When I was little, my mother, an avid classic movie watcher, loved the 1951 Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
Back then, we’ll say the 1980s and 1990s, when it was on VHS, I detested the film. I thought it was boring, and I hated the black-and-white picture. I love vibrant colors, after all. But thinking on it now, I see why it was/is a classic film. Alastair Sim, who plays Scrooge in that version, is magnificent as the anti-hero.
The 2009 Disney’s A Christmas Carol, is another story. I thought because Jim Carrey is voicing Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas that it would be great. But in sheer Polar Express style, the only good thing about Disney’s A Christmas Carol is the 3D experience. The effects are great, but that’s all.
Written and directed by Robert Zemeckis, Carol falls with a scary thud. I have seen the classic story in film in many different ways, including the 2009 summer/Christmas film Ghosts of Girlfriend’s Past, which wasn’t all that great, either. Zemeckis’ version is pretty cut and dried. The only thing that sets it painfully apart is the 3D and certain scenes which are so scary, I wonder why this film has been deemed kid-friendly.
Just like Harry Potter, Carol is starkly dark and filled with gotcha scary moments. The plot is also weak. I’ve seen the plot time and again, and I wonder why the film has even been re-made. The 1951 classic is really starting to look good to me now.
Jim Carrey is full of Carrey-ness in this film. Even as a dancing candle flame, he brings the comedy. But Carrey’s comedic timing isn’t enough to hold my interest. Halfway through the film, I was very bored and fidgeting in my seat, waiting for the end credits to roll. Carrey could do and has done so much better.
Gary Oldman as the voice of Bob Cratchit, Jacob Marley, and Tiny Tim is actually pretty good, however. His turn in CGI is entertaining and engaging. Colin Firth as the voice of Fred, Scrooge’s nephew, is engaging as well. I know the story is supposed to be, mainly, about Scrooge’s journey, but I wish Fred had received more screen time. He’s much more interesting.
Bob Hoskins as the voice of Mr. Fezziwig and Old Joe is delightful. His CGI caricature is pretty good. I could see Hoskins’ face quite clearly. Hoskins has always been a stand-up actor and is always ignored by the American audience; which is a shame because he’s so good at what he does.
Other actors’ voices of note are Robin Wright Penn lending her voice to Fan and Belle, and Cary Elwes’ voice as Portly Gentleman #1, Dick Wilkins, Mad Fiddler, Guest #2, and Business Man. It’s a shame Elwes’ voice was lent to such meager offerings. For those of you trying to place him, he was Westley in the 1987 hit Princess Bride, a fun comedy about a fairy tale romance set in medieval times. Elwes has a great voice for imagery, and Zemeckis has shamefully overlooked him.
I’d also like to mention the creative team that made this film visually bearable: the people at Image Mover’s Digital. The CGI is very lifelike. Moving imagery certainly has graduated in the past few years. Now, all children’s films are in 3D, and if you really want a great experience, you can get the 3D/Imax experience for optimum fun. But, as they do with action films, filmmakers are focusing more on imagery than actual plot.
Alas, Disney’s A Christmas Carol has fallen victim to the same phenomenon. If I had seen this film in regular 2D format, I probably would have been bored out of my mind, and would have had to slap myself several times to stay awake. I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but I’m trying to put you readers into the mindset I had while watching this film.
I know Carol is mainly geared toward a child-viewing audience, but the adults who take the kids to the movie have to watch it, too. And if filmmakers keep putting out sloppy, tired plots, what will that do for the next generation of filmmakers? I’m sure there are thousands of little, budding filmmakers in theater audiences now thinking that this is real cinema. It’s not.
Let me get off of my soap box and be real. Disney’s A Christmas Carol is boring, and I hope the next 3D films from Disney are much better.