Monday, November 23, 2009

Review - A Christmas Carol

The classic Charles Dickens tale "A Christmas Carol" is brought back to the big screen in a whole new light. This time director Robert Zemeckis tells the tale of the misery old Mr. Scrooge through the use of CGI motion capture animation and 3D technology. Scrooge is given the opportunity to change his ways by the visitation of three specters who show him the true meaning on Christmas.

It is no secret that Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol has been done in various forms over and over throughout the history of cinema. So much so, when I initially heard another version was releasing, my first reaction was a heavy eye roll. Where Disney's "A Christmas Carol" does excel and succeed is in it's gimmick. The 3-D motion capture animation is mesmerizing. It is absolutely stunning. Do not pass up seeing this film in 3D to save a few bucks.  Spend the additional money, you will be glad you did.

For family entertainment, "A Christmas Carol" is perfect for about 5 years old and above. Anything younger and some of the themes may become too dark. My 5 year old (who is nearly 6), seemed a bit spooked by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, but nothing that would have given the kid nightmares. Instead he came out of the film hunched over and doing his best Mr. Scrooge impression. Which our whole family got a big kick out of.

Director Robert Zemeckis steps away from the traditional love story in the classic Dickens tale and instead focuses more on Scrooge himself and the decisions he's made over the years. This was a very nice change of pace from the very replicated love story. I enjoyed seeing less of Scrooge's relationship problems and more of how the greed overcame him. Especially when it came to the Ghost of Christmas Present and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Having minimal amount of the old love interest, Belle played by Robin Wright Penn, as Scrooge sees Christmas for what it is worked nicely in the Zemeckis film. I have always thought it odd the Dickens tale spent so much time on a love interest, that in the end, Scrooge does not even end up with.

Carrey is perfect as Scrooge and the use of the motion capture animation was stunning in creating his look. While I loved Jim Carrey as Ebenezer Scrooge, I could have done without him playing all of the ghost's. It just became a bit overboard when Carrey as the Ghost of Christmas Past, Present or Yet to Come is talking with Scrooge and it is clear they are the same person. I tried to tell myself that there was something profound about the Ghost's having resemblance to Scrooge. That in some way he could find peace because he was leading himself through the journey. Though I tried to convince myself, it just didn't happen. Ultimately, it just seemed like too much Carrey.

Jim Carrey isn't the only actor to be used multiple times in "A Christmas Carol." In fact the majority of the cast is used multiple times. What I found interesting, is that I did not recognize this, until the final credits. Bob Hoskins, Colin Firth and Cary Elwes provide wonderful motion capture performances. Hoskins and Elwes have a variety of roles in the 3D Holiday film, while Firth plays exclusively Scrooge's nephew Fred.

Gary Oldman, as always, is masterful in his performance. Oldman plays Bob Cratchit, Jacob Marley and Tiny Tim. While it is apparent that Oldman is playing Cratchit, I had no clue he was playing the ghost of Marley. Who was absolutely impressive I must say. Some of the best animation in the movie, is centered around the visitation of Marley's ghost.

One thing "A Christmas Carol" does, is excite. It is a truly stimulating experience, one that is filled with eye popping 3D animation and a new vision of exploration in the classic Christmas tale. Even though Robert Zemeckis brings us a story we've seen numerous times before, he still manages to breathe new life into the aged tale. Robert Zemeckis' "A Christmas Carol" isn't my favorite adaption of the Dickens tale, but it's definitely near the top and one that I would happily display in my home collection.