"A Christmas Carol" that can't achieve harmony

Nov. 9, 2009, midnight | By Anya Gosine | 11 years, 11 months ago

Disney's lack of innovation will make you say "bah-humbug"

Disney's "A Christmas Carol," is the latest in the long line of film adaptations based on Charles Dickens's 1843 classic of the same name. In this brilliantly animated re-creation, Jim Carrey stars as the stingy Ebenezer Scrooge and the Ghosts of Christmas, but unfortunately falls short in delivering the heart-warming magic.

Ebenezer Scrooge (Jim Carrey) is a cynical and selfish old man living in Victorian London. He rejects the kindness from his nephew and employees, charity to others and despises the holiday season. One Christmas Eve, however, he is haunted by three ghosts: the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmases Yet to Come. The ghosts guide Scrooge through a warp of his Christmas experiences, in which Scrooge sees the good and bad of not only his life, but of the lives of those around him and he finally learns a treasured lesson of the real Christmas spirit.

Jim Carrey is the voice of Scrooge as well as all three ghosts and each is performed with dynamic personality. Carrey pinpoints Scrooge's haughty Victorian dialect, emphasizing his stubbornness and maliciousness toward others. Unfortunately, there is unfulfilled potential for the humor Carrey is so popular for as Scrooge's sentiments seem to remain quite aloof throughout the entire movie.

The true magic of the film exudes through the vibrant animation. The Computer-Generated Imagery transports viewers through the snow-covered streets of London, letting them indulge in both the detailed architecture of grand stone churches and the peeling wood on the side of poor houses. Scrooge's face especially provides for a staggering image; the intricate warts and wrinkles of his face create shadows in his menacing growls and frame his spontaneous smiles of joy. Each scene also contains eerily realistic lighting, from the soft glow of the candles in a dark room to the garish radiance of the Ghost of Christmas Present.

Although the lighting of the animation may not be an issue, there's an uncomfortable feeling of darkness omnipresent in the film, making the films target audience of children questionable. The approach of the Ghosts of Christmases Past and Yet to Come cause unearthly vibes from the ominous silences. Even the radiant and jolly Ghost of Christmas Present is eaten away by two ghastly creatures called "Ignorance" and "Want"; it's painful to watch as he slowly shrivels up into a gray and gaunt skeleton. The impact of these creepy scenes is unfortunately more memorable than the others.

Not only does the film follow the original story scrupulously, but it also borrows much of the same dialogue. Usually, this is not something to be frowned upon, but when our Disney-fied Scrooge witnesses his past experiences, the transition from one year to another seems to move slowly without emotional allure. Even in the present, when Scrooge visits the heart-warming home of Tiny Tim known famously in the book for being a symbol of forgiveness, there is an absence of the enticing charm that is to be expected.

When Director Robert Zemeckis does attempt to add some new magic, the result is a diversion from the tale's true message. When Scrooge visits the future, he's chased down by two ghoulish horses and is shrunk down to chipmunk-size. This sequence is so action-packed and misleading that the events that follow end up seemingly anti-climactic instead of the best segments of the movie.

While Disney's "A Christmas Carol" has great visual appeal, it lacks the soul. Audiences will find their heartstrings left un-tugged. In searching for holiday enjoyment that will evoke true emotion, it is probably best to stick to the Dickens book itself.

"A Christmas Carol" (96 minutes) is rated PG for scary sequences and images. Now playing in theaters everywhere.

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