2019, Movies

A Christmas Carol (2009, Robert Zemeckis)

This feels like an attempt to make a more faithful adaptation of A Christmas Carol using animation while, at the same time, taking the supernatural elements of the story to more fantastical heights.

This is the 4th or 5th version of the story I’ve seen a film of. This one is notable because it’s motion capture but also for the multiple performances of Jim Carrey, who takes on many roles through the benefit of animation. Carrey is unrecognizable in these roles and it’s only with reference to IMDB that I knew he was doing as many of the voices as he does. So that’s to his credit. (Though one wonders how many of the voices are created in part using effects because at least one time Scrooge’s is.) The other actors are equally hard to recognize and the casting of Elwes is particularly strange given that he mostly apparently just helped Carrey act his parts. But all of this is to the film’s credit, as it creates a sense of place, as well as that sense of unreality that motion-capture creates, which is separate from the famous people involved in it. In this way it feels a little purer than some of the other adaptions I’ve seen.

And it looks great. As much as it is clearly animated, even 10 years later, the animation is extremely impressive. It’s very much like a moving painting. If I was judging it solely on the merits of the animation, I’d probably say it’s an excellent film. It is certainly the best looking version of this story to date.

My issues are two-fold: first there’s the push-pull between the desire to tell a more traditional, authentic version of the story than the relatively recent popular adaptions and the desire to use animation to make Scrooge’s dreams crazier. That’s an idea that is appealing on paper but I’m not sure it works in execution. It’s a bit jarring that there is so much effort creating a film which feels like it is trying to be truer to the source material which then has Scrooge flying into space.

The other issue is the lack of laughs: I maybe laughed twice. And I will say that, for me, this is a story that is sentimental enough that I need comedy to bear it. So my favourite version of the story remains Scrooged, though I will also take A Muppet Christmas Carol in a pinch, because they are lighter versions of it. And this version very much leans into the more traditional, less funny interpretation, which makes it feel a little overly sentimental. (If this were live action, it might be harder to take seriously.)

But it’s nice to look at.


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