Movie Review: Disney’s "A Christmas Carol"

Walt Disney’s A Christmas Carol is one intense rollercoaster ride intended more for an intelligent adult audience than past adaptations.  Robert Zemeckis director of such greats as Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Back to the Future has done a wonderful job at the retelling of this holiday classic.  Every scene is absolutely gorgeous and the graphics just stunning!  This is no Polar Express, which is also directed by Zemeckis.  Instead the film retains the powerful themes and dark scenes more true to Charles Dickens original story.  The story is not dumbed down for a younger audience, which may lead to several problems for this Disney picture.  Nonetheless, Walt Disney’s A Christmas Carol is truly astonishing in every aspect except you may want to leave the young children at home.

Zemeckis has decided to write a script with more realism to the time period with much dialogue that will be over children’s heads.  The beginning is quite slow unless you can really follow everything that’s being said.  Scrooge is introduced well as Zemeckis spends a decent amount of time getting to know Scrooge’s true character.  Much of the dialogue is witty and smart, but it won’t be the dialogue the audience will be focusing on.  The imagery is far more overpowering than anything else in the film.

The animation from the beginning is jaw-dropping.  I was astonished by every scene, every action sequence and every close-up of every character.  I would have completely forgot I was watching an animated movie if it wasn’t for the effects being so amazing causing me to constantly be in awe of every bit of footage being projected.  All the shots are incredibly beautiful and grand.  No detail was spared here.  It was when we take our first flight through the snow covered city rooftops that I found myself totally immersed in the film.

With groundbreaking 3D technology along with large scale scenery, the viewer will not just feel they are a part of the film, but are actually seeing every scene as a bystander in each shot.  Robert Zemeckis and Producers Steve Starkey and Jack Rapke actually have developed performance capturing technology called ImageMovers Digital specifically for Walt Disney Studios.  This is the first film they have used ImageMovers and it’s quite noticeable.

As I said earlier, this is not anything like past holiday classic Polar Express, which also used motion capture technology with CGI applied over every character.  A Christmas Carol is far more advanced and detailed than Zemeckis previous attempt.  The possibilities are far vaster by using this technique.  Case and point: actors can play multiple characters with different animation applied to each one making them appear completely different.

Jim Carrey plays several characters all with their completely different personalities and looks.  None of this would have been able to be accomplished in live-action or even traditional computer animated films.  Sure, they could have animated all his characters differently, but with motion capturing Carrey was able to act out every role capturing his every movement and facial movements.

Every character did a phenomenal job, but it is Jim Carrey’s physical acting and voice play that really stood out.  I am even willing to say that this is Jim’s best performance I have ever seen!  Yes, that good.  His range of characters in this film is extremely different from one another and I couldn’t imagine any other actor being able to pull these performances off like he did.  His Scrooge performance portrayed the old money-grubbing, uncaring rude geezer perfectly.  Carrey also plays younger Scrooges along Ghost of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come.

Ghost of Christmas Present was another stand-up performance for Carrey.  This jolly Santa-like laughing character brings a very whimsical setting and continues the thrill-ride as Scrooge is led to different people to get his reality of himself in check.  As we fly through the city to different houses, the impact he has on these families is portrayed very emotionally as Scrooge begins to realize who he has become.

All the performances were fantastic though.  Gary Oldman does a remarkable job as Bob Cratchit, young Marley, Marley’s ghost and Tiny Tim.  His stand out role was the quite frightening Marley’s ghost.  This was another quite physical character and Oldman delivered a unique performance.  Bob Hoskins has reunited with Zemeckis since being Eddy Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit playing Scrooge’s past apprenticed Old Fezziwig and Old Joe, a man who purchases the “deceased” Scrooge’s bed curtains.  He was an absolute delight.  Colin Firth also has a great performance as Scrooge’s nephew having some very quiet and intimate dialogue driven scenes with his uncle.

This is a timeless tale that has been told hundreds of times in the past.  “A Christmas Carol” is a classic transformation story that we can’t grow tired of.  Disney took an interesting direction for the studio on this film, but I believe it will succeed for an older audience.  Zemeckis has managed to retell a story we all know too well while still creating a fresh movie-going experience.  The story has a great moral that is good for all ages, but I’m afraid that much of the movie will be a little difficult for children to follow even though they will surely love the action.

The time spent with Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is definitely the most intense and scary portion of the film next to Scrooge’s visit from Marley’s ghost.  At first I felt that the scene was a bit too much for the film, but I realized quickly that this was vital to have such a huge climax to make Scrooge’s drastic transformation in the end so believable.

Disney’s A Christmas Carol truly has it all from emotion, comedic relief, breathtaking scenery, amazing acting/voice-acting, and great action to create the best adaptation of this story I have ever seen.  I was fortunate enough to see several scenes at an IMAX theater over the summer.  If you are going to see this film, treat yourself by seeing it in IMAX.  This film is already so spectacular and epic that it would only make sense seeing it on the largest screen possible.

This is a movie with fantastic eye-candy, and it has everything else that creates a great movie.  I was impressed with the 3D by it being a means to tell the story and not just a gimmick.  The 3D version is definitely the way to go.  Don’t jip yourself.  To all of those that are skipping this because it’s either Disney or an animated film, HUMBUG.

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Joel Covey

Joel has been writing for SoCalThrills for the past decade covering entertainment, events, and theater since joining the site. He is a CSUF alum, studying within the Communication and Radio / TV / Film colleges.