‘A Christmas Carol’ Review

Published 4 years ago by

Short Version: There are already so many great adaptions of the classic Dickens story – this one adds nothing but CGI and gimmicky 3D effects.

a christmas carol 31 A Christmas Carol Review
Screen Rant reviews A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol is one of my all time favorite Christmas stories. Maybe because most of the year I feel like a somewhat cranky Ebenezer Scrooge but once Thanksgiving is over my mood lightens over the spirit of the upcoming holiday. It seems that every few years someone feels the need to do an update on the classic tale, and sometimes it works. Heck there have certainly been a lot of versions over the years (over two dozen on TV and in movies according to IMDB), and I’ve enjoyed many of those myself.

This time director Robert Zemeckis (who seems intent upon never making another live action film as long as he lives) brings us another 3D, IMAX, CGI motion-capture extravaganza. If the number of buzzwords there don’t tell you what this film is really about, then I can’t help you.

The movie stars Jim Carrey in a variety of roles, most notably old Scrooge himself. The Scrooge character, with it’s caricature-like features is actually the most effective one in the film (thankfully, since he’s the lead). Carrey also plays the three ghosts that come to haunt Ebenezer as well as Scrooge at younger ages. We also have Gary Oldman playing primarily Bob Cratchit and Bob Hoskins (briefly) playing Scrooge’s old boss Mr. Fezziwig. I mention these two in particular because someone made the decision to make the characters look very similar to the actors portraying them. I don’t know what effect they were going for, but I can tell you what the result was: Creepy.

It was just bizarre watching a CGI character that looked so much like Oldman, but not – with the only semi-human animatronic look that defines the “uncanny valley” (the very subtle things that aren’t right in attempted photo-real computer animated portrayal of humans). Most of the characters suffered from the same thing – it was like watching an animatronic display at Disneyland.

On the other hand there were glimpses of amazingly realistic people in the film – but these were always at a distance. There was one scene where I wanted to believe that they inserted a live actress into the film just as an “Easter Egg.” I respect Zemeckis for what he’s doing, I really do – he’s trying to push the frontier when it comes to people rendered as CGI. Problem is you have to get it PERFECT, otherwise your brain just kind of short-circuits looking at this “almost-real” person on the screen. This is why most CGI animated films use caricatures of humans – it’s easier for the mind to accept. By making blue-skinned, overly tall aliens with odd facial features I think James Cameron will get around this in Avatar.

And speaking of the upcoming 3D Cameron-helmed extravaganza, A Christmas Carol is in 3D. I’ve said many times before that I’m a fan of of 3D cinema, but not when it’s used as a gimmick. Overall I really enjoyed the 3D look of the film but there was one sequence that was stuck into the film that just didn’t belong and was there only for the sake of showing off the roller coaster effects and exaggerated 3D in the film. It was at least a five minute sequence and I was mentally tapping my fingers waiting for it to be over so we could get back to the story. Side note: There seemed to be a little tribute to the “tiny Ash” scene from Army of Darkness. icon smile A Christmas Carol Review

So what did I like? The story, of course, but they don’t get credit for that. I did enjoy the opening scene, which was very effective in showing just HOW miserly and feared Scrooge was. On the flip side, I also really enjoyed the “post-mean” ending of the film – it really gave us more time with the repentant Ebenezer than I’ve seen in any version to date.

Besides what I’ve mentioned, what I didn’t like was that the film was all over the spectrum in terms of tone – sometimes it was goofy-funny, and at other times had scenes that I think will scare the heck out of little kids. When his doorknob comes to life, that’s a heck of a scare and Marley’s jaw coming loose was worthy of a horror movie IMHO. Of course then they put a little “ha ha” moment on the end of that one, but by then your kids has had the poop scared out of them. Oh, and I have to mention the ghost of Christmas past – one of the most unexplainedly ridiculous characters I’ve ever seen on screen. Then again, maybe it’s me, some people were laughing at it, but frankly I was perplexed by the point of what is was doing and thought it was just plain stupid.

No doubt there will be comments below wittily calling me a Scrooge, but you’re too late, I did that in the opening paragraph. icon smile A Christmas Carol Review But seriously, as I said, I love this story – and I wish that Zemeckis had left the CGI behind and made it a live action film based on the classic tale.

Our Rating:

3 out of 5
(Good)

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TAGS: 3 star movies, a christmas carol

47 Comments

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  1. This movie cannot be compared to Bambi, Pinocchio, or Bambi. It is terrifying and derseved a PG-13 rating. Granted, there was no nudity, profanity or blood and gore. But the scare factor alone should have been factored in. I have never had an issue showing my children a PG movie. This terrified them and they have made us swear to never rent it or mention it again. I was very disappointed in Disney for this one.

  2. @ Skwerl

    Comparing this film to Pinnochio, Bambi, etc. is ridiculous. And “nobody said it was for kids”? You can’t honestly believe that statement. It’s A Christmas Carol, it’s Disney, who were they marketing it too? Like i said my daughter didn’t really have a problem with it but I am sure some youngin’s would and/or did. This was a more frightening movie than “Where the Wild Things Are”.

    BTW we saw it in 2D so I imagine the 3D version may have even been a little more disturbing to kids. I’ll ask anyone who saw the 3D, how was it? We didn’t see it in 3D because I refuse to pay $2.00 more per ticket for 3D then be asked to “recycle” the glasses so they can charge people to rent the same glasses again. I would rather take the glasses over to the trash can and throw them away as they watch me.

