I know you hear the names Walt Disney and Jim Carrey and start to think this is going to be some G-rated safe animated version of A Christmas Carol your 4-year old precious little bundle of joy will want to see because it will provide holiday memories for a lifetime (until those memories are replaced by the memories of getting a Barbie Dream House or Xbox on Christmas morning).
However, this is not the Scrooge McDuck or Mr. Magoo version of the classic Charles Dickens tale, so, if you bring that precious little bundle of joy, make sure you schedule a therapist appointment afterward to deal with the post traumatic stress disorder that will ensue. This A Christmas Carol is the dark, challenging and frightening version of the story as it was intended, and it's fantastic. If you can't deal with that, Bah Humbug on you.
Gary Oldman), and fun loving nephew, Fred (Colin Forth), prepare for all of the festivities, Scrooge is still feeling annoyed about the season.
As usual, Scrooge is off to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day by himself, but, as he sits by the fire in his empty mansion, he is visited by a specter from his past, who warns the uptight man he will meet up with three ghosts with one last chance to save himself.
Will Scrooge learn from his past?
Will he regret the present?
Can he change what is yet to come?
Writer/director Robert Zemeckis has created a version of A Christmas Carol that could cause families to riot as we see a bleaker, darker, and more dangerous version of the story than we have ever seen on screen, but that's a good thing. This is a tale that has been told on film many times, but has anyone ever come this close to the original version? Maybe not.
To reinforce the theme of the story, Zemeckis focuses on the frights necessary to scare Scrooge straight, and pulls no punches. Sure, we get some goofiness and a light hearted moment or two, but this Ghost of Christmas Past is ethereal and mysterious, The Ghost of Christmas Present taunts Scrooge and takes some glee in his pain, while The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come is the most menacing version you have ever seen, as we also catch glimpses into Scrooge's life that help us understand who he is and why.
Along with telling the story well, Zemeckis makes full use of the animated process he helped develop for The Polar Express. By telling the story via animation, the director can take us places we haven't been before as we fly through the sky and forests while Scrooge visits his past and present (maybe we fly a few too many times, but it's kinda cool the first time or two). We also get to watch the morphing of Christmas Present's face as he taunts Scrooge and an amazing chase scene through the streets of London.
Most of all, I love Carrey in this movie. Since the motion capture technique uses his movements to create the animation we see on screen, you have to appreciate the wonderful job Carrey does showing us Scrooge's pain as he faces the troubles and mistakes of the past, his horror at the possible loss of Tiny Tim, and those taut climactic moments where Scrooge pleads for mercy and a chance to change. Even in the less substantial moments, I was impressed with Carrey's command of the dialogue, which is written in an older, almost Shakespearean style with difficult phrasing.
This version of A Christmas Carol is very much rooted in its time, with no Tiny Tim rap song to make it more modern. It won't be for everyone, but is a surprise for anyone who doesn't take Carrey seriously.
3 ½ Waffles (Out of 4)
A Christmas Carol is rated PG for scary sequences and images.