Charles Dickens purists, fear not. Robert Zemeckis remains faithful to the beloved tale, all the while putting his own spin on the story. This version is a little more exciting, and a lot more sinister than previous outings (it also happens to be in 3D), but I loved it.
I don’t think I really need to spend much time on the plot. Everyone knows the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, the original curmudgeon who hates everyone and everything and is just downright unpleasant. One Christmas Eve, he is visited by four ghosts; his former business partner Marley; the ghost of Christmas past, the ghost of Christmas present, and the ghost of Christmas future.
After seeing himself through the eyes of others that he visits with these ghosts, Ebenezer changes his wicked ways. His long suffering but loyal employee, Bob Cratchit, has a son who is very ill and the no matter what version of the film you see, they all end with Ebenezer befriending the boy and pulling at our heartstrings.
Zemeckis employs his favored method of stop-motion animation in this movie, with mixed results. Zemeckis’s animation is a huge improvement over The Polar Express, but the people still look slightly off-putting. Scrooge (voiced and acted by Jim Carrey) has the most fully detailed face in the bunch. His angular features and pin-thin physique perfectly complement his frosty demeanor.
Other characters, like Bob Cratchit (voiced and acted by Gary Oldman) look freakishly weird. He is more suited to a Hobbit movie than this, but I won’t quibble too much. Suffice it to say that some people are still going to be really bothered by the look of the character, I was able to get beyond their look and enjoy the ride.
And a wild ride it is. The 3D is fantastic, and makes you feel fully immersed in the movie. During some of the crazy chase scenes, you can fully imagine that you are literally on a Disney ride. When it snows, you feel like you are really in the snowstorm. The textures are rich, and the dimensions are brilliant.
An all-star cast joins Carrey, who actually voices eight of the characters. Gary Oldman, Robin Wright Penn, Carey Elwes, Colin Firth, and Bob Hoskins all appear in one way or another in the film.
Zemeckis also inserts a lot of unexpected comedy into the movie. Some quirky moments made me wonder if he had secretly consulted with Sam Raimi. There is a lot of stuff here that would be equally at home in Evil Dead 2. Inappropriate jokes, ghosts dancing a crazy jig, rapidly decaying corpses, and a shrinking Scrooge-these all add a crazy little flair to the otherwise faithful adaptation.
As far as the sinister turn goes, this Scrooge is beyond mean, he’s wicked. He makes Alistair Sim’s (from the 1951 movie) Scrooge look positively giddy by comparison. There are some very grown up themes here, and I can’t be sure, but I think I caught a snide comment or two about the modern state of organized religion.
The ghosts are also surprisingly scary here. An opening sequence is even reminiscent of Tales From the Black Freighter, so keep the toddlers at home.
Despite the colder approach this movie takes toward the classic, I still found a little dust in my eyes toward the end. I’ve got to give it to Zemeckis for taking this bold approach, and to Disney for allowing this version of the film to exist.
A Christmas Carol is beautiful, witty, and haunting at the same time.