A Christmas Carol: Movie Review (2009)

11/12/2009 Posted by Admin

Movie Review: Christoper Smith

“A Christmas Carol"

Written and directed by Robert Zemeckis, 95 minutes, rated PG.

The new Robert Zemeckis movie, “A Christmas Carol,” arrives just in time for the holiday onslaught, when stores are crushed with the customers they need while too many of those folks already have all the grumbling charm of Ebenezer Scrooge himself.

Presented in 3-D with the same motion-capture technology he’s been trying to perfect since his 2004 movie “The Polar Express,” a nightmarish film filled with dead-looking zombie tots and Nazi undertones, the good news for Zemeckis is that advances in that technology now are allowing him to come closer to realizing his vision of turning real people into animated characters.

Though it’s questionable why he wants to achieve animation that brushes against photo-realism (why not just use live actors?), the effort is starting to pay off. The animation here is very good, with actors such as Jim Carrey (Scrooge) retrofitted into something admirably crooked, wicked and rotten. The characters’ eyes still are flat, but they aren’t completely without soul, as was the case in “Express” and the follow-up to that movie, 2007’s equally disappointing “Beowulf.”

Based on his own script, Zemeckis gives Charles Dickens’ tale a dimension he never could have imagined when he published the story in 1843, well before the advent of film. The question, of course, is whether a story this rich even needs the clamoring of elaborate special effects to make it resonate with today’s audiences.

The answer is a resounding “no,” but here’s the thing. The story has held up so well, it actually helps the movie, bolstering the technology behind it because the story’s themes remain relevant. Shrewdly, Zemeckis hasn’t toyed with those themes--he doesn’t tinker. He allows Dickens’ words to do their part of the heavy lifting, while the technology does the rest.

About the film. For those who don’t know the story (is that possible?), we’re in 19th century London and the movie follows the transformation of one mean penny pincher, Ebenezer Scrooge, who has a heart of coal and who looks every bit as chilling as his name sounds. Skeletal, bent, his nose a crooked faucet pockmarked with pores, there is nothing about this frowning beast that’s likable.

People fear him, which is what he wants. His one employee, Bob Cratchit (Gary Oldman), tries to keep warm at his desk while Scrooge enjoys the bulk of the meager heat. Meanwhile, at home, Cratchit’s young son, Tiny Tim, is steamrolling toward death--and Cratchit doesn’t have the money to save him.

How do we know this? The movie offers its cutaways, but mostly it’s through a life-altering journey Scrooge takes thanks to some rather relentless spirits, one of whom is Death itself. The idea is to shake some sense into Scrooge, to make him see himself for who he is.

What’s curious about the movie is that the film’s 3-D elements are employed in such a way that they add to the experience, not detract. Snowflakes drift down in the theater--it’s a sweet effect--but the better effect is that beyond them is a story that trumps those flakes. Tart it up all you want, but Dickens’ words still resonate, his characters still infuriate, frighten and touch, and there’s still satisfaction to be had in his tale.

Grade: B

Watch the trailer for "A Christmas Carol" here:

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  1. Anonymous said...

    Just got back from the theater, and I couldn't have said it better myself. I found myself very pleasantly surprised by the happy realization that the director didn't allow the movie to become a 3D-fest with Scrooge in it (except for the scene with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come--come on, did you really need to chipmunk-ize Scrooge there?) but rather served up one of the most faithful and excellent book adaptions I've seen in a long time. A classic very well re-imagined, and London was rendered magnificently.

  2. Movies said...

    I just watch this movie the other day, very interesting, and good. I recomand people to watch this movie : )