This 2009 American motion-capture festive film is written and directed by Robert Zemeckis, is based on the classic story by Charles Dickens and featuring motion-capture and vocal performances by Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright Penn and Cary Elwes.
1843. Christmas Eve. London, England. Ebenezer Scrooge (Carrey), a bitter, miserable and rude moneylender manages to suck the spirit out of everyone he works and meets, including put-down colleague Bob Cratchit (Oldman) and nephew Fred (Firth). Reluctantly shutting his shop for Christmas Day, he returns to his home, alone, to spend another festive season away from others.
But as night draws in, the ghost of former business partner Jacob Marley (Oldman), visits him and warns him that if he doesn’t change his ways he will suffer the same fate as Jacob in the afterlife; heavy chains weighing down his soul forged by his greedy ways. Warning him of 3 spirits that will visit him before the night is out, Jacob vanishes.
As the clock strikes midnight, so begins a night like no other for Scrooge as he is sure enough visited by the spirits: the Ghost of Christmas Past (Carrey), the Ghost of Christmas Present (Carrey) and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (Carrey), all who will show Scrooge the mistakes he has made, the legacy he has lived and the pain he has caused in an attempt to salvage him and become a changed man before it is too late…
One of the greatest Christmas stories ever written, and told in many adaptations over TV, radio and film, always manages to convey the real spirit of what Christmas is all about in a heart-warming and entertaining, simple way. This adaptation, via the imagination of Robert Zemeckis, following his 2009 motion-capture animation The Polar Express, combines that same dizzying 3D spectacle with nightmarish action, well-presented characters and a well-meaning narrative.
Jim Carrey is on fine form in motion-capture and vocal mode as Ebenezer Scrooge; wiry, mean and cantankerous to the best, almost looking like a man corrupted by the bitterness he embodies with claw-like hands, a bent frame and leather face. The animation is superb, with lots of detail to every hair, inch of skin and location we see. Mixed with a great vocal performance, this Scrooge I feel is one of the best and probably one of the closest interpretations to the Dickens original; coming over at times like an old beast rather than an old man.
With good support from a fairly British cast including Gary Oldman, Bob Hoskins and Colin Firth, the simple story isn’t lost amidst the made-for-3D action that we are treated to; flying through a beautiful wintery Victorian London, or around a snow-capped countryside or even down the dark and dangerous streets at night-time. This manages to capture the time in history perfectly and looks just the part, with the animation helping our characters bend the laws of physics for a fantastical tale that never puts the actors in danger as they fly, fall and fight.
For a story that nearly everybody knows so well, the way it is presented is key to staying fresh and current, and this is clearly the first 3D motion-capture adaptation giving us lots of nice touches that brings the story to life (literally) with great detail to all the settings we see; flickering candle lights, creaky wooden houses, furious snow falls.
While the film may not be generally suitable for younger viewers thanks to, once again, the love of nightmarish visions Zemeckis injects into these tales that seem innocent enough (we have laughing skeletons, terrifying ghosts who scream at the camera, feral children and demonic horses thundering towards the screen), maybe younger viewers should stick with the fluffy fun of The Muppets Christmas Carol.
But, on the whole, this is a nice 90 mins runtime and doesn’t change the foundations of the story at all. With a wonderfully rousing and traditional soundtrack that channels that festive spirit and a beautiful rendition of ‘God Bless Us Everyone’ by Andrea Bocelli, this offers a very authentic adaptation of a classic with fresh fantasy injected to take not just Scrooge on an amusing and dizzying journey, but audiences too.
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Cast: Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Robin Wright, Bob Hoskins, Ryan Ochoa