‘A Christmas Carol’ Review

Published 5 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

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  1. Yah, from the previews I can already see all of the “look at the stuff coming at the screen” 3D gimmicks, lol.

    That’s not to say I’m not a fan of 3D if it’s tastefully done to add immersion, because I am.

  2. Whenever one of these zemeckis movies comes out I just can’t help but think why? If you are trying to make them 100 percent realistic that’s great. But you know whAt else is 100 percent realistic? The Actual actors. Zemeckis is pointlessly trying to revolutionise CGI and isn’t getting anywhere. Unless something doesn’t exist in the real world then CGI is nessessary. Making someone who looks like gary oldman appear on screen has been done a few times before without CGI.

  3. Sounds like Christmas Carol, only on XBox 360…

    Won’t be seeing this,,,

  4. CCX360… Sounds like a rail road line! :-D

  5. I really like(d) Zemeckis but I think he should go back to live-action films. I knew this film wouldn’t bring that much to the story (which I also love) but I’ll probably see it….at least looks like a much better choice than The Box.

  6. I think this movie looks really good. I have seen The Polar express when it came out and it was a good movie. I have been a fan of a christmas carol since as long as I can remember, and for Jim Carrey to do 8 characters, I think that this movie looks really good.

  7. I can’t stand Jim Carrey. He’s annoying and not funny anymore. Multiply that by 8.. what a nightmare.

  8. After this and beowulf my reputation for zemeckis has really taken a turn for the worse… thanks for the review

  9. I thought Jim Carrey’s version of cristmas past ghost was kinda of a gay weird flame guy it was really creepy looking LMAO!

  10. I was dumbfounded by the Christmas past ghost. Really weird – hated the odd way he spoke and what the HECK was up with that head twitch thing??


  11. I saw this with my three year old today. Big mistake. there were points in the movie where I thought she was going to crap herself. Do not take young children to this movie.

    As for the movie itself I have to say They did not bring anything to this version. The spent too much time focusing on the 3D gimics and took away a lot of the actual character content. I felt this movie had less time with the actual characters then any other version I have ever seen. You do not even see Tiny tim for more then two minutes in the whole movie. Many of the sequences were cut down to make time for the 3D effects. I would say nore more then 2 out of 5.

  12. Yeah I saw this film yesterday it had nothing on the muppets of bill murray for that matter, the film is really disapointing infact

  13. whoops ment to say “or”

  14. For probably the first time ever I didn’t do my research before taking the kids to a movie. Figured Disney + Jim Carrey + Christmas Carol = Family Friendly. Not. Kids (9 & 7) were scared, none of us laughed at any of the presumed comic bits as we were reeling from the horror. My kids can laugh themselves silly at Home Alone type antics but still had their eyes covered and hearts racing when those few moments occurred.

    Kudos for sticking to the Dickensian language and true-to-the-novella dialog, but this resulted in another fail for the kids who alternated between horror and confusion. The whole redemption message of the story was lost as the film bounced between scary scenes, oddly placed slapsticky “action” sequences, and arcane expository dialog. The Carrey characters were quite vividly animated but unfortunately contrasted to much with the rubber-faced glazed-eyed appearance of the other low-budget characters.

  15. Well on the bright side Keith you had a good opportunity to talk to the kids afterwords. Damage control, not the best family time but kids learn that they can talk to their parents when their are problems. These days sites such as Screen Rant are essential to get topical information because sensibilities run so much across a wide spectrum you can’t trust marketing and production to always be with you and your own trusted personal values.

  16. @Keith

    For movies that are aimed at kids I always include a parental note.


  17. Saw that one coming…

  18. This movie was not for children under 12. It lacked comedy and music, overly concentrating on the 3D affects. This Christmas Carol was a disappointment in comparison to Carrey’s Grinch. If you want a heartwarming and funny Christmas Carol, I recommend Hallmark’s, A Christmas Carol, with Kelsey Grammer. The special affects alone are worth watching and more enjoyable than this Disney movie.

