A Christmas Carol: An odd and often too dark adaptation.


Since the publication of "A Christmas Carol" in 1843, it has become one of the most iconic Christmas stories ever made and is arguably the most famous of the tales that Charles Dickens himself has ever written. Not only that, it has made way for several film adaptations with actors such as Reginald Owen, Alistair Sim, Albert Finney, George C. Scott, and Michael Caine taking on the iconic role of Ebenezer Scrooge. Then in 2009, Robert Zemeckis decided to take his hand at the famous story with Jim Carrey in the role of the famous cold-hearted miser using the motion capture computer animation he famously pioneered in "The Polar Express". To make this film, he partnered with Disney to bring it to life and also to eventually make more motion capture animated movies through the newly formed ImageMovers Digital. The company didn't last though as they were shut down and only ended up producing two films, this and the disaster that was "Mars Needs Moms". While "A Christmas Carol" was nowhere near as bad as "Mars Needs Moms", it unfortunately just didn't have the same magic or Christmas cheer that worked in "The Polar Express". I remember seeing this film in theaters when it came out and had really hoped to like it, but was instead terrified by it and found it unpleasant. Having rewatched it ten years later, my opinion still hasn't really changed. It's confusing, cold, and sometimes a little hard to watch.


The story follows the basic tale that we all know and love. The cold-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge (Jim Carrey) has been spending Christmas alone and not enjoying the festive time of year. Not only that, he cares only about money and has been cruel to everyone around him this time of year including his nephew Fred (Colin Firth) and his only employer Bob Cratchitt (Gary Oldman). One Christmas Eve though, Scrooge is paid a visit by the ghost of his deceased partner Jacob Marley (also Oldman) who tells him that he will be haunted by three spirits to change his ways or be condemned in the same way he was carrying chains forged by greed. From there, Scrooge is shown his past, present, and future by respective ghosts of their time (all three played by Carrey) who attempt to change his ways and learn from the errors of the times so he can be repented and have a happy afterlife. I'm pretty sure you know the rest of the story, so there isn't much to spoil.


Watching this film, I really got a somewhat unpleasant vibe from it. While Zemeckis does keep true to the source material of the book even quoting the dialogue from the book directly and has some brilliant uses of visual storytelling including Scrooge's relationship with his lost lover Belle, the story just doesn't have the Christmas cheer that other adaptations brought so well. The best adaptations of "A Christmas Carol" have a sense of warmth to them while showing the error of Scrooge's ways. I think a perfect example of that was "Mickey's Christmas Carol" animated by the famed Walt Disney Animation Studios. In the short, Scrooge was played by none other than Scrooge McDuck and despite having a plethora of Disney characters, it still works since it's faithful to the story and has some Christmas cheer to it. This film doesn't. There's a sense of the cheer somewhere in the film, but it isn't made clear. Also, one thing that stood out about this film was that Zemeckis decided to up the darkness to the film which was a very unwise choice. The story is indeed somewhat dark, but this film decided to play up the darkness and decided to scare the audience from their seats like an average horror film. There's a whole scene where Scrooge is chased by this deathly carriage and horses and it just left me wondering why it was in this film. Not only was it too dark for this story, but it came off as filler to me. I can understand why some feel that "The Polar Express" might be padded, but I feel the film never wastes a minute and still stays true to the book. This film, however, I thought was padded. As far as the animation goes, I have mixed feelings about it. I have been kind to some of the motion capture animated movies that came out before it, but this film partially works and also doesn't. I don't mind the motion-capture of most of the adult characters in the film. They looked perfectly fine in my eyes and didn't come off as uncanny. The children and the ghosts of the film though I thought did. They looked off to me and just left me with an uncomfortable feeling with the Ghost of Christmas Past being the one that looked the worst. It looked like they had photoshopped Jim Carrey's face onto a candle flame and it came off looking so wonky and offputting to me. As far as the characters go, I might as well talk about the performances because you all know the characters of the film well that I don't need to go into them. I feel Jim Carrey does a decent take on Scrooge. He certainly isn't perfect and does have a very odd accent, but I feel the mannerisms were captured very well. His performances of the other ghosts though I didn't feel worked quite as well. His take on the Ghost of Christmas Past was too breathy and whispy and I found the Irish accent he did for the character strange. I found his take on the Ghost of Christmas Present incredibly annoying though. He laughs way too much and just got under my skin quickly. In other adaptations, you're supposed to like this ghost but I just couldn't hear because of how annoyingly Carrey portrayed him. I did find the take on the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come fantastic though. The film portrays the cloaked ghost as a shadow of Scrooge which I found a very creative decision. As the other cast members go, they get some good performances. Gary Oldman does turn in a great performance as Bob Cratchitt, Colin Firth is also decent as Fred, and even hearing Bob Hoskins and Robin Wright again in smaller roles was a pleasant surprise seeing how both starred in two of Zemeckis' best films, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and "Forrest Gump" respectively. However, they weren't enough to save this film.


Personally, I just couldn't wrap myself up in "A Christmas Carol". The story I found too dark and offputting, the animation a little too uncanny at times, and the character performances ranging from decent to bad. It's a shame this film didn't work out as intended because I wanted to like this film and give it a second chance. However, it just was too unpleasant for me to watch and I couldn't bring myself to liking it. I think I'm gonna stick with "The Polar Express" instead. That film is rather a charming Christmas film. This film though is rather a humbug.



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