Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol is, quite literally, a tale as old as time. Hollywood has already turned the novel into countless films, so how do you keep it fresh to entertain old and young audiences alike? You give them a pair of 3-D glasses.
I was a bit skeptical about Disney's newest remake of the flick, even with the super stylized animation and all-star cast behind the voices. But once you put on those glasses, you'll be oohing and aahing right along with the kids, making the film a fun ride. It doesn't tug on the heartstrings the way other versions can, but it's not devoid of emotion either. To see what I mean, just read more.
Robert Zemeckis brings the story we already know and love; old Ebenezer Scrooge (voiced by Jim Carrey) defines miserly and crotchety, spending his days counting his pennies and bitterly snapping at those around him. On one particularly Christmas Eve, he his haunted by the ghost of his former partner, Jacob Marley. Sporting chains and a ghastly demeanor, Marley warns Scrooge that he will suffer the same miserable fate if he doesn't take heed of three spirits who will visit him over the course of the night.
The film stays very true to Dickens's short novel, borrowing much of the text straight from the book and incorporating some of the darker elements that I hadn't seen before in versions designed for kids. That said, I still feel like some of the scenes waver on the side of being too scary. Marley's introduction with the chains is frightening but funny, whereas the progression of the ghost of Christmas present to the ghost of Christmas future (complete with full decay from giant to skeleton) probably would have given me nightmares when I was younger.
The special effects are all you could want and more; the 3-D pulls you right in, carrying you along with Scrooge as he flies overhead in his nightgown (and later spits in your face). You're in the midst of Victorian England at Christmas time, from the snowstorms to the festive music. It's dazzling — until you hit the emotional stuff.
The tale is one with a great big heart, but the actors can only go so far using their voices alone. In the most sentimental scenes, I found myself just wishing I could see the big name actors (which includes Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, and Robin Wright Penn) gazing into each other's eyes pointedly. Instead, it feels a bit like watching two mannequins standing face to face. Still, you're never bored for long, and there's always another thrill waiting at every turn.
In the end, Disney accomplishes its goal, producing a film that looks amazing and will entertain kids and adults alike. It may not be the best version of the tale to date, but it will leave you feeling plenty merry on your way out of the theater.
Photos courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures