VOICE WORK BY
Jim Carrey, Colin Firth, Gary Oldman, Daryl Sabara, Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright Penn, Cary Elwes
Robert Zemeckis, Charles Dickens (Novel)
Capturing A Christmas Carol
On Set With Sammi
"Disney's A Christmas Carol" Review
Take your pick.
Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly calls Disney's "A Christmas Carol" a "marvelous and touching yuletide joy of a movie."
Roger Ebert, the legend himself, refers to the film as "an exhilarating visual experience."
The Boston Globe's Ty Burr states that "A Christmas Carol" is "very good, at times close to brilliant."
Then, there's The Independent Critic being joined by folks like Joe Morgenstern from The Wall Street Journal, Marjorie Baumgarten from the Austin Chronicle and a few others.
What do we say?
What Ebert refers to as "an exhilarating visual experience" is, for this critic, an exercise in soulless cinema and cinematically excessive special effects that completely blunt the sincerity of Charles Dickens' masterpiece of classic literature. Behind Jim Carrey, who serves up not one, not two but EIGHT of the character's voices in Disney's "A Christmas Carol," Robert Zemeckis has managed to create one of the least entertaining holiday films in years this side of anything involving Tim Allen.
While Zemeckis is undeniably improving his use of motion-capture process, the same technique he utilized for both "The Polar Express" and "Beowulf" with varying results. While "The Polar Express" largely survived with its sense of humanity intact, the same is not true for "A Christmas Carol," which glistens and glows and sparkles but never begins to capture the simplicity and wondrous humanity of Dickens' original source material. Even worse, Zemeckis has magnified the problem by turning "A Christmas Carol" into a dreadful, overbearing and thunderously monotonous 3-D spectacle of monumentally disappointing proportions.
What is there within "A Christmas Carol" that cried out for motion-capture or 3-D imagery? Sure, occasionally Zemeckis creates some rather intriguing and awesome cinematography but for what purpose? Perhaps if Zemeckis were filming original material, this would work. He's not. "A Christmas Carol" is a universally beloved classic and Zemeckis stomps the material into cinematic dust with his excessive use of technological advances.
Then, there's the excessive use of Jim Carrey himself. While Carrey turns himself down a notch, there's never a moment when his characters aren't practically screaming at the screen "I'm Jim Carrey...Can ya' tell?" Yes, we can tell. There's something completely and utterly unconvincing about Jim Carrey playing the Ghosts of Past, Present and Future trying to right the path of Jim Carrey as Scrooge.
I would dare say that Gary Oldman, ever the adventurous actor, fares much better with the vocal triple play of Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim and Marley.
It just doesn't work.
The Dickens novel is a masterpiece of social morality and human values, while Disney's "A Christmas Carol" seems primarily targeted towards creating yet another Disney World holiday ride for the kiddoes. Unfortunately, this flick is so intense in spots that smaller children may very well be frightened and 'tweens will likely listen to the dialogue going "What the heck did that mean?"
While Disney's "A Christmas Carol" certainly goes through all the motions, this sad affair is completely devoid of the wonder and magic of virtually every other version of the story including the comedic "Scrooged." Seriously, has there ever been a version of "A Christmas Carol" where you actually didn't care about Tiny Tim?
It happens here.
True fans of the motion-capture process and those enthralled enough by this story to let go of these problems may very well find themselves thoroughly enchanted by "A Christmas Carol," as did Gleiberman, Ebert and Burr. For this critic, however, everything that has ever made "A Christmas Carol" the timeless holiday classic that it is seems missing from Disney's 3-D version. While there are moments of visual pleasure in the film and, even through the motion-capture process, the film's final few moments remain among the most touching in any holiday classic anywhere and this Zemeckis version simply feels a whole lotta work with very little reward.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic