I have been reading (what seems to be) a lot of concerns that the new animated A Christmas Carol film from Disney and Zemeckis might be “to scary” for kids. And I say? Good. Newsflash! This is not a warm and fuzzy story about a kindly old man shown his life by kindly and gentle angels.
A Christmas Carol is a dire warning about a cold hearted man shown the emptiness of his life choices and the bondage of those choices he has forged by way of a haunting. And these are cruel and often sarcastic spirits. They mock Scrooge, laughing at his horror. They are not interested in bringing him comfort, but to shatter his soul.
You flat out are not doing this story justice if it isn’t a bit creepy, if not outright frightening at times. That’s what makes the story work. The closest thing to a friendly face for Scrooge as far as the people working towards his redemption is Marley’s ghost. And Marley is pretty much equal parts peeved with Scrooge and annoyed with him. The portrayal of Marley in the Zemekis film stays quite close to the source. Marley is in bondage after death, and he is quite unnerving here. They do take moments to lighten the levity, and while I chuckled, I am unsure how I feel about it, because it certainly lessens Marley’s impact as a scary visceral character (the Muppet Christmas Carol suffers the same problem-while the hecklers are a brilliant choice, they also make Marley a little less scary).
Is the new Christmas Carol any good? I would say yes. It is scary in times it should be, but is also a lot of fun. The 3-D is really effective, and part of that is because sometimes, all it is really doing is adding depth to the picture. I felt the need to brush the snow from my eyes at times. I think, for the most part, this is a strong entry to one of my favorite stories. The only ghost with a new take is the Ghost of Christmas present. This is not uncommon, outside of Scrooged, the other ghosts rarely get revised. Here, the ghost is portrayed as a Candle-his head the burning flame. It’s very unsettling, and highly effective. The Ghost of Christmas Present is the one I most recognized Carrey in (Carrey plays Scrooge and the ghosts), it’s the laugh. It’s hard to change this one, the jovial hft always seems fitting. The Ghost of Christmas sequence deviates the most, with crazy moments including Scrooge shrinking to tiny proportions and being chased by horses. It starts to feel like a bit much. But the Ghost of Christmas future? Scary. And in 3-D, that bony hand pointing at you? Yikes.
The motion capture is sometimes effective, sometimes not, but it never distracted me from my enjoyment of the film. It’s worth catching this holiday season, especially for fans of the story, who will find much to like. My criticisms were definitely outweight by the good.