November 11, 2009 -- Disney's new, 3D version of “A Christmas Carol” has a dark edge to it and at times it turns into an action movie, but retains enough of the original story's spirit to have an emotional impact. Essentially, this is the story of a man who is scared straight by ghosts who give him lessons about his humanity and his mortality. These are lessons everyone would do well to learn. This film is dark and scary enough that it just might scare some in the audience straight.
Jim Carrey (“Yes Man”) stars as Ebenezer Scrooge, and half a dozen other characters in this motion-capture animated 3D film. Motion capture allows for wild action sequences that would kill any stuntman, and there more than enough such wild scenes in this film. The look of the film is superb with hauntingly beautiful images of Victorian England, fantastic images of ghosts, including the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. The ghost of Christmas past is imaginatively rendered as a living candle, while Christmas present is a jolly giant and Christmas future is a shadowy specter (all voiced by Carrey). For all these advantages, motion-capture animation is a good choice for this fanciful story, but it has a drawback. Facial expressions and other subtle body movements represented by motion capture don't look natural. At worst, faces look like masks and simple movements like walking look stiff and unnatural. Scrooge's face is rendered pretty well. His face has some expression, although nowhere near the expressiveness of Jim Carrey's real face. Until the technical problems of duplicating facial expressions and fine motions can be fixed, motion capture animation will remain of limited value in films.
Scrooge is a notoriously cheap, mean-spirited man who refuses to celebrate Christmas, give any money to charity, or to pay a decent wage to his poor bookkeeper, Bob Cratchit. After the ghosts pay him a few visits on Christmas eve, Scrooge has a change of heart. He is shown how he once was a caring person, but he hardened his heart against others over the years, becoming bitter and selfish. He is also shown the future devastating effects of his selfishness on Bob Cratchit's family, and how others scorn and despise him, even after his death. These revelations shake Scrooge to his core and open his heart.
The message of this story remains strong, 150 years after it was written by Charles Dickens. It is a story that should be read by every Wall Street banker who profited while millions suffer from the economic collapse they caused, every Congressman who voted against health care reform, every tea party protester who is more worried about insurance industry profits than people dying for lack of adequate health care. In the story, Scrooge pays for Tiny Tim's health care, to prevent his death. The tea party protesters and the Congressmen who voted against health care reform could learn a lesson from Scrooge's change of heart. This film rates a B.
Postscript: Some readers have complained about the politics mentioned in this review, saying I have no right to include it. This is my website, my review, so yes, it is my right.
Secondly, politics is inherent in the story itself, Dickens wrote this story to address the plight of poor people, specifically poor children in England. According to Wikipedia, he wanted to write a political pamphlet on this subject, but decided “the most effective way to reach the broadest segment of the population with his social concerns about poverty and injustice was to write a deeply felt Christmas narrative rather than polemical pamphlets and essays.”
So, to all you Scrooges out there who don't like the politics of this Christmas story, or this review. This is just the way it is, and has been since Christmas of 1843.
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