A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Ebenezer Scrooge (Jim Carrey) begins the Christmas holiday with his usual miserly contempt, barking at his faithful clerk (Gary Oldman) and his cheery nephew (Colin Firth). But when the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come take him on an eye-opening journey revealing truths Old Scrooge is reluctant to face, he must open his heart to undo years of ill will before it’s too late.
Review by Louise Keller:
Conceptually brilliant with mind-blowing special effects, Robert Zemeckis’ recreation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is extraordinary to look at. Making full use of striking visual cinematic tools, including pinch-to-believe performance capture and dazzling 3D effects that ably serve the narrative, we feel as though we are right there, in the splendid reality Zemeckis has created. We can almost feel the snowflakes brushing our cheeks. Besides, what can you say about technology that enables the film’s versatile star Jim Carrey to portray an assortment of characters including Ebenezer Scrooge from the tender age of seven? But I worry who is the intended audience of this visual extravaganza? Certainly not children, for whom the content is far too dark with haunting imagery that could provoke nightmares for impressionable youngsters.
Zemeckis’ adaptation is true to Dickens’ tale (originally published in 1843) about the elderly, mean Scrooge (Carrey) who grumbles ‘Bah, humbug,’ and throws gloom at everyone who crosses his hunched, wiry frame. It’s essentially a classic tale of redemption with the added elements of ghosts and time travel. I especially liked the Ghost of Christmas Past (also played by Carrey), a hilarious tiny, flame-like being with a detached head and darting eyes, who takes Scrooge in a journey into his childhood. There he is reminded of things he has long forgotten, including meeting the love of his life (Robin Wright Penn) and how his greatest fear (‘a life filled with poverty’) destroys their relationship. The ever-laughing oversized Ghost of Christmas Present (Carrey, again) is his guide for more time-travelling, including the film’s darkest scene, in which Scrooge falls (seemingly forever) headlong into his own grave.
The film feels like a fable, with its stylised look and extraordinary effects in which the actors’ performances are computerised in 360 degrees. Although we recognise the actors in the roles, they are hidden behind their characters, and as a result it is these characters that become real to us.
All the performances are excellent: Gary Oldman in three roles, including that of the crippled child Tiny Tim, Colin Firth as Scrooge’s cheerful nephew and Bob Hoskins as Mr. Fezziwig. There’s little light in this tale; it is the ever-present shadows that leave a strong impression, like the frightening galloping horses that draw a runaway carriage. I am only sorry the film is too dark for children. Perhaps Zemeckis excluded the most important audience.
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A CHRISTMAS CAROL (PG)
CAST: Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright Penn, Cary Elwes, Fionnula Flanagan, Michael J. Fox, Bob Hoskins, Fay Masterson
PRODUCER: Robert Zemeckis, Steve Starkey, Jack Rapke
DIRECTOR: Robert Zemeckis
SCRIPT: Robert Zemeckis (novel by Charles Dickens)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Presley
EDITOR: Jeremiah O’Driscoll
MUSIC: Alan Silvestri
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Doug Chiang
RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Walt Disney
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 5, 2009