I am huge fan of Robert Zemeckis. I’ll never forget seeing the Back To The Future movies on the big screen for the first time. Forrest Gump is one of the best “feel good” films. And Contact is one of my favorite science fiction film. Those films are all in my all-time favorites list, so it personally wounds my soul for him to make a movie so bad that I wanted to walk out.
From Bill Murray’s Scrooged to Mickey’s Christmas Carol, every has seen one version or another of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol – so why Disney has decided to tell the same story again is beyond me. All I can figure is that they wanted to give it a CG 3-D twist – allowing them to charge more for admission.
A Christmas Carol was filmed the same way that Peter Jackson shot Andy Serkis as Gollum for the Lord of the Rings movies – motion capture: hook-up a bunch of odd digital devices and dots to an actor’s body and face and have them act the scenes out. Computers take the data from the devices and dots and translate them into a digital image of the actor. Often times, the resemblance can be perfect. But why would you want to film something, then try to digitally make it look exactly like what you filmed already once? Seems like a lot of work to see the exact same performance for a digitally created face. It’s obvious why Jackson used motion capture for Serkis’ Gollum – nobody with or without make-up can create a character that looks like that. Once again, why Disney and Zemeckis wanted to make A Christmas Carol this way is beyond me.
The most annoying (and possibly disturbing) problem with Zemeckis’ motion capture animation is in the eyes of the digital characters. You probably noticed it in both The Polar Express and Beowulf, the dead-looking eyes. They’re lifeless. They look like Woody’s still, fixed eyes in Toy Story whenever a human is present. With a few of the main characters in A Christmas Carol, the problem is better – not fixed, just better. Other times they look “dead” again. And the middle ground looks like crossed eyes – which I can’t imagine was intentional.
I’m fairly surprised that Disney picked up A Christmas Carol for a few big reasons: one, it’s disturbing – not in the scary Ghost of Christmas Past kind of way, but graphic in nature. For example, when Marley’s ghost visits Scrooge in the beginning of the movie, while talking, the skin of his cheeks rips and tears from the corners of his mouth back to his ears. Unable to talk, he has to manually move his jaw by flapping it up and down with his hand. The movie consists of many graphic scenes of this nature.
Two, it’s frightening – the only thing more frightening than a scary scene is a scary scene with scary things coming out at you in 3-D. Sorry, Disney – I don’t want to deal with my kid having nightmares because of your inappropriately rated PG flick. No, thanks.
Three, it’s not a kid’s movie. The majority of the film is words – serious adult conversations, talking and talking for long chunks of time, followed by low-brow, dumbed-down “kids” humor. When they’re not talking, it’s Scrooge flying or falling through the air; it’s a shrunken Scrooge running from huge dark horses; it’s tiny Scrooge falling down the stairs, sliding down an icy rooftop repeatedly racking his groin into hanging icicles. There’s a word for that – it’s stupid. Stupid and inconsistent. Are you trying to make a dark version of A Christmas Carol? If so, that’s okay – but stick to your guns. Make it a kid’s movie with stupid kid’s jokes in it, or make it a dark adult movie. You can’t make it both because neither audience will be fully entertained.
It’s takes a lot for me to hate a movie, but it didn’t take Zemeckis much to make me hate A Christmas Carol. I don’t know that I’ve ever wanted to walk out of a movie so bad in my entire life. That’s how much I hated it. What a boring a poorly crafted movie.
You may be asking yourself, “If you hated it so much, why did you give it half a star and not zero stars?” Answer: because of the majority of the voice cast. When Jim Carrey was playing one of his subtle characters he was just fine – although his other performances were extremely annoying. It’s the others in the voice cast that are impressive. Gary Oldman (Harry Potter), Colin Firth (Love Actually), Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride), Robin Wright Penn (The Princess Bride also) and Bob Hoskins (Hook) are all amazing. The only good reviews I’ll give A Christmas Carol will be their talent. The rest is garbage.
If you’re thinking of taking the family to a good Christmas flick, cross A Christmas Carol off your list. It’s not worth it – especially when you consider the extra two bucks you have to pay per ticket for the 3-D. Go rent Mickey’s Christmas Carol instead – it’s the only Disney version I recommend.
Photo credit: Walt Disney Studios