  19. For those of you that took young children, do you not look at ratings? The Film is rated PG that tom gives a warning :::Check this out before taking young children:::just the trailers looked too dark for a lower rating.

  20. Yeah, for a while there PG was OK for most younger kids but just like they’ve done by pushing PG-13 towards R they’re pushing PG further away from G.


  21. One thing special about this version of the story is just how literal it is … to a fault. Entire chunks of dialog are lifted from Dickens’ novel, regardless of how well it jives with modern audiences. For example, there is a scene where Scrooge and one of the ghosts talk about Sabbaticalism — the practice of stores not opening on Sundays. Dickens was opposed to this because Sunday was the only day the working poor had off. Why did Zemeckis put this in his movie? Sabbaticalism hasn’t been an issue anywhere in more than half a century! Imagine if Peter Jackson had tried to put Tom Bombadil in his adaptation of Fellowship of the Ring and you’ll see the problem.

  22. Jim Carrey has lost me as a fan.
    Lately he seems to take on these fairy tale demented makeup driven roles like there some sort of addiction or part of his twisted mentality. It all seemed to happen after “Liar,Liar.”

    I find him disturbing, at this point and avoid his films,,, 8-O

  23. Wait a minute, the ghost of Christmas past spoke? I thought one of the appeals of that ghost was his silence. Did this ghost speak in the novel?

  24. This isn’t really my (sentimental) imagining of this story, but I guess it works for a new generation…. My 7yr.-old enjoyed it, so that’s what counts most for a family holiday film!

    See his review at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzVaMjdohuI

  25. Tom Bombadil would have been awesome to see in LOTR! One of the tightest characters

  26. I just got home from seeing this and I was honestly suprised. It followed the novel pretty closely and I really enjoyed that. Zemeckis added some of his own adaptations to it and it came out pretty good. I definately recommend to somebody that has read the novel and maybe some children. It had it’s fair share of scenes that may frighten some kids, and it also had the 1800′s dialouge which could confuse some.

  27. So I wasn’t the only one who thought this movie had a weird homosexual overtone!

    Yes the sputty, fizzy, gay candle with Carrey’s face and voice was annoying enough, but this was nothing compared to the queer furry-bear bare-chested Ghost of Christmas Present – who laughed WAY too much (Santa Claus?), and light of this I thought his crown of thorns was pretty sacrilegious.

    Also too much CGI sliding along icy streets, chimneys, icicles, etc. etc.

    By the way, silly American writers, ‘clerk’ is pronounced ‘clark’ in Yorkshire, not ‘clirk’. Also, at the dinner where the guessing game is played to guess what kind of animal Scrooge is, the word that should have been used was indeed ‘Ass’ (a donkey), not what the Americans thought the English would say!

    I don’t go and see blood-and-gore movies, but this one scared the living daylights out of me. And I’m 50 years old. Way too dark. Wrongly rated PG. It should have been rated ‘M’.

  28. @Kahless

    I think you are thinking of the ghost of christmas future. That is the one that doesn’t speak. But Christmas past in this movie was just disturbing.

    Saw it with the wife and daughter (8) today. I thought it was OK. My daughter covered her eyes in a couple parts but wasn’t outwardly frightened.

    I have one question: Zemeckis tries for all of this CGI realism but he has characters in his movies (Polar Express and Christmas Carol) do these ridiculous dances that have people defying gravity. It really takes the viewer, me at least, out of the “realism” of the movie.

    BTW the CGI character that played Scrooges girlfriend looked the most real of ANY character on screen ever. She looked like a “live” actress was in the movie.

  29. I went to see this as part of a class assignment. It was entertaining enough. I’m surprised by the number of people here who are complaining that it was too scary for kids. It’s a PG movie…nobody said it was for kids. Does everyone remember what PG stands for?

    I recall being a tiny little thing and being scared to death by the whale scene in Pinocchio. Parts of Dumbo made me cry, and so did Bambi. Christmas Carol was no worse. Stop blaming the industry and take responsibility for what your kids are viewing. And yes, I have children.