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Starring: Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Bob Hoskins, Colin Firth, Cary Elwes

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Writer(s): Robert Zemeckis

Cinematography: Robert Presley

Original Score: Alan Silvestri

Running Time: 96 Mins.

The term “visionary film-maker” is one that is bandied around a lot, but I would argue if any director can fit that particular description it would be Robert Zemeckis, long has he pushed cinematic boundaries of both story and technique, bringing us films as diverse yet as original as Back to the Future, Cast Away, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Forrest Gump. All contain, apart from anything else, a technical advancement of some sort and while there is nothing new as such on this take of Dickens’ classic tale it simply forges ahead with the motion-capture technique’s he has pioneered since technologically great but otherwise poor Polar Express, followed by the much better and more adult orientated Beowulf and now this latest attempt at refining the technique and ironing out past criticisms.

So to turn a critical eye on Robert Zemeckis’ A Christmas Carol (under the moniker of Disney which mean’s very little given Disney’s welcome turn to dark matter), there are two things to consider, firstly does this address the problems many (including myself) have with the whole mo-cap technique, and the “dead eyes” condition, and secondly is it actually a worthy adaptation that offers something new to the tale?

Well the answer to the mo-cap problems is an unfortunate yes and no, the dead eyes look really is something that seems impossible to get over, not so much in Scrooge who I’ll come to in a minute, but more with the characters played by Bob Hoskins, Colin Firth and Gary Oldman, all looking like strange waxy versions of themselves, never “real” enough to convince as actual people yet stuck in between in a place that makes them not quite cartoon and exaggerated enough. Carrey, though, in all 7 of his roles including Scrooge at various ages and the three ghosts, overcomes all issues by making his characters real unique creations, it would be a fool to expect Carrey couldn’t do this and given his acting ability extending beyond mere facial movement he allows his body to exaggerate so that he becomes what mo-cap should really be used to create. A way whereby an actor can fully become a character by acting through voice, appearance and movement.

Gary Oldman achieves this to some extent in his Ghost of Marley but the uninspired humble portrayal of a portly Bob Cratchit made me long for Kermit the Frog. If the whole film existed using more exaggerated design of that used for Scrooge there would have been no problems on that front, so halfway there at least Bob! It is a telling sign that Monster House (produced by Zemeckis) was the best use of the technique so far but setting the stall somewhere between Beowulf’s darkness and Polar Express festive spirit was a good idea.

But what of the beloved tale itself, seen so many times only a hermit would not know the story, and if this is anyone’s first foray into the world of Dickens’ they are really in for a treat. Much of the dialogue is pulled directly from the novel and it is a deeply faithful adaptation, the portrayal of London on show is as sumptuous as anyone who has seem the scenery in Zemeckis past two film’s would expect. Brought scarily to life at times it is in these scenes that the 3D aspect is at its best, the camera swooping above rooftops and under gutters, if you could class a cinema experience as a rollercoaster ride, this is it.

Though that in itself presents a slight problem, as the story builds through the ghostly encounters the need for an all action ending was apparently sought meaning we have a breakneck race through the streets of London as a shrunken Scrooge is chased by the horses of Hell and the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. Not quite what Dickens’ had in mind when he wrote the finale I expect! So while it does offer a showcase for the technology it feels slightly out of place where a more intimate encounter (like that in A Muppet Christmas Carol) would have been more welcome, given Carrey’s fantastic performance.

VERDICT

Robert Zemeckis A Christmas Carol is worthy adaptation that lend’s itself to the mo-cap technique well, with Carrey’s Scrooge and the Ghosts being great cinematic creations, though the urge to strive for “realism” in other aspects and an out-of-place breakneck finale let it down slightly, that said I doubt this year will see a better festive offering!

grade-c+

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