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A Christmas Carol Introduces Dickens to the 3D Fold

A Christmas Carol
Written and directed by Robert Zemeckis from the Charles Dickens novel
Disney, 2009

Some stories are so timeless that it’s not surprising when we see yet another adaptation come through the assembly line.  Sometimes filmmakers have a new take, or try to make a “definitive” version, or merely update the story for modern times.  At this point in time, there’s not much you can do to A Christmas Carol that hasn’t been done before.  This is why the update to 3D, in general, has been leaving more than a few critics cold.  A story such as this, computer-animated, with whiz-bang 3D, seems to rob the humanity out of it all.

Well, I’m not totally on board with that assessment, as I believe the actors and animators basically do a good enough job to keep the humanity in.  At the same time, as impressive as the 3D animation is, I’m not sure how much has been enhanced, either.  A Christmas Carol is as basic as it gets, and as soon as you get over how cool everything looks in 3D, you might be looking for something more.  It’s nearly impossible, at this point, to improve upon this story if you’re making a straight-up adaptation.

For those who don’t know: A Christmas Carol tells the story of wealthy Ebeneezer Scrooge (voiced by Jim Carrey perfectly), who is the most miserly of misers.   It’s Christmas Eve, and his nephew Fred (Colin Firth) is futilely trying to get his uncle to come to a Christmas dinner.  His poor employee, Bob Cratchit (Gary Oldman) has a family to support, including his crippled son Tiny Tim (also Oldman), but is paid the most meager of wages.  Scrooge is going to allow Cratchit the day off, but not without informing him how unfair it is to pay someone’s salary for a full day’s work, and how he better be early the next day.  A couple of people come by asking for charity…yeah, that’s not happening.

When Scrooge returns home, he is visited by the ghost of his former partner, Jacob Marley (Oldman), who died 7 years ago to the day.  Marley appears in chains with heavy chests attached to them, a warning to Scrooge that this is his fate should he not turn it around, and that three ghosts will come visit him.  These three ghosts: Ghost of Christmas Past (Carrey), Present (Carrey), and Yet to Come (yep, Carrey), will show Scrooge how life was back in the day, before he became a miserable curmudgeon.   He then sees how life is now, where people make fun of him behind his back for being such a contemptuous person, but also showing how people like Fred and Cratchit still have hope for him.  He becomes frightened of Tiny Tim’s condition, and sees how poor people, poor because of him, essentially, are forced to live.  Then the future, where people profit off of his death and how death is coming soon, and things don’t look too good for Tiny Tim.  The ultimate message for Scrooge is to change or suffer forever.

This version is good, but I can’t say it’s necessary.  As good as Carrey, Oldman, Firth, etc. are, as good as the animation is, this is your basic time-waster that you won’t have a problem with, doing no harm.  It’s something to do.  I imagine kids who aren’t familiar with the other, oh, million adaptations will call this one their own.  The rest of us will smile nostalgically and say, “Yep, that’s A Christmas Carol all right.”

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