Genre: CG Animation
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Cast: Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth,
Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright Penn, Cary Elwes
RunTime: 1 hr 36 mins
Released By: BVI
Official Website: http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/achristmascarol/
Opening Day: 19 November 2009
A Christmas Carol," a multi-sensory thrill ride re-envisioned
by Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Robert Zemeckis, captures
the fantastical essence of the classic Dickens tale in a groundbreaking
3-D motion picture event. Ebenezer Scrooge (Jim Carrey) begins
the Christmas holiday with his usual miserly contempt, barking
at his faithful clerk (Gary Oldman) and his cheery nephew
(Colin Firth). But when the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present
and Yet to Come take him on an eye-opening journey revealing
truths Old Scrooge is reluctant to face, he must open his
heart to undo years of ill will before it's too late.
"I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys."- Charles Dickens
And so it is with this spirit of Christmas that Charles Dickens penned his beloved classic novella "A Christmas Carol", the redemptive story of Ebenzer Scrooge one Christmas Eve as he is visited by three ghosts: Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet-to-Come. Now a miserly misanthropic old man, Scrooge has but one response to the affections of his nephew, Fred (Colin Firth), and his sole employee, Bob Cartchit (Gary Oldman) every Christmas- "Bah Humbug!"
The appeal of Dickens’ story cannot be understated- every Christmas, it has almost become a ritual for television networks in the U.S. to broadcast one of those old movie adaptations, either the 1938 version starring Reginald Owen or the 1951 remake with Alastair Sim. Zemeckis’ take on perhaps the greatest Christmas tale of all not only uses the motion-capture technology of his previous two films, "The Polar Express" and "Beowulf", it also comes in eyepopping 3D so that all manner of objects come flying towards you at regular intervals.
Though Zemeckis’ technology may be state-of-the-art (and much improved since the hollow rubbery look of his characters in "The Polar Express"), his interpretation is strictly old-school. Indeed, it is a most faithful adaptation of Dickens’ 1843 book set in Victorian-era Christmas, so much so that a lot of the dialogue is lifted directly from the original text. That would explain why Zemeckis’ screenplay (yes, he wrote the movie too) requires you pay a lot of attention to it, lest what the characters are saying flies over your head (like the 3D effects).
But Zemeckis’ slavishness to his source material is also what makes this movie so delightful. Whereas recent adaptations have tended to sacrifice the novel’s dark, very dark tone for more cheery outcomes, Zemeckis makes no such compromise. It is therefore with caution that families with young tots should approach this seemingly family-friendly tale- with black-hooded apparitions, ominous lingering spirits, and sinister backgrounds, this is darker and more frightening than the name Disney would suggest.
Once you’ve accepted this, Zemeckis’ tale becomes a surprisingly engrossing story that echoes the very spirit of giving and forgiving that Christmas embodies. Its opening shot swoops continuously through every nook and cranny of London without a cut, illustrating the rich-poor divide of an industrial-era England before Scrooge questions the meaning of Christmas for those hungry and freezing out on the streets without a home to call their own. Scrooge’s subsequent journey becomes ever more poignant as one of illumination- as long as we overcome our cynicism, we might just make a difference to someone looking for a little charity this season.
And for all the cynicism that first met Zemeckis’ motion-capture technique, one can’t help but marvel at the remarkable leaps by which it has grown, bringing to vivid life the Dickensian world of "A Christmas Carol". The movie is also even more magnificent in 3D- besides making the action more thrilling, it adds a mesmerizing depth of field for an immersive experience. Just as remarkable is Jim Carrey’s versatile performance. Carrey not only taps into Scrooge’s misery and melancholy perfectly, he gives each of the three Ghosts he plays a uniquely distinct voice and persona that is thankfully un-Carrey like.
For all its astonishing technical craftsmanship behind "A Christmas Carol", Zemeckis has not forgotten the heart of Dickens’ tale. Aided by a stellar cast of Carrey, Oldman, Firth, Robin Wright Penn and Bob Hoskins, "A Christmas Carol" is a marvellous retelling of one man’s discovery of the meaning of Christmas- and that is one message that will live on long after the Ghosts have departed.
"I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year." - Charles Dickens
(Gloriously accomplished in motion-capture, this is an exuberant retelling of Charles Dickens’ classic that loses none of the heart or the meaning of the original tale)
Review by Gabriel Chong