It is fun to experience A Christmas Carol in a way we haven’t seen before, but do not expect a unique retelling of the story.
The latest adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic holiday story is a fantastic accomplishment which demonstrates how far film and animation technology has come. A Christmas Carol, adapted and directed by Robert Zemeckis, uses performance capture technology mixed with computer animation to bring the vibrant colors and textures to life. The movie is also presented in 3-D, adding an additional layer of entertainment for the audience. The images on screen are breathtaking and wonderfully detailed. Somehow, though, all this does little to bring anything new to one of the most familiar stories of all time.
Very few people in the English-speaking world are not familiar with Dickens’ tale of redemption, regret and second chances which has been adapted time and time again for television, live theatre and film through myriad interpretations and retellings. Here, Zemeckis and Co. once again attempt to tell the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge (Jim Carrey) as he is visited on Christmas Eve by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come (all voiced by Carrey). While the computer animation and 3-D can be distracting at times, the movie does give the audience a chance to see Victorian London like they have never before been able to.
Several other very talented actors voice other characters which lead to Scrooge’s revelation about his life. His nephew, Fred (Colin Firth), epitomizes the Christmas spirit and is vigilant about getting his miserly old uncle into the mood of the holiday. Firth’s performance is just as dynamic and engaging as any live action role he has taken. We also meet young Ebenezer’s boss, Mr. Fezziwig (Bob Hoskins), who practically leaps off the screen with so much energy and depth. Hoskins’ voice is one of the most recognizable in Hollywood but is never unwelcome.
The movie follows Scrooge as each of the three Ghosts show him how he has wasted his life and the effects it has had on himself and others. The movie definitely does not pander to children and takes a very strict adherence to Dickens’ original story, which is quite dark at times. The movie is particularly frightening as Scrooge attempts to outrun the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Though animated and rated PG, this section of the movie seems slightly more sinister than is necessary to bring the tale to life. Zemeckis seems more intent on scaring children in the audience than Scrooge.
Combined with Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are adaptation, it’s very likely some parents and family-focused groups are going to raise concern over the dark tone of A Christmas Carol, especially since it is a Disney movie aimed at holiday theater-goers. Who is to blame for this? Zemeckis appears to be attempting to stay true to the story, but is it necessary given how realistic and effective technology has allowed movies to become? It almost appears Zemeckis has focused all his efforts on disturbing the audience visually rather than including more poignant moral lessons.
It is fun to experience A Christmas Carol in a way we haven’t seen before, but do not expect a unique retelling of the story. The film is more concerned with showing off its animation technology than crafting a truly heartwarming version of a beloved Christmas story. | Matthew F. Newlin