Monday, November 09, 2009

Disney's A Christmas Carol (**)

Disney's A Christmas Carol. 96 mins. PG. Written and Directed by Robert Zemeckis. Starring Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Robin Wright, Colin Firth, and Bob Hoskins.

Okay, Mr. Zemeckis - you've had your fun playing in the performance capture sandbox, but it's officially time to stop. I actually liked The Polar Express (especially in IMAX) and thought Beowolf was pretty nifty in parts, but I am not a fan of this latest retelling of Charles Dickens' classic Christmas tale. Jim Carrey does all he can here playing Scrooge and all three ghosts that come to visit him on Christmas Eve, but he's saddled with an emotionally inert movie. A Christmas Carol is one of my absolute favorite stories, and I love almost all of its previous iterations on screen (The Muppet Christmas Carol and Scrooged probably top the list), but this Disney/Zemeckis version is pretty worthless. Oh sure, Zemeckis (in screenwriter mode) stays faithful to the source material and, for the most part, keeps things classy and respectable, but the movie just goes through the motions. Performance capture animation is great for getting shots of things you can't typically get (a sweeping panorama shot of the city at the beginning is a standout), but more than anything, it's just distracting. You pay so much attention to how close the animators get to creating a human look-alike that the story is given short shrift. Here, the big transformative moment in Scrooge is more of a whimper - he changes his life, sure, but there's no joy to anything. The entire movie is calculated and mechanical, connecting the dots where it needs to but, aside from a totally unnecessary action sequence involving the Ghost of Christmas Future at the end, never really coloring too far outside the lines. The only thing that sets this version apart is the performance capture animation and the heightened hook of the ghost story. This is not a movie for little kids - they'll either be too scared or bored, probably both. If it's Christmas cheer you're after - say Bah Humbug to Disney's A Christmas Carol and look elsewhere. As for Zemeckis, give us a real movie next time. Please.

- John


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