The visual feast is the reason to see Disney’s version of Dickens’
Disney’s “A Christmas Carol” is the finest example of 3D animation yet, and therefore is the first that absolutely must be seen in that format in order to be fully appreciated. Using “performance-capture” technology, an improved version of what he used in “The Polar Express” and “Beowulf,” Director Robert Zemeckis has incorporated Disney’s trademarked “Digital 3D” to spectacular and stunning effect.
There will no doubt be some squabbling about the film’s flaws, but one aspect of this adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic is undeniable: no film ever made looks like this or so completely transports the viewer to another place and time. Its rich, vibrant and lavish details, bridge the gap between the real and the imagined in a way heretofore impossible. There is, however, some logic in the argument the filmmakers have put most of their magic in the media and not the message.
With countless film versions in existence, most viewers will be familiar with Dickens’ classic 1843 story of Ebeneezer Scrooge, the miserly grump who on Christmas Eve is visited by the ghost of his deceased former partner Jacob Marley. Jim Carrey is a perfect choice as Scrooge, but the film goes one step further by using him as the three ghosts who visit the nightgown-wearing crank, in addition to playing Scrooge at various ages. Other actors have multiple roles too, and they are also great choices: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright Penn, and Cary Elwes do great work. Scrooge gets a lot of screen time, and it’s obvious more animation detail went into his character, as witnessed by the constant close-ups showing every pore, hair, and wrinkle on Scrooge’s craggy face.
With Carrey as the star, this film could have been funnier, but the filmmakers chose to play it close to the spirit of Dickens’ haunting novella, even utilizing some of the original old English text, which makes for some occasionally muddled dialogue.
There are times when it feels like Zemeckis intended to shoot his film as if it were a theme park ride, thrusting the viewer through an onslaught of 360-degree camera angles. Soaring over and through the streets of 19th century London, the 3D effects create incredibly real snow flurries that come from every direction. While this version doesn’t add anything substantive to the story, the visual effect heightens the viewer’s experience, especially in the foreboding scenes where Scrooge is shown his future by the ominous Grim Reaper of Christmas future.
There are indeed many scary elements here, let’s not forget that one objective of the ghosts is to scare the humbug out of Scrooge, so some of the material might be too frightening for little tykes. Nothing scarier than anything in the Harry Potter films (which could be used for comparison).
The most polarizing aspect of Disney’s “A Christmas Carol” will be whether all this visual wizardry overwhelms the heart of its classic source material. Indeed, little Tiny Tim only seems like a momentary pixel in a ocean of dazzling effects.
It’s a film absolutely worth seeing, if only to discover the answer to that question for yourself-your eyes and ears won’t regret it.
Rated PG for scary sequences and images.