit (voice of Gary Oldman) about expectations of a full day off with pay and shocks two gentlemen who visit seeking charitable donations with his cold heart. But when Scrooge returns to his rambling, dark home, he is greeted by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley (voice of Gary Oldman), who tells him that he should heed the three spirits who will visit him that very night in "Disney's A Christmas Carol."
Writer/director Robert Zemeckis continues his fascination with the performance capture animation style that failed his adaptation of "The Polar Express" seven years back largely due to the creepy quality of its characters' dead looking eyes. Now, adding 3D to the mix and hueing a lot more closely to his source material (this is a faithful adaptation, one which renders it largely unsuitable for children under the age of twelve), Zemeckis gets slightly better results, but retains some of the same problems. One wonders who, exactly, this adaptation is aimed at as it is not suitable for the entire family.
Firstly, the good points. It was enjoyable, as an adult, to see such a faithful adaptation, one which hasn't been dumbed down, made anachronistic or too kiddy friendly. The 3D effects are well used, providing depth of field and the characterizations recall both John Leech's original illustrations and the actors who voice the parts (the story springs from and returns to the original 1843 publication). The best thing about this version, though, is the first spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Past, here envisioned as a candle whose flickering flame casts the 'shadows' referenced in the text as well as foreshadowing both Ghosts yet to come (the crown of candles worn by Present and the silent shadow that is Yet-To-Come). Carrey's vocalization of this first spirit is also nicely tweaked with the puffs, sputtering and hisses of a flame and it also plays as homage to "Beauty and the Beast's" Lumiere.
But, unfortunately, there are also bad points. The motion capture technique still cannot adequately represent the human actors it models upon. While the characters are no longer downright creepy, the eyes still lack that spark of life and facial features are Plasticine. Upon viewing Scrooge's nephew Fred (voice of Colin Firth) and his wife one is actually reminded of "Shrek," a comparison I am sure Zemeckis was not going for. When Scrooge delights upon the remembrance of his jolly boss Mr. Fezziwig (voice of Bob Hoskins), we are given a raucous Christmas dance that is entirely unnatural in movement. Fezziwig performs acrobatic stunts, which is bad enough, but when he twirls his Mrs. about their movements resemble nothing human. Carrey gives the Ghost of Christmas Present too forced a laugh and their mode of travel in this segment, a room which sweeps about the city like Santa's sled with a transparent floor from which to view everything, is just plain weird. Even worse is the too long action adventure which 'Yet to Come' is turned into as Scrooge is made pip squeak like Alice in Wonderland after imbibing in the 'DRINK ME' bottle. Worst of all, we never experience that moment when Scrooge's heart melts. He seems already changed the moment Marley leaves him.
"Disney's A Christmas Carol" won't make anyone forget the 1938 "A Christmas Carol" starring Reginald Owen or 1951's "Scrooge" starring Alastair Sim, still the two best of myriad renditions, but it's an interesting eyeful at least part of the time.
Robin did not see this film.
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