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With: (voices) Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Cary Elwes, Robin Wright Penn, Bob Hoskins, Daryl Sabara, Fionnula Flanagan, Jacquie Barnbrook, Sage Ryan, Ryan Ochoa, Bobbi Page, Ron Bottitta, Sammi Hanratty, Julian Holloway, Steve Valentine
Written by: Robert Zemeckis, based on a novel by Charles Dickens
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
MPAA Rating: PG for scary sequences and images
Running Time: 98
Date: 11/03/2009

A Christmas Carol (2009)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Robert Zemeckis returns with his third motion-capture, photorealistic animated film, Disney's A Christmas Carol, which is thankfully not as creepy as The Polar Express (2004), nor as unintentionally funny as Beowulf (2007). But it still leaves a lot to be desired, and it's a virtual grab bag of good ideas mixed with bad.

Jim Carrey provides the voice and movements of Ebenezer Scrooge, and though he often sounds like he's channeling Alastair Sim from the great 1951 film version, he gives a terrific performance. Zemeckis uses 3D to nice effect, laying out a nicely detailed vision of snowy London, circa the mid-1800s. And the script sticks very close to Charles Dickens' delightful dialogue, without adding any annoying modern-day jokes or pandering to younger viewers. Indeed, the film is as dark and as scary as any Christmas Carol I've seen.

The bad news is that, aside from Scrooge -- who has exaggerated features and is often shown in shadow -- every other character still has those horrible, soulless, dead eyes and plastic movements (even The Muppet Christmas Carol has more humanity). Despite a moving vocal performance by Gary Oldman, for example, the digital Bob Cratchit just can't convey the soul of a human being. Then we have Carrey in his performances as the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present; in these roles, Carrey hams it up in a very strange and unpleasant way, using gimmicks like misplaced accents and forced laughter.

Finally, whenever Zemeckis worries that the audience may be getting bored, he throws in flying/swooping/chase sequences to show off the 3D and beef up the film's adrenaline (as if it needed any). One awful sequence has a pair of demon horses and a ghost carriage chasing Scrooge through the alleyways for several minutes -- for absolutely no reason. The problem is that there are already so many versions of this tale, and so many of them are good that Zemeckis' halfway-good version just doesn't seem necessary.

Disney waited a year to release the DVD and Blu-Ray, and here it is in time for the 2010 holiday season. I received the combo pack, which comes with several behind-the-scenes featurettes, an interactive Christmas countdown calendar, and deleted scenes.

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