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  Christmas Carol, A Carrey On Christmas
Year: 2009
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Stars: Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright, Cary Elwes, Fionnula Flanagan, Steve Valentine, Daryl Sabara, Julian Holloway, Lesley Manville, Molly C. Quinn, Fay Masterson, Kerry Hoyt, Julene Renee, Callum Blue, Jacquie Barnbrook
Genre: Horror, Drama, Animated, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 2 votes)
Review: The year is 1843, and it is Christmastime in London - or it is for most of the population, at least. Seven years ago, the moneylender Ebenezer Scrooge (Jim Carrey) saw his business partner Jacob Marley die and when he went to pay the undertaker, he had the cheek to get renumeration by stealing the pennies from his old colleague's eyes, that's the sort of flint-hearted fellow he was. And indeed still is: his only employee, Bob Cratchit (Gary Oldman), is paid a pittance, and has to specifically ask for Christmas Day off, which he receives on account of agreeing to be back in work the very next day. Something needs to change, but how can you alter someone so set in their ways?

How about absolutely terrifying them? There are many ways to approach Charles Dickens' nineteenth century novel, and more or less all of them have been tried in the countless adaptions, spoofs and tributes that have arrived ever since its publication to sensational success back then: it is often credited with setting in stone the traditions of the season, though the Victorians as a whole had that wrapped up. Not for nothing are Victorian scenes a popular image for Christmas cards even now, as they summed up the spirit of the festivities in a way that no other era really does, and what was good enough to apply then - peace on Earth, goodwill to all men - has been good for centuries.

This, presumably, is why time and again films and television return to Dickens despite their being very little left to say about his classic, or a different spin to place on it, but back in the early two thousands, 3D was the thing, as were computer graphics which had advanced in leaps and bounds in the preceding few years, so Disney decided they wanted to tackle the tale in the medium of CGI animation, Pixar having ushered in that technique which by then had eradicated traditional hand drawn cartooning almost completely, certainly for the mainstream. Disney had already produced two versions of the story, one a short toon from the eighties and then for the Muppets in the nineties.

The Mickey Mouse effort had been a highlight of their troubled decade, and the Muppets had been a vindication that their brand could continue without its father figure Jim Henson, so what did the 2009 one represent? The white heat of technology in the main, with the third dimension contributing what it did best: flying sequences and plenty of them. Possibly influenced by the "go to Hell" scene in the Albert Finney musical of the seventies Scrooge, Carrey's villain reformed was flung around the screen in action bits Dickens somehow forgot to include in his source, not only falling into his own grave but barely needing any excuse to soar over various winter landscapes, led by the ghosts who have been introduced by the spectre of Marley to teach Scrooge the error of his ways and lead him to the happy ending.

Nothing like a sinner redeemed to prompt the angelic choir to sing, but before that director Robert Zemeckis, on a motion capture tip after his less pleasing The Polar Express, opted to ramp up the horror aspects of the tale, purposefully scaring the younger members of the audience as the spookier elements were embraced and emphasised. Nothing wrong with that, Dickens was keen to make his book eerie as well, though Zemeckis went overboard in his effects which did cheapen the appearance of what was already struggling with the uncanny valley that CGI was unable to escape, not for a long while at any rate. Another motive for this umpteenth return was Carrey himself, playing multiple roles - Scrooge and all the ghosts, but doing so with surprising sincerity, not going for goofy laughs (so to speak) and patently patterning himself after Alastair Sim in the most beloved screen incarnation of the character. The results were better than you would think, but also quickly dated; that's technology for you. Music by Alan Silvestri.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Robert Zemeckis  (1952 - )

American writer, director and producer of crowd pleasing movies. The first half of his career is highlighted by hits that combine broad humour with a cheerful subversion: I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Used Cars, Romancing the Stone, Back to the Future and its sequels, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Death Becomes Her.

But come the Oscar-winning Forrest Gump, he grew more earnest and consequently less entertaining, although just as successful: Contact, What Lies Beneath, Cast Away and the motion capture animated efforts The Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol. Flight, The Walk and Allied were also big productions, but failed to have the same cultural impact, while true life fantasy tale Welcome to Marwen was a flop.

With frequent writing collaborator Bob Gale, Zemeckis also scripted 1941 and Trespass. Horror TV series Tales from the Crypt was produced by him, too.

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