Written and Directed by Robert Zemeckis
The tale of Victorian-era miser Ebenezer Scrooge who has lost the Christmas spirit gets the Disney treatment by way of Robert Zemeckis.
Jim Carrey pulls an Eddie Murphy and aside from Scrooge he also voices the Ghost of Christmas Past who is depicted as a man with a flickering flame for a head and a candle body (Lumière?), the Ghost of Christmas Present who is shown as a tall man with red hair, a beard, and a green robe, and he had a hand in portraying the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come who looks like the Grim Reaper and occasionally chases Scrooge in a horse drawn carriage.
The rest of the voice cast is pretty good. They are all strong actors. The amazing Gary Oldman is Bob Cratchit as well as the ghost of Scrooge’s former partner Jacob Marley, Colin Firth is Scrooge’s nephew Fred, Bob Hoskins gives life to Mr. Fezziwig as well as a fence named Old Joe, and Robin Wright Penn is Scrooge’s sister Fan and as well as Scrooge’s fiancée Belle. Cary Elwes has a handful of parts and also was a stand in when necessary since this film was created in part using motion capture technology.
One thing I never understood is why do studios stuff animated films with so many name actors? Does that really draw in audiences? You are not actually seeing so and so in the part. You are just hearing them. And the character could have been modeled physically on anybody. Just cast competent voice actors. I think Peter Cullen or Frank Welker for example could do just as good if not better than some name actors that get hired for these films. Just a thought.
Once again, I must state that I have a consistent issue with CGI films as stated in other posts. My issue is that as the technology advances, the film itself usually does not continue to look as good as when it came out. Hand drawn animation has staying power that something done on a computer just does not. It is art while CGI is a special effect. So far so good on this one. The film is beautiful. It is a rich film that has a clear style rather than just a “look.”
We have an immersive, detailed environment that could only be accomplished in CGI and not in hand drawn animation. This was the right way to go here. They do go a bit heavy in establishing the season though. I think they should have pulled back a little on the decorations and snow in the background because I cannot imagine anybody has that kind of decorating budget nor is there that much snow consistently on the ground.
The script is solid and aside from one extended scene that exists more to demonstrate the cool visuals you can do with CGI, we have a story fairly faithful to the original book. It is mostly drawn from the book, especially the dialogue, with some padding to certain moments to justify the story as a feature length film. Zemeckis did not try to put his own spin on anything here. The film can be darker at times than other versions, but this only occurs where appropriate. The story is not all lollipops and gumdrops. It is about a man being saved and that can go to darker places. While it is an animated film, it is more intense than most and definitely significantly more than traditional Disney material.
This is a story of redemption after all and they keep that front and center. Scrooge has lost his was as a human being and these spirits have come to guide him back. If Jim Carrey had been, well, Jim Carrey then the themes and message at the heart of the story would have been lost. He was very subdued and serious here. He turned in a performance rather than a caricature. It is clear he worked hard to get not only accents but performances right.
The performances are treated more like you would find in a dramatic live action presentation than in animated material. The characters are expressive in a natural way. The shots are framed for impact and dramatic effect. Robert Zemeckis treated this like a live action film and thus created something wonderful.
This version of the classic tale is visually strong and strong in script. Disney’s A Christmas Carol is a fantastic addition to the Christmas Carol catalogue. It is a definite crowd-pleaser that could easily become a holiday favorite for you. Find it and watch it.