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A Christmas Carol (2009)

Disney's A Christmas Carol

Directed by:

Robert Zemeckis

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 96 minutes

US Certificate: PG UK Certificate: PG

Everybody’s done it at some point, it seems. Bill Murray did it. Scrooge McDuck did it. Heck, even the Muppets did it. And that’s not even counting all the straight versions, like the 1951 Alistair Sim classic (and all the retellings to follow). There’s not really a lot left to do with A Christmas Carol to make it new or different—nor does there need to be—but I guess Robert Zemeckis figured it needed some motion capture.

So, of course, it’s the same Christmas story everyone knows—miserly old Ebenezer Scrooge (Jim Carrey) hates the holiday and people and all that is good, caring only about money. Then, on Christmas Eve, he’s visited by the chained up ghost of his also miserly old partner, Jacob Marley, who warns him that if he doesn’t get a little nicer, he’s going to end up in the same eternal predicament. Marley tells him there’ll be three more spirits (more Carrey) appearing to show him the errors of his ways, and they do, and he learns, and Tiny Tim blesses us all, every one.

I think we tend to forget as the years go by that the original Carol by Charles Dickens wasn’t necessarily funny or ready-made to be adapted by Muppets and comedians. Really, save for the end scenes, post-Ghosts, it’s a pretty dramatic tale of loneliness, greed, regret, and mortality. This Zemeckis take may be animated, but it’s not exactly kid-friendly, and especially in 3-D, it’s dark and scary stuff. The visuals are fantastic, and though I’ve never been a fan of this whole mo-cap idea and the way it makes faces look blandly smooth and impersonal, I have to give a lot of credit to the animators here, especially for their superbly detailed work on the old Scrooge, as well as on the Marley ghost. Jim Carrey plays so many characters I lost count, but I know he’s all the Scrooges AND all the Ghosts. It would seem that would result in a Carrey-centric, over the top schtick-fest, but this imagining of the story everyone knows stays pretty close to its source material, which doesn’t really leave much room for hamming it up (the closest he gets is as the Ghost of Christmas Present, but that’s always been a big character anyway). Along for the ride are some classy names to make it all respectable—Colin Firth, Cary Elwes, Bob Hoskins—but it’s all Carrey’s show, and he’s a convincing Ebenezer, even without seeing his real face. So good on you, Mr. Zemeckis—I’m still not convinced that motion-capture is the wave of the future you think it is, and The Polar Express is still creepy, but you managed to make a classic feel new again by keeping it close to its dark roots.

It's Got: Stunning visuals, scary ghosts, surprisingly understated performances by Jim Carrey (sort of)

It Needs: To be seen first by parents, perhaps a little more time spent on Scrooge's past and/or the Cratchits


It's a Wonderful Life, Scrooged, The Polar Express


Dark, scary, and fantastic visually, this revamp of the quintessential Christmas story sticks close to its source and delivers the intended allegory on the inevitable cost of greed.

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