You're Twisting My Melon Man
On paper I was pretty sure I was going to hate Robert Zemeckis's "A Christmas Carol" as whilst I am a fan of Charles Dickens' classic Christmas story this version sounded wrong. Why? Well whilst in the right movie Jim Carrey can be hilarious I couldn't see how he could play Scrooge especially in a traditional version of "A Christmas Carol". Then there is the fact that this version is done with motion-capture technology and whilst Zemeckis impressed me with "The Polar Express" I was still sceptical. And just to add another fear, here was a movie made in 3D when it was just starting to cause a buzz and I feared it would be used as a novelty element. Well pretty much everything I thought would be bad ended up being good and I am glad to say that Robert Zemeckis' "A Christmas Carol" is not half bad.
I won't bother with a synopsis as to be honest Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" is known well enough that I shouldn't need to tell you especially with this being a traditional take on the story rather than a comical update. Now what that means is that parents should know that whilst this is a Disney movie and one with a PG certificate it is dark, it is slightly scary and not the sort of movie suitable for young children. Personally it is one of the things which is so right about this version because it provides the morose tone of Dickens' novel but embellishes it nicely when it comes to the darkness with just the right amount of humour.
Anyway so let's tackle my fears one by one and let's start with Jim Carrey who not only plays Scrooge but also other characters and what a fantastic job he does. In truth whilst the computer work keeps just the right amount of Carrey's look in the construction of Scrooge, something they do with other characters which means at one point we have a fat Carl Elwes, what stands out is his accent. If you didn't know it was Jim Carrey doing the voice you would swear it was another actor, you might even think they had lifted Alastair Sim's voice from the 1951 version of "A Christmas Carol". It is a welcome surprise and with the movie using much of the dialogue from Dickens' original story it sounds all the better.
Whilst I'm on the subject of acting what certainly helps this version is the great cast that they have put together for the various roles. When we meet nephew Fred and hear Colin Firth's voice but also see elements of his look in the character's face it instantly makes you smile and this continues through out with Gary Oldman and Bob Hoskins amongst other well known names.
Then there is the combination of motion-capture and 3D two things which have never really floated my boat. But the attention to detail with the motion-capture is amazing, ever scene is smooth and detailed whilst the 3D most certainly is no novelty. Zemeckis has used 3D as a way of presenting the story, a way of immersing us into a scene rather than just for throwing stuff at us like other directors have done in 3D movies. It is again fantastic and I just wish other directors would learn from Zemeckis when it comes to 3D because this is how to do it.
But that leads me to my only real criticism and that is there has been so much attention to detail that the first half feels incredibly slow. The CGI camera movement through a scene may be smooth but it feels laboured as if it is going purposefully slow in order for us to marvel at all the detail, almost as if it is saying "look at me". It is a shame as if it wasn't for this laboured early pacing I would be enthusing about this version a lot more.
What this all boils down to is that I am pleasantly surprised by Robert Zemeckis's "A Christmas Carol" as everything I feared would be wrong turned out mostly good. I'm still a fan of the older versions such as Alastair Sim's version but this is good enough that if it was on TV I would happily watch it again.