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Disney's A Christmas Carol

Disney's A Christmas Carol

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

SADLY, it’s easier to adopt a Scrooge-like mentality to Robert Zemeckis’ version of A Christmas Carol than anything resembling festive cheer.

By virtue of his slavish devotion to the performance capture process, Zemeckis’ re-telling of Charles Dickens’ classic tale is a distinctly disappointing affair.

Kids may enjoy the innumerable swooping scenes across London, as Scrooge is whisked here, there and everywhere by the various ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, but adults may well lament the lack of genuine heart that should be inherent in Dickens’ redemptive yarn.

And therein lies the principal problem with the whole performance capture process – none of the characters look that real, thereby depriving audiences of any lasting emotional investment.

Zemeckis, as he has previously proved with The Polar Express and Beowulf, can dazzle us with breathtaking scenery and pulse-quickening action sequences… and he does so again with an early journey across the rooftops of Dickensian London.

While his use of 3D is truly immersive, as snow drops fall convincingly around the viewer and imbue them with a sense of awe and wonder.

But once the ‘performance capture’ begins, the film comes unstuck in more ways than one.

A talented cast led by Jim Carrey – as Scrooge and the various spirits – and including Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins and Gary Oldman fail to make the required impression because of the lifeless nature of their performance capture appearance.

Firth, in particular, looks odd as Fred, while none of the acting talent is allowed to emerge from behind the illustrated feel of the characters.

Vocally, they’re fine but you’ll be yearning to see them in the flesh come the end of proceedings – especially Carrey, who gives his heart and soul to proceedings by playing a total of eight characters.

Even then, the film isn’t devoid of problems. Zemeckis frequently gets too carried away with the box of technical tricks at his disposal and offers one chase sequence too many (including one that’s not in the novella).

While Carrey is allowed to over-indulge on some of the voices, with his ghost of Christmas present a particularly annoying addition to the whole Dickens genre.

Perhaps somewhat nostalgically, you’ll be left to mull over the straight-forward charms of Alastair Sim in one of the earliest film versions of the story, or The Muppets, who managed to invest proceedings with much more warmth!

That said, Zemeckis’ film isn’t without occasional merit. The digital sets are vividly realised, while the screenplay and imagery stays true to the dark origins of Dickens source text – younger viewers may find some of the sequences a little too intense and terrifying.

Carrey makes for a convincing Scrooge and the early build-up to Marley’s visit is an expertly staged building of tension and suspense.

But Zemeckis’ decision to deny audiences one of the key feel-good moments from latter versions of the tale [involving Tiny Tim] also goes against it and thereby deprives the film of its tearfully happy finale.

What’s left is a technically proficient blockbuster that may well appeal to less demanding viewers, but which will leave Dickens’ purists and the more nostalgic among you with a “bah humbug” feeling inside!

Certificate: PG
Running time: 95mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: November 8, 2010