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“’A Christmas Carol,’ Some Enchanted Evening”

 

A surprisingly clever and beautifully animated film, “Disney’s ‘A Christmas Carol’” is a three-dimensional delight with detailed visuals and a performance by Jim Carrey that, shock of shocks, is subdued and layered.

 

The classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge (Carrey) has been told on screen several times: from the most lauded 1951 version starring Alastair Sim to separate cartoons with The Muppets and Mr Magoo.  The script by Director Robert Zemeckis relays the tale faithfully, with only a scattering of humor, but those expecting an out and out parody will be disappointed.  Zemeckis pays respect to Charles Dickens and thankfully doesn’t allow Carrey to lampoon the old codger. 

 

There are some issues with the script though.  Scrooge melts for Tiny Tim Cratchit way too quickly.  Even the audience doesn’t have time to be charmed by the young boy and yet a miser has a paternal instinct within two minutes of observing him.  The final visit from the Ghost from Christmas Future is also a bit hackneyed.  The mystery of the corpse who haunts Scrooge is blatantly obvious as presented, and the man seems dense for not realizing quicker whose dead body hides under the sheets.

 

Director Robert Zemeckis creates a diorama of Dickensian London with all the squalor, struggle and soot found in the classic tale. Frozen breath expels from mouths, while ominous shadows follow the characters. Every muscle and wrinkle makes an impression on faces creating the most life-like animation yet. The eyes that appeared cold and creepy in Zemeckis’ first experiment “The Polar Express” has been fixed and the film even mocks the previous film’s criticism, when the ghost Jacob Marley’s eyes stare deathly, only to spring to action in a frightening but funny moment.  The grotesque images, facial structures and Grand Guignol atmosphere will remind Disney fans of the Haunted Mansion. The faces look like the actors who voice them, particularly the rotund Bob Hoskins as Scrooge’s first employer and even Scrooge looks like a stretched and pulled Carrey.

 

The 3D effects are exhilarating, particularly the snow that falls around the audience, and the dizzying excitement of audience members practically sitting on the camera as it speeds through the countryside. Though the audience’s seats are stagnant, they feel like they are attached to a roller coaster.

 

Carrey solemnly portrays the lonely and angry man who loves money more than anything.  Even when glee enters his heart, Carrey makes Scrooge a believable entity. The only gripe is that at excitable times, he does slip into an Irish accent. Carrey plays three major roles besides Scrooge, all three Ghosts who teach him a lesson. The first spirit, shaped like a flickering candle, is the blithest; the second, a bacchanal God, practically squashes the miser like a bug; the final specter, the haunting Ghost of Christmas Future, is mostly silent, but reflects a frightful presence.

 

Of the star-studded cast, including Robin Wright Penn and Colin Firth, the most memorable vocals come from Gary Oldman as both the eerie, chained, deteriorating Jacob Marley and as the humble but life affirming Bob Cratchit.

 

Fans of the Dickens classic with cheer this faithful rendition and no one will regret the casting of Jim Carrey.  His subtle humor enhances the evening and never deflects from the 3D effects.  Grade: B+

 

 

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