It’s rather disheartening how a film that is filled with such a visual epic scope can in the end feel so cold and lifeless. Even with the title now being “Disney’s A Christmas Carol” with Charles Dickens (you know, the author of the actual story?) craftily omitted from the publicity campaign. Robert Zemeckis’ insistence on delivering some of the more stone cold animated films, that continue to attempt to convince us that it’s so much more than a simple demo reel continues with “A Christmas Carol.” It’s yet another spin on Charles Dickens tales of Christmas and redemption through the lens of motion capture computer animation. And much like the method of motion capture, it tries to be about as humanistic and moving as possible, but never can capture the subtle quirks and nuances of the human face and their emotions.
Zemeckis at this point would have been better off staging a live action film with star Jim Carrey covered in prosthetics and make-up. I’m still not entirely sure who “A Christmas Carol” is attempting to appeal to. It’s much too artsty fartsy and sophisticated to be enticing to children, and it’s much too cold and sterile to be considered a moving work of art. There are moments of sheer sweeping direction that splashes along the English landscape through the ghettos and past the alleyways, and while it’s all grandiose and interesting to experience in theory, there’s not a real point to it. To make it absolutely apparent to the audience that Scrooge is a skin flint, the film has a brief prologue where we see our character’s inability to part with money. Even in the face of his dead friend Marley.
This involves a long drawn out moment where he’s forced to pay a funeral director, and steals the coins from Marley’s eyes. The journey of Ebenezer Scrooge from heartless miser to a man who reclaimed his ability to feel and connect to humanity once more should be a very compelling one (as we’ve seen in past incarnations), instead the majority of the animated film is filled with endlessly gaudy and unusual visuals that are absolutely soulless and manage to devalue the overnight transformation of Scrooge through his three apparitions. And in one of the most awkward scenes, the ghost of Christmas past appears to Scrooge with the face of Jim Carrey. While many will deem that as nitpicking, it’s distracting and immediately pulled me out of the narrative.
1951’s “A Christmas Carol” continues to be my favorite of the incarnations primarily because of Alastair Sim’s moving portrayal of this man who was reborn through the visions of his ghostly guardians, while Carrey’s performance is mainly rote with beat by beat readings of the dialogue void any true emotion or heart. While the story of Scrooge remains a compelling tale of the holiday spirit changing the black of heart, Zemeckis and Disney’s collaboration brings about a cold and forgettable variation using the advent of animation and technology to destroy the magic instead of create some new elements that could be welcomed by audiences. There still isn’t a convincing argument for the continued creations of Zemeckis’ gaudy grandiose computer animated films that possess every bit of technological achievement, and visual flourish possible, but lacks in the heart and warmth of the original Scrooge tale and feels like a practice in excess rather than a journey in to a man’s soul.