Twitter Plot Summary: Robert Zemeckis uses his mo-cap technique on the Charles Dickens Christmas story. Everyone still has dead eye stares.
Robert Zemeckis, he formerly of the Back To The Future parish, took several years out from live action filmmaking to focus on the world of performance captured animation. One of his many films from this period in time was an adaptation of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. That classic tale of a man haunted by ghosts and made to repent for his sins and dedication to money by being shown elements of his past, present and potential future. The cast is led by Jim Carrey as Scrooge, with supporting turns from Colin Firth as his nephew and Gary Oldman as a tiny Bob Cratchit. Seriously, he’s got to be less than five foot tall – perhaps a commentary on how a poor lifestyle will affect your physical growth? In any case, he seems incredibly and almost unnecessarily short.
Ignoring the dead eyed stares of the characters (almost unavoidable), the animation is impressive and colourful where needed. This being an austere Victorian era the colour palette is primarily greys and blacks, with the occasional sprouting of colour as the ghosts take Scrooge on his journey of rediscovery. The ghosts are an interesting creation, the Ghost of Christmas Past is depicted as a candle for example.
This is for the most part a faithful adaptation of Dickens’ novel, with only a few changes made for cinematic and entertainment purposes. There is a sequence featuring a miniature Scrooge that, whilst moderately fun, seems to only be there to give events a slightly larger action-based slant. In hindsight it feels like an unnecessary move, but on the other hand it does separate it from other faithful adaptations of the text.
A fun twist on the usual formula is that Jim Carrey also plays the three Ghosts of Christmas – Past, Present and Future for those not in the know. It is therefore possible to say that the ghosts, in some form, either represent or are drawn from aspects of Scrooge’s subconscious. Carrey of course puts in a solid performance and his Scrooge (and by extension the three Ghosts) marks another worthy entry into his pantheon of mo-capped/heavy make-up characters alongside… well, The Grinch.
This being a ghost story, there are moments that will no doubt cause sleepless nights for younger viewers. The ghost of Marley is particularly frightening, a mass of chains and horrified glances. More scares are apparent with The Ghost of Christmas Future, all the more unerring because he/she/it never says a word. While Zemeckis doesn’t go out of his way to make it completely inaccessible to a younger audience it does lurk very close to the line and it wouldn’t take much at all to push it into an older age bracket.
If you can get past the uncanny valley feeling then Zemeckis’ A Christmas Carol is worth your time simply because it remains relatively faithful to the original text. If you’ve previously encountered issues with the mo-cap animation style (Tom Hanks in The Polar Express, Ray Winston in Beowulf) then you’d be best advised to find an alternative movie version of the story. Let’s face it, you’re not exactly stuck for choice.