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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Christmas Carol - Zemeckis-Style

Disney's A Christmas Carol = 3 and 1/2 out of 5
Ebenezer Scrooge: What do you want with me?
Jacob Marley: You will be haunted by three spirits.
Ebenezer Scrooge: I'd rather not.
Director Robert Zemeckis once again ventures into the world of motion capture animation to retell the classic Dickens' tale 'A Christmas Carol,' featuring Jim Carrey. While not bringing much new to the classic tale, the film serves as a very literal retelling of the story, mixed with some fun visuals once the ghosts get on the scene.

Carrey stars as Ebenezer Scrooge this time around, the mean, old, stingy man, living in Victorian-era London. Scrooge is, of course, a scrooge, who wants nothing to do with the joy of Christmas, despite it being Christmas eve, with many around him singing the praises of the time of year that it is.

On the night of Christmas Eve, Scrooge is suddenly startled by the ghost of his dead partner Marley, portrayed by Gary Oldman (playing multiple parts). Marley informs Scrooge that he will be given the chance to save his soul, by being visited by three different spirits in the night. Soon enough, Scrooge is visited by the different ghosts (all portrayed by Carrey) showing him different aspects of his life, with the intent of hopefully changing the way Scrooge treats himself and those around him.

Ebenezer Scrooge: Ghost of the Future, I fear you more than any spectre I have seen.
I really enjoyed the way the ghosts were portrayed in this film. Its a combination of spookafying imagery, blatant caricature, somewhat laughable, and being a bit irritating in a way that all blends together well. It fits the way the actual book was written, which goes the same for the way the setting is portrayed. The London we see here is quite drab and lifeless, depending on the ghost portions to really give us some visual splendor.

Zemeckis' work in this realm of filmmaking has improved somewhat (but he should get back to live action). The Polar Express didn't do much for me at all, with its scary zombie children. Beowulf was an epic over-the-top comedy (that I did like more than either of these other mocap films). Here, the animation is solid when dealing with Scrooge and the ghosts, although some of the random characters that pop up have clear issues of not having much emphasis in detail be put upon them. What I do appreciate; however, is his us of the 3D format. There are some woosh shots here or there, but he never lets the format use him, he constantly uses IT as a tool. This, combined with Zemeckis' regular composer Alan Silvestri's score works to keep the whole film interesting and involving.




Unfortunately, the 3D, which should serve as a strength to the film, also serves as one of its greatest weaknesses. I saw this film on the IMAX screen in 3D, and it was wonderful in that setting (although the 3D trailer for Avatar beforehand didn't help for seeing 'Carol's animation). I can't imagine watching this film again on a standard 2D screen, let alone on DVD/Blu Ray. The large spectacle aspect is the draw for this film, but I wouldn't want to see this literal version again with other, better versions that exist, such as Muppet's Christmas Carol.

Ebenezer Scrooge: Haunt me no longer!
Still, the movie is well made. Carrey delivers in all his performances. I can watch Gary Oldman do anything. Supporting work from Bob Hoskins, Colin Firth, and Cary Elwes is also fitting. I also appreciated the dark elements that are missing from other versions of the story. Scary images do appropriately accompany some of the scenes between Scrooge and the spirits, and its very fitting and well handled.

Solid film, but the viewing format is what counts.

Ebenezer Scrooge: Humbug.

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