CHRISTMAS CAROL: THE MOVIE
Review by Michael Jacobson
Simon Callow, Kate Winslet, Nicholas Cage, Jane Horrocks, Rhys Ifans,
Michael Gambon, Juliet Stevenson
Director: Jimmy T Murakami
Audio: Dolby Surround
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Features: See Review
Length: 77 Minutes
Release Date: October 14, 2003
happened to those dreams, Ebenezer?”
Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is really about as perfect as a story can get.
It’s been told many times in many ways, in print, on stage, in song,
and on film, but it’s the kind of tale that never gets old.
It’s a beautifully affirming story of redemption, second chances, and
the spirit of the holidays the way we wish we could keep in our hearts all year.
Carol: The Movie is an honorable attempt to animate the classic short story,
but it’s a case of the technique not being able to live up to the material.
The magic that Charles Dickens put in to his work can never be
vanquished, but at the same time, it’s hard to ignore the fact that you’re
watching a decidedly substandard cartoon effort.
were minor tweaks to the story as well. Some
I didn’t mind, such as the further development of the love story between
Ebenezer Scrooge (Callow) and Belle (Winslet), which was only a minor regret in
the Dickens story. Others I
strenuously objected to, like the inclusion of two infernally annoying mice that
were supposed to be cuddly and comical, but instead filled my head with wicked
visions of snapping mousetraps.
sad to see how much enthusiasm has waned for traditional animation these days.
Even Disney has had a run of bad luck with the art form they pioneered.
For Christmas Carol, there’s nowhere near that level of quality.
Characters, objects and backgrounds are curiously flat.
They don’t seem realistic nor expressive.
The emotions of the story are pure, but these drawings don’t really
capture or convey them in the way they deserve.
all know the tale well enough, I’m sure…mean miserly Scrooge makes life
miserable for everyone around him, including his employee and family, until a
magical Christmas Eve brings him face to face with his past, present and future.
It’s the granddaddy of all second chances, and when Scrooge promises to
mend his ways…well, you know. He
was better than his word.
new angle occurs when his one time fiancée Belle has to send a letter pleading
for Scrooge’s kindness when the hospital she works for, the only haven for the
needy, is about to fold because of debts Scrooge has purchased.
In Dickens’ original version, there was no second chance romance for
Scrooge. But in this story, Scrooge
seems much younger than we remembered. His
opportunity to do good could rekindle the love he once let slip away.
least, I think so…the way the movie leaves that part somewhat unresolved is
frustrating. Why introduce such a
story thread and not see it through to its logical conclusion?
stranger was the decision to remove the live action opening and closing
bookends, depicting Simon Callow as Charles Dickens, re-telling his classic tale
in the New World of America for an audience hearing the “full” story for the
first time. They are included as
supplements instead. As a result,
the movie seems to begin and end awkwardly.
there’s a purity to the story that can’t be lost, even with faults such as
these. The redemptive quality is
still powerful enough to move. And
there are other good points, such as two terrific new songs, one sung by
Charlotte Church and one by Kate Winslet herself.
Ms. Winslet does a decent job of voicing Belle also, as does Mr. Callow
as Scrooge. The strangest inclusion
is that of Nicholas Cage as the ghost of Jacob Marley. Cage is a terrific actor, but man, does he seem lost doing
the strained, haunting voice of a spirit!
might be a pleasant enough family affair. The
kids might take to it, and the parents will be okay with it, but more
experienced audiences are likely to pine for the missed opportunities more than
they enjoy what’s actually offered.
animation normally looks great on DVD, this one is a sad exception.
The muted colors and aforementioned flat images are problematic enough,
but the digital transfer also seems a bit shimmery and grainy from time to time,
with a few instances of noticeable bleeding.
Even more troubling is the decision to forgo widescreen presentation,
which makes more than a few scenes seem a little tightly cropped to the left and
right. Even though the film is only a couple of years old, these
problems all make it seem like it was made a couple of decades ago.
stereo surround track is adequate, but some bits of dialogue seem a little
hushed compared to the background sounds. Dynamic
range is fair. The music,
especially the songs I mentioned, really sound terrific and are the track’s
addition to presenting the opening and ending of the movie as features, there is
a production featurette with a few cast and crew interviews, a trailer, and
previews for other titles. But the
true highlight for me was the music video of Kate Winslet performing “What
If”. It’s a sad and beautiful
song, and Ms. Winslet looks and sounds beautiful while singing it. It alone is worth at least a rental of this title.