A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Review by Michael Jacobson
Voices: Jim Carrey, Gary
Oldman, Cary Elwes, Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright Penn
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Walt Disney
Features: See Review
Length: 96 Minutes
Release Date: November 16, 2010
“God bless us, every one!”
It's hard to imagine, but the story goes that Charles Dickens originally penned “A Christmas Carol” just for money. Yet today, it's arguably the most popular and most well known of any of his great works.
There's something timeless about the story of a crusty old miser who gets a second chance thanks to the spirit (or, in this case, SPIRITS) of Christmas. It reaffirms our basic hope that there we are all basically good and that the meaning of Christmas is far reaching and can touch even the hardest of hearts.
Now, after more movie and television and even animation adaptations than I could possibly count, Walt Disney has brought a computer animated rendition to life. They spared no expense, bringing together an impressive voice cast, an Oscar-winning director and employing some first rate 3D technology.
The problem is, when studios go all out for that initial 3D theatrical experience, we end up left with a distracting movie on our 2D screens at home. All you can think about is how shot after shot was arranged not for cinematic value but for that 3D wow factor. Stretches of film occur that don't serve any narrative whatsoever, but exist merely to take the audience on that quick roller coaster ride that doesn't exist at home. Considering the home video presentations have far more shelf life than the theatrical ones, I can't help wondering if movie companies are making huge mistakes with these issues.
It's a shame too, because in other aspects, this filmed version is one of the most truthful to the original text that I've encountered. Charles Dickens' words are there as we remember from the story, and from a literary standpoint, there's remarkably little excisement or colorization.
The story is well known...on Christmas eve, one Ebeneezer Scrooge (Carrey) learns a lesson from his deceased partner Jacob Marley and three ghosts representing the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future. It's a harsh judgment on how the old skinflint lived his life, the misery he brought and continues to bring, and the black, dark end result of it all.
It's a story so powerful and pure that it's nearly impossible to ruin, and the beautiful animation does a tremendous job of bringing the classic holiday tale to vivid life. It's just all those damned distracting 3D oriented shots that kept taking me out of the moment. A spirit pointing at me from the TV screen without the added technology is just a flat awkward shot.
Granted, there is an eye toward both 3D HD TVs and Blu-ray players, but part of me hopes the technology fails. Though there have been some truly enjoyable experiences for me with the new and stunning 3D offerings, I'm also starting to resent it a bit as not only a gimmick, but one that is taking away and taking over for what real filmmaking used to be. Any fool with a crew of computer whiz kids can have things flying at you from the screen. But Robert Zemeckis has shown himself capable of so much more.
Still, it's hard not to give this movie a somewhat hesitant recommendation. There is much beauty to behold, the cast of voices doing multiple roles including Carrey, Gary Oldman, Cary Elwes and Bob Hoskins is delightful, and Dickens' tale still rings through the muck with a moral certainty and eternal truthfulness. If the filmmakers could have just avoided the temptation to overuse 3D and try to bring us Ebeneezer Scrooge, action star, it could have been a perfect experience.
There's nothing quite like animation and high definition, especially when coming from Disney. This is an absolutely gorgeous disc, perfectly rendered from start to finish with stunning colors and amazing details. Not a flaw to found...excellent job!
Some of the 'action' sequences in the film might have been a bit much for my taste, but there's no denying that the DTS HD soundtrack keeps up with them perfectly. This is a surprisingly dynamic audio offering thanks to the big scenes and the terrific score. The voices come through perfectly for a potent and well-balanced listening experience.
The Blu-ray starts off with a full length picture-in-picture demonstration of the motion capture technology used to make the film so real. There is also an interactive advent calendar where you can open one per day starting December 1 and get a new 'prize' for each one.
There is a featurette on the making of the film, a day on the set with a girl named Sammi who did some of the motion capture work for the children depicted in the film, as well as six deleted scenes. There is also a DVD of the film included.
A Christmas Carol takes the classic tale to a new apex of visual wonders thanks to the beautiful computer animation. Just a little more focus on the story and a little less on the intended 3D spectacle might have made it an all-time holiday staple.