Charles Dickens’ classic tale of redemption, A Christmas Carol, has had numerous film adaptations made over the years. Probably the best and most revered one is 1951’s Scrooge, starring Alastair Sim as the stingy curmodgeon Ebenezer Scrooge. Now, director Robert Zemeckis – who has eschewed traditional filmmaking techniques for motion-capture technology – brings us a new version of the holiday classic, re-imagined as a 3D “multi-sensory thrill ride”. That’s a bit of a stretch, really, but this 3D animated version of A Christmas Carol, starring Jim Carrey in the lead roles of Scrooge (in all ages), and two of the Ghosts, does have a unique approach to the story – by taking us places.
Adapted by Zemeckis himself, the story is the same, but the film enjoys liberal use of the camera whizzing around through 19th Century London. Gimmicks aside, the visual look of the film is a bit better, since the “uncanny valley” has been craftily avoided this time around through caricatured characters, instead of an attempt to make realistic humans (unlike in The Polar Express and most notably Beowulf). The sequence with Marley’s ghost is effectively dark, bringing to mind Zemeckis’ work on Tales from the Crypt. Carrey does a good job in the roles, never playing it too hammy, and his accent for Scrooge is delightfully bitter. Smaller performances by Gary Oldman, Carey Elwes and Bob Hoskins are noteworthy, as well. Still, I wonder what it would have been like if done in live-action 3D.
Aiding the efforts is Alan Silvestri’s score, which utilizes a nice blend of classic holiday carols merged with his dramatic orchestral moments, but it’s the dramatic finale involving the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come that packs a powerful punch with full orchestra and choir. The new main theme – reprised in the end title song sung by Andrea Bocelli – is an instant classic.
A Christmas Carol is a better effort than The Polar Express, and looks better than Beowulf. Still, one has to wonder why Zemeckis won’t just put down the motion-capture suits and let his actors act. A Christmas Carol is only being shown in 3D, and for good reason – it’s gimmicky, but fun, and I wonder how well it will hold up on 2D home video. I’m guessing, not as much.