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Review: Disney’s A Christmas Carol by DrChocolate

scrooge

DrChocolate sees the movies I can’t afford to see in theaters and reviews them, so this site can stay more up-to-date.

For roughly the past fifteen years I have read Dickens’ A Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve, finishing the fifth stave Christmas morning, matching the stories timeline. I adore the book and am more familiar with its perfectly told tale than probably any other story or book. Additionally, I absolutely love a number of the cinematic adaptations, namely The Muppet’s Christmas Carol (shockingly the most accurate version I’ve come across) and the stellar 1984 TV version with George C. Scott. I tell you this in order to properly frame the following review.

Your opinion of this film will probably hinge on your patience for Jim Carrey and your tolerance for Robert Zemeckis’ elastic-faced, doll-eyed motion capture animation. Unfortunately, my level for both is very low. I find Jim Carrey tedious and this form of animation off-putting and awkward. Due to my love of the source material, however, I decided to put aside my prejudices and see this new iteration.

Casting Jim Carrey as Ebenezer and as all the Christmas Ghosts is the first problem. His Ebenezer is neither good nor bad per se, but it’s a regrettable creative decision to introduce Scrooge as a pitiable, pathetic loner rather than the decisive, hard-as-nails hermit he is in the book. It instantly lessens the redemptive impact of the climax. It’s when Carrey appears as the Ghost of Christmas Past where things really begin to go south. Apparently, Past is a gay Irishman in the midst of an asthma attack. It’s an overwrought and distracting performance that detracts from Scrooge’s melancholy journey into his disregarded past.

That gets to the heart of my issues with this movie. So much of it is overwrought. Each performance seems to be set at eleven with most actors doing nothing more than excitedly declaring their lines at full volume; it is the utter opposite of the multi-faceted performances from Where the Wild Things Are (read my review here). The only performance with any nuance and subtlety, which is not surprising considering his track record, comes from Gary Oldman as Bob Cratchit. (Cratchit also appears to be a hydrocephalic, rendered with an inexplicably large gourd.) The only emotion in the film comes from Oldman’s performances, who also does a bang up job as the ghost of Marley.

Often the animation is spectacular, but too often it is spectacularly over the top. There are certain sequences that are visually arresting, such as Scrooge lighting a match in the dark, Marley’s appearance, and when the specters transition from showing Scrooge one scene to another. Yet too often the movie devolves into Lucas-like “looky what we can do with computers” shenanigans; it’s as if Zemeckis is sitting next to you in the theater, elbowing you constantly in the ribs, going “Isn’t what we did there so cool?” There is a particularly mindless “action” scene with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (who is terrifyingly imagined as a shadow that flits in and out of solidity) that is a major misfire and is completely disconnected from the rest of the film. In addition, the filmmaker’s insistence on interjecting juvenile “humorous” bits serves only to jarringly disengage the audience from the narrative as well.

Disney’s A Christmas Carol fails in finality because it does the polar opposite of the book – it does not conjure any sort of Christmas spirit or magic, or even joy. It arrives emotionally inert and aesthetically overstuffed. Do yourself a favor, avoid this raging disappointment and rent one of the more faithful and emotionally superior versions previously mentioned. Not recommended at all.

  • Facebook User

    So what do you think of “Scrooged” as a Dickens adaptation?

  • DrChocolate

    Scrooged is good. To me its A Christmas Carol movie and it's not at the same time. you know what I mean. But I think it “gets” it pretty well. better than this dreck anyway – why Roger Ebert gave it 4 star I'll never know.

  • DrChocolate

    Scrooged is good. To me its A Christmas Carol movie and it's not at the same time. you know what I mean. But I think it “gets” it pretty well. better than this dreck anyway – why Roger Ebert gave it 4 star I'll never know.