A Christmas Carol

Jim Carrey is brilliant in this retelling of the classic Christmas story -- this time with stunning computer-generated effects.
Leticia Velasquez | Nov 11 2009 | comment  


A Christmas Carol
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Starring Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins

Stingy Scrooge and hungry Londoners, scary spirits and creepy doorknockers: we have all seen countless versions of Charles Dickens’s novella A Christmas Carol. It’s been trivialised in a musical and lampooned with puppets. The last thing one expects is for the Disney version to be among the most faithful versions of the immortal tale of avarice versus charity. But wait.

Rather than reducing the story line to a vehicle to showcase special effects and off-colour slapstick as do many Christmas-themed films, A Christmas Carol returns to the heart of the Dickens' story. It offers a piercing glimpse of a man in a prison of his own making. But then ghostly visitors quite literally lend him a hand to break free in time to celebrate Christmas. The stunning special 3-D effects were created with performance capture, a technique director Robert Zemeckis used in The Polar Express (2004) and Beowulf (2007).

The emotional power of the acting and the use of Dickens’ original dialogue maintain the strength of the story against the intensity of the special effects. Wild flights through the streets of London and unanticipated bits of levity kept it from being a downer and are likely the very things Dickens had intended with his descriptive passages. Surprisingly, this may be the film which best conforms to his original conception.

Though minor scenes from the book are not shown, and some liberties are taken with the plot, the central scenes are played with respect for their original meaning. Zemeckis makes powerful use of close-ups. Particularly moving is the scene where Bob Crachit is brought face to face with the invisible visitor Scrooge as he mourns the loss of his son Tiny Tim, poignantly aiding Scrooge’s discovery of the secret of a life which is well lived. Mature themes of charity, repentance, and greed are portrayed in a way which reaches the youngest of viewers.

Jim Carrey is at his flexible best in A Christmas Carol. He scowls as the curmudgeonly Scrooge, is sprightly and winsome as the Ghost of Christmas Past, and laughs uproariously as the Ghost of Christmas Present. His personality is as varied as his characters, yet does not overpower them. Thanks to Carey’s physicality, Scrooge is dramatically overwhelmed by the powers of the spirits, who remind him that there is a world where money has no power. Colin Firth is charming as Scrooge’s nephew, adding an authentic accent to the film.

Beautiful orchestration weaves together favourite Christmas carols and keeps the fantasy alive. The credits roll with a new Christmas song sung by Andrea Boccelli. In short, everything clicks to make this film a new Christmas classic.

The teenagers who accompanied me took turns hiding their eyes from and laughing at the up-close-and-personal ghosts. They loved the 3-D which gave them the feeling of actually flying. As long as you do not bring children who could be frightened by the larger than life ghosts, this is the family film to ring in the Christmas season.

Leticia Velasquez writes from New York.

This article is published by Leticia Velasquez and MercatorNet.com under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.

comments powered by Disqus
Follow MercatorNet
MercatorNet RSS feed
subscribe to newsletter
Sections and Blogs
Family Edge
Sheila Reports
Reading Matters
Demography Is Destiny
From the Editor
contact us
our ideals
our People
our contributors
Mercator who?
partner sites
audited accounts
advice for writers
privacy policy
New Media Foundation
Level 1, Unit 7,
11 Lord Street,
Botany Australia 2019

+61 2 8005 8605
skype: mercatornet

© New Media Foundation