“You will be haunted by three spirits.”…“I’d rather not.”
In Disney’s A Christmas Carol, Jim Carrey takes on four roles and headlines an all-star cast in the computer animated version of Charles Dickens’ classic novella A Christmas Carol. A strong cast provides emotional performances for prime characters and more, while Robert Zemeckis and his crew continue impressive computer animation and motion capture film techniques.
Set in 19th century London, the plot follows Dickens’ story closely except for some omissions relating to Scrooge’s love interest relationship with Belle, played by Robin Wright Penn, and additional “mini” Scrooge chase sequences.
Carrey voices the greedy yet miserable Ebenezer Scrooge as well as the Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. Carrey’s whispery Past voice matches the eerie candlelight appearance. Carrey solidifies his vocal performances with precise accents as well.
Of course, the basic plot structure contains familiar Scrooge scenarios seen in several Christmas Carol adaptations. Scrooge is employer of family man Bob Cratchit, former partner of Jacob Marley (both characters are well played by Gary Oldman), and lonely rich man in a vast mansion only occupied by his maid Mrs. Rimber.
Scrooge’s nephew Fred, played by Colin Firth, also feels his uncle’s predictable scorn and contempt, but never gives up hope and remains cordially optimistic that one day his uncle will accept his annual holiday dinner party invitation.
Scrooge’s character development is strong as Carrey melts his personality into the familiar character, while his considerable physical talents give audiences entertainingly unfamiliar moments including the adventurous flying sequences and “mini” Scrooge sequences.
Scrooge’s romance with Belle and interaction with Cratchit’s lovable, but ailing boy Tiny Tim become minimal elements. The darker themed elements also come to the forefront with the adventurous time traveling scenarios. The only relationship in Scrooge’s life that needs more development is his work relationship with Mr. Fezziwig, Scrooge’s first employer and cheerful man with a zest for life.
First, Fezziwig has more to reveal as a person than the short holiday revelry sequence. Second, Scrooge’s eventual joy in life would have a larger impact with more direct character interaction with Fezziwig. Scrooge would love the world, then fear the world and cling to substantial riches only to release them after one memorable night of “this is your life.” Creative license was needed here using one example scene for this dichotomy or Scrooge reconnecting to Fezziwig later. “He has the power to render us happy or unhappy,” says Dick Wilkins, Scrooge’s co-worker during the Fezziwig years. Cary Elwes voices Dick and other characters while Bob Hoskins plays Fezziwig.
Zemeckis directs this 96-minute holiday film with nice flowing shots and adapts the screenplay. His collaborating crew includes music score composer Alan Silversti and cinematographer Robert Presley who helps create visual storytelling moments without dialogue especially in transitions and key moments like Present using Scrooge’s words against him.
The bonus features could have included an interactive feature where audiences could mirror Zemeckis’ hand held camera work and choice of shot, angle, frame, etcetera, but do include the most prominent effect in the film – the see through floor sequence with Present. Scrooge moves in close to give audiences a good look before they take off on their tour. The end of Present’s tour, involving the children of Ignorance and Want, is not as scary as Past’s first appearance to Scrooge, while both provide more scares than Yet to Come’s entire sequence.
This Blu-ray set features “Behind the Carol: The Full Motion Capture Experience,” a 35 day “Countdown to Christmas Interactive Calendar,” and six deleted scenes mainly in unfinished animation formats. This set also includes all features on the DVD version.
The included DVD bonus features include “Capturing Dickens: a Novel Retelling,” more deleted scenes and “On Set with Sammi” – an entertaining, but incredibly short segment with young cast member Sammi Hanratty who voices one of Crachit’s daughters. Filmmakers keep a nice tradition of letting supporting stars give the audience a set and process tour in Disney films.
The Blu-ray deleted scenes include one sequence that addresses Scrooge and Belle’s relationship, which introduces Belle’s current husband and her family. Filmmakers likely keep the scene out to keep audiences concentrating on the main character core. Zemeckis does not provide any detailed commentary and only states the deleted scenes are not in the final animation stages.
Cast member Jacquie Barnbrook hosts the lively “Behind the Carol” featurette with detailed interviews from several cast members and cast footage during their motion capture performances. Audiences get a true view of this theatrical type filmmaking while actors offer insight between the tech process and their acting challenges. After the actors get reference dots on their face, sensors on their body, and squeeze into the special suits, they must get into a “T-pose” before each scene so the animators can get a basic orientation that does not block any attached sensors before their recorded performance.
This recommended holiday experience evokes sincerely positive feelings while offering a different experience faithful to Dickens’ source material. The audience will feel like it’s snowing outside no matter where they are. Rated PG for scary sequences and images. Since the original theatrical release played in 3D theaters, the four Disc set includes a Blu-ray 3D Disc, this version is also available and includes a 3D bonus feature (“Mr. Scrooge’s Wild Ride”) plus all the Blu-ray and DVD version features.
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