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Review: A Christmas Carol (2009)

A Christmas Carol (2009)

Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

Premise: A computer animation version of the Charles Dickens’ novel. Ebenezer Scrooge (Jim Carrey) is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve and learns the value of kindness and generosity.

What Works: A Christmas Carol is the latest film in director Robert Zemeckis’ recent foray into motion-capture animation and on a technical level this is his best work. The level of detail and texture, particularly in Scrooge’s movements and facial expressions, is very impressive.

What Doesn’t: Aside from the technical expertise, very little distinguishes this version of A Christmas Carol. The film is a faithful retelling of the story, hitting all the familiar moments, but it is also very by-the-numbers and without inspiration or soul. There is nothing in this retelling that hasn’t been seen before in so many other adaptations of this story. This particular version of A Christmas Carol ranks lower than others because of its miserable character work. The characters are vacant bodies going through the motions of the story without purpose or desire, especially Bob Cratchet and Tiny Tim (Gary Oldman), which hurts the film’s argument as it glosses over the struggles of the poor and fails to make their troubles palatable. It is as though the filmmakers are depending upon viewers to fill in the character work with their own memories of previous versions of A Christmas Carol. Instead of spending time on character, this Christmas Carol pads its bare bones outline of Dickens’ story with special effects and elaborate (and at times nauseating) camera moves. These effects are concentrated in Scrooge’s dreams of the Christmas spirits and they often betray the realistic style of the earlier parts of the film and they fail to contribute anything to Scrooge’s character or the lessons he has to learn. Instead, they distract the viewer as a showcase of what computer animation can do with no reference to why.

Bottom Line: A Christmas Carol is a disappointing film given the talents involved, as it fails to bring anything new to the story and does a poor job telling the standard Dickens fable. Viewers would likely get more out of re-screening previous and better adaptations of the book. 

Episode: #266 (November 22, 2009)