  3. I can see what you mean when you say that it may have seemed just plain dumb to you, but it IS Disney…

    AS for the “too scary for kids” part, I have to say I agree. When I saw it, I screamed and laughed when the horse just kinda…BAM! IT’S RIGHT THERE! OMG! RUN ,OLD GUY, RUN! if I were a kid, I would have been crying. Espeacila with Marley. Gary Oldman did that part very well in my opinion! It was pretty funny, but I did think to myself…did Dickens have help from Edgar Allen Poe when writing this?!?! lol! I thought it was very good, but not very…Disney

  4. I completly agree with you on the ghost of Christmas past it was completly unnesessary, and all the characters quirks like random twicthing and lisp were riduclously random.

  5. I most definately found myself -watching- A Christmas Carol, as I spent the majority of the movie geeking out over the textures and the realistic way that light bounced off of different materials. The fabric in Scrooge’s chambers especially appealed to me – both the curtains and bedcurtains, so when they came up later in the film I recognized them and wondered how Scrooge who was surrounded by them every day could be quite *that* much in denial. I nitpicked at the more unrealistic pieces like his old porriage in the bowl, and was back again to wondering over the beauty of hardwood floors and footprints in the snow. The environments were amazing, and I would have watched the show just for those.

    Unfortunately, the characters were not so well done. They were very hit and miss. I liked Scrooge although he moved a bit oddly under that nightgown, and I believed his nephew – but I had now emotion whatsoever for Cratchett and other characters in town or in his past were done so stiffly or with so much exaggeration that I could not connect with them. Tiny Tim was a huge dissapointment, as I could not even feel sad for him – I had a lot more sympathy for the more likeable daughter Martha and the other sister whose name I never caught than I did the empty Tim who had a crutch but nothing to recommend him to my heart. And the ghost of Christmas Past? Creepy!!! I liked the twitching head, but that was certainly a bad character design. Present was annoying, but I went with it, because it was interesting, and future was very well done (although definately not for little kids. I was actually scared, even while I was pretty good about guessing what would happen next during those scenes)

    The biggest failure for me though was in the heart of the film. I never once got misty eyed or felt true connection with the story – yet I usually feel a bit involved even with the most low-budget play I’ve gone to see. Scrooge’s motivations were so convoluted and unclear, the scenes he saw haphazard rather than compelling, and it felt like he changed in the end simply because he was supposed to change. I had no idea why he suddenly felt sorry for Tiny Tim when he saw him. The few moments in his past or present that I would have liked to stay or explore were moved on from before I could feel for Scrooge in order to reach another sweeping CG movement scene or have a talk with a spirit.

    So while I might give Christmas Carol great points in graphics, I would say it missed the whole point of the story – or even of making a movie. If you can’t get your point across, if the audience can’t -feel- the story, then it’s a waste of money on a pretty package.

    (I would probably watch the ‘making of’ several times if it came out though.)

  6. I have to say that I agree with the author of this article. While watching it, I was definitely impressed with the animations. There were times when some of the characters and settings looked absolutely realistic. At one point, when Belle is in Scrooge’s office building sad about him choosing money over her, I had to second guess myself as it seemed as though they put a real actress in! I actually somewhat hoped that they had…
    These animated characters are pretty impressive but there is always that certain thing missing from them that even cartoon characters don’t seem to lacking too much. Maybe it’s because your brain wants to interpret what’s on the screen as human but can’t quite do so.
    And I definitely agree with what he said about the ghosts. I couldn’t wait for the Ghost of Christmas Past to shut up. He talked slow, whispered like a creep and drew his “s’s” out in a very over-exaggerated way. And the Ghost of Christmas Present was ridiculous too. As he showed up on screen, I figured I’d like him enough. But then he laughed…and laughed…and laughed…Nothing was even funny! The Ghost of Christmas Future was good, but only because he never talked, which has always somewhat annoyed me in any of these movies, but I understand why he doesn’t. I did feel that the horse scene was overly long and boring and unnecessary and by that point, I wanted the movie to be over. Or did that feeling come one while the Ghost of Christmas Present was dying? What a creepy scene!
    I didn’t feel any connections with the characters. And just like the author, if I had never seen any other version of the movie, I really wouldn’t have cared about Tiny Tim at all. Why would you in this version? Fred got more screen time than he did!

  7. My teenage boys and I went and saw this film. They were just part of A Christmas Carol drama play presentation and can say most of the lines from the book by memory. We all loved it. Regardless of what the critics say, it was a unique and graphically beautiful retelling of a beloved tale with many deeply moving metaphors I have never seen in any other adaption. (I own most of them) For instance, what adaption has ever showed us what ignorance and want are? This one does…they develop and mature right before your eyes. We talked for a long time about the meaning of all the interesting graphic interpretations and twists they put into the movie. I think this stuff went right over the critic's heads. If you are a deep thinker or a philosopher you will enjoy this movie. It will be a favorite for our family for many years.

  8. My teenage boys and I went and saw this film. They were just part of A Christmas Carol drama play presentation and can say most of the lines from the book by memory. We all loved it. Regardless of what the critics say, it was a unique and graphically beautiful retelling of a beloved tale with many deeply moving metaphors I have never seen in any other adaption. (I own most of them) For instance, what adaption has ever showed us what ignorance and want are? This one does…they develop and mature right before your eyes. We talked for a long time about the meaning of all the interesting graphic interpretations and twists they put into the movie. I think this stuff went right over the critic's heads. If you are a deep thinker or a philosopher you will enjoy this movie. It will be a favorite for our family for many years.

  9. i love pussy