Oh, how I love a good Christmas film and there are lots to choose from when the season rolls around every year. November 1 is when I typically begin letting the season’s music start jingling in my ears. When it comes to picking which ones to watch every year there are the standards, the non-traditional, and then there are the unintentional.
Typically the one that I have to watch with my mom every year is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. However, once November hits I usually break out as many as I can in order to squeeze them all in before the big day arrives. I even admit that as I write this I am listening to the sounds of the season.
The standards are the mostly obvious: A Christmas Story, Home Alone, Elf, Holiday Inn, White Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life (just released on Blu-ray this week), and the original Miracle on 34th Street.
My personal tastes however, bring out others that most would probably not watch or typically think of during the season: Scrooged, Bad Santa, Love Actually, Ernest Saves Christmas, Home Alone 2, Jingle All the Way, and Santa’s Slay, or even the little seen Stalking Santa.
I mentioned before the unintentional Christmas film and I’m sure you were wondering what those would consist of. Just to name a few: Scream and Scream 2 (both released in December), Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Gremlins. Not exactly Christmas movies per se but with the exception of the Scream films, they all take place during the holiday and the season tends to exude itself throughout the run times.
Like I said, I love Christmas movies, of all shapes and sizes. What I do not like is when someone of such high acclaim as Robert Zemeckis comes along and bastardizes one of such high regard itself. This brings us to the latest in motion capture failure, Disney’s A Christmas Carol. They can keep that moniker because this is far from Charles Dickens’ original classic.
Oh yes, it definitely keeps all of the major plot points but there are a few major missteps that completely change the tone of the film. Originally the turning point of the story involved Scrooge (voiced by Jim Carrey) finally realizing the error of his money-grubbing ways when he sees that poor crippled Tiny Tim (inexplicably voiced by Gary Oldman) has passed on.
Yes, that’s right. Tiny Tim has had his scenes cut to one. Now we see Scrooge coming to terms with his petulance only upon seeing his own tombstone. My, how times have changed.
Speaking of which, this brings us to the only man responsible for this blundering attempt at retelling one of the most cherished Christmas novels of all time. It’s one thing when a hack job is represented by either an incompetent director or possibly if the script was written by committee. But when this film is produced, written, and directed solely by Zemeckis himself, then all the blame can be placed solely upon him.
When I first saw his attempt at The Polar Express I thought it was too scary for children and too boring for adults. The same rings true here as well except that where I felt Polar Express was unintentionally frightening this one is outright in-your-face scary, not even just simply haunting.
Children throughout the theater for the screening were huddled into their parents’ arms too afraid to watch the screen. That is only one of the problems; the other is the fact that when you don’t care about Tiny Tim or forget he’s even in the movie, then you have even more problems.
Zemeckis has become obsessed with his own technology. When I saw that he was the only screenwriter my hopes were raised. Imagine how upset I was to find the movie such a complete bore that even the animation itself couldn’t keep my interest for what should have been a quick 90 minutes of holiday cheer with a few moments of creepiness as all versions of this film have included before.
With Polar Express you could be more forgiving for its lacking in the animation department. When it was released it was quite groundbreaking except that every character in the movie seemed to be talking to themselves and not one “person” blinked for the entire length of the film.
In A Christmas Carol, I paid close attention thinking that maybe under the guidelines of Disney they would finally manage to pull through some emotion. I counted every single character except Scrooge blinking while he was only able to scour and glare into the audience.
I know that this has been adapted probably far more than any other classic Christmas tale. And yes, some liberties possibly needed to be taken in order to keep things fresh for a new audience. But in the tale most know by heart we are to find that everything that happens to Scrooge took place throughout a single night. Upon talking to other press members we realized that this film takes place on Christmas Eve, what would be Christmas Day, and finally ends the day after Christmas.
This makes no sense in any form whatsoever. It’s simply just bad filmmaking. Another inconsistency is when Bob Cratchit (another character voiced by Gary Oldman, but at least this one isn’t a child) begins the final narration as Scrooge lifts Tiny Tim onto his shoulders and marches through the streets, it seems so abrupt and out of place you can’t help but think that Zemeckis forgot that it was even part of the story.
I will probably be in the minority who feel that this film should be shunned by all but it is guaranteed to go on to make loads of money for Disney as it’s a well known property and sells itself. The fact that it stars Jim Carrey, is presented in 3-D and seems to be a 90-minute trailer for an upcoming park attraction are yet further reasons why many will flock to see this abomination.
If you’re looking for something to see this season I fully recommend staying home and watching the standards. No matter how many times you watch them at least they stay true to their roots. As for this, you are far better off re-watching A Muppet Christmas Carol or another lesser known version starring George C. Scott.
This version may be called “Disney’s” A Christmas Carol but now dear departed Walt himself needs to pay Mr. Zemeckis a late night visit to let him know that what he has reaped upon the world has made him roll over in his grave. As Scrooge himself has been known to say, "Bah, humbug.” Bah humbug, indeed.
Photo courtesy Walt Disney Pictures