Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mediocre Dickens: A Christmas Carol Underwhelms

The Good: Classic story with good moral
The Bad: No spice or sense of originality, Short, Obvious
The Basics: With animation that at times tries to mimic live-action and at others is clearly animated, the style of Robert Zemeckis's A Christmas Carol makes for a more erratic holiday film that is a very literal translation of Dickens' work.

I am not known for brevity, yet when I wrote for the other website, they would occasionally run a promotion based on keeping the reviews short and simple (which dumbed down a lot of complex reviews). Fortunately, some things truly are simple and easy to express with a minimal amount of verbiage. One such thing is Disney's A Christmas Carol. After all, given that the story is pretty well-known and it is animated, there wasn't a whole wealth of general information to give about the film. Given that I did not enjoy it, I figured this became an ideal short review for a film!

Starring Jim Carrey in a role that returns him to Christmas films following the blase special effects flick How The Grinch Stole Christmas, A Christmas Carol was presented in a disappointing Disney 3-D presentation last holiday season. Carrey provides the voice for Ebenezer Scrooge (as well as the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet-To-Come) and through much of the movie, it is pretty obviously Jim Carrey as he has the usual energetic and excited delivery, even in the trademark "Humbug" moments. Carrey never gets the voice as crotchety and mean as one might expect for the character, which pretty much undermines the character.

Ebenezer Scrooge is a pennypinching businessowner who hates the holidays and is unloving. He employs Bob Cratchit, whom he is cruel to and does not support well- enough to keep his children healthy (most notably the handicapped Tiny Tim). But one night, Scrooge is visited by his old business partner who warns him he will be visited by three ghosts and deny it as he might, he actually is. Over the course of the night, by witnessing how he has treated people, Scrooge comes to learn the consequences of his actions and the true meaning of Christmas.

Disney's A Christmas Carol is an animated film and that is where most of my beef with the movie comes in. Because the film is mostly known as far as plot and character development - this is a very family-friendly version of Dickens' social commentary - it is largely trading on style. Unfortunately, the style is quite erratic. By this, I mean it does not know which it wants to be, an animated film or an animated film mimicking a live-action film. There are moments when one forgets they are watching an animated movie because the detailing and coloring on Scrooge and the backgrounds are so realistic that they look amazing. Sadly, though, this is not at all consistent. Instead, there are points when the film becomes annoyingly blockish, like when the Ghost of Christmas Past pops up. Suddenly, the lighting and surroundings look more unreal than they did moments before! Outside the obvious moments - like when Scrooge is launched high into the sky - where the unreality of the situation calls for comic presentation, A Christmas Carol seems to devolve at awkward points where the movie just feels sloppy, especially considering how amazing the lighting and detailing is in most points. Pick a lane, Robert Zemeckis!

As well, A Christmas Carol was presented originally in Disney 3-D and it makes poor use of the medium. The three-dimensional effects are only impressive in one or two scenes and given the price of 3-D tickets in most markets, they effect is not so special as to wow most children and adults will likely feel cheated by shelling out more money on the more expensive tickets.

Outside the style, this is very much a typical morality tale and viewers know exactly what they are getting going in. This is a family-friendly film that tells the classic story in a very straightforward way. Unfortunately, it is inconsistent with the flare and the vocal presentations do not always pop with real character. At least it's better than Ghost Of Girlfriends Past!

For other Christmas movies, please check out my reviews of:
Four Christmases
Love Actually
The Muppet Christmas Carol


For other film reviews, please be sure to visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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