Disney’s A Christmas Carol Review: The Grinch Who Gave Back Christmas

November 4, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Film Reviews


A CHRISTMAS CAROL: On General Release across the UK from Friday 6th November 2009

When it comes to quintessential Christmas flicks, what do you think of?

It’s A Wonderful Life? Too preachy. Bad Santa? Brilliant, but not really something you can imagine watching with your Nan in the post-turkey blowout veg-out.

Nope, it’s fair to say that The Muppet Christmas Carol truly is the Christmas gift that keeps on giving.

Unless you suffer from Mupaphobia, that is.

Either way, not only is it one of the best Christmas films ever, it’s a decidedly warm and snuggly take one of the greatest Christmas stories ever. Robert Zemeckis has big Santa-shaped boots to fill.

For the uninitiated, A Christmas Carol is a timeless moral festive tale set in the heart of Victorian London. Curmudgeonly old miser Ebenezer Scrooge is as thrifty with his finances as his emotions. After yet another grump-filled Christmas Eve, he is visited by the ghost of his old business partner Jacob Marley who insists he must repent and reform his sociopathic ways, lest he face an eternity trapped in agonising, penance-filled limbo.

With the help of visits from the Ghosts of Christmas Past (Carrey), Present (Carrey) and Future (yip, Carrey again), he must learn that money and solitude aren’t the only things worth living for.

While the overall tale is much like you’ve seen before in the upteen stage and movie versions of the tale, Zemeckis’ single-handed pursuit in embracing the cutting edge of celluloid technology ensures that the visuals are magnificently original.

Gone are the dead eyes of The Polar Express and the rippling pecs of Beowulf; it’s fair to say A Christmas Carol is the first time Zemeckis’ use of 3D motion capture truly, unreservedly succeeds. The fantastical blends – initially surreally – with the realistic and Jim Carrey’s multifaceted, chameleonic performances as the young, old, and otherworldly ghosts truly adds credence to the argument for this technology’s inclusion in modern cinema. No manner of make-up could convince us we’re looking at anything other than Jim Carrey in make-up; here, he simply embodies the characters we’re watching.

The 3D, too, is spectacular. There are a few more chase scenes than you’d expect from a Dickens book, and each one acts as a blow-you-away rollercoaster ride.

Where it does diverge from its recent popularist retellings however, is in the adherence to the true Dickensian dialogue and tone of the original. In fact, the ghosts – as magnificently as they’re brought to life – are genuinely unsettling, and it’s refreshing to see a ‘kids’ film that’s happy to embody the true nature of its source material and hark back to a time when it was acceptable to dazzle the rugrats with something designed to impact rather than pave the way for the inevitable merchandising deals.

However, for all its flashy special effects and polished performances, there’s something oddly jarring. By attempting to make it as kid-friendly as possible, there are short bursts of kaleidoscopic Disney magic that don’t sit rightly with the rest of the action. Sure, these set-pieces and magical touches entertain, but it’s all a bit random considering the faithful adherence to its Dickensian story.

This is further compounded with the realisation that – despite the christmas carols, buckets of snow and mirthful festivities – it simply doesn’t leave you with that cosy, Christmas glow you expect from the greats.

The Muppets still take the Christmas cake.

Matt Risley

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