Like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and William Shakespeare’s
Hamlet, Charles Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge is one character from classic English
literature who has had more than his fair share of cinematic incarnations. From
feature films to television productions to animated cartoons, Scrooge has been
portrayed by everyone from Albert Finney to Vanessa Williams to Mr. Magoo.
Following earlier versions starring Mickey Mouse and the Muppets, Disney took
another crack at the yuletide chestnut last holiday movie season, and was even
so bold as to title it Disney’s A Christmas
Carol (now available on Disney
DVD and Blu-ray). Yet, despite that family friendly stamp of approval, this Carol is
not for the little ones with visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads.
Dickens’ original book was billed as a “ghost story” after all, and
writer-director Robert Zemeckis (Academy Award winner for Forrest
Gump) not only doesn’t shy away from that fact, he whole-heartedly embraces it.
This is one spooky Christmas Carol,
and parents should heed its PG rating.
Altered title aside, Dickens purists will be happy to note how faithful the
film is to the original text, with dialogue lifted straight from the page.
However, Zemeckis saw fit to pad the oft-told tale with superfluous action
sequences obviously designed to exploit the theatrical engagement’s 3-D, which
will be lost on all who have not shelled out for the new 3-D televisions and Blu-ray
main reason d’etre is yet another chance for Zemeckis to show off the motion
capture process that he first used in another Christmas movie, The
Polar Express. Like that film, Carol isn’t
too successful in making viewers forget that they are watching something out of
the ordinary; the inherent falseness of mo-cap is just too unavoidable when
there is this much of it.
The all-star cast, led by Jim Carrey as Scrooge and all three Spirits of Christmas (and
also including Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Robin Wright Penn, Cary Elwes and Bob
Hoskins), are vaguely recognizable under their virtual make-up. Vain attempts
are made to inject life into these digital doppelgangers, at the expense of
injecting any life into this all-too-familiar story.
Simply put, this is one Christmas Carol that
didn’t need to be reprised.
Blu-ray bonus features include “Behind the Carol:
The Full Motion Capture Experience”, a picture-in-picture viewing option (with
or without Zemeckis’ audio commentary) that allows you to see the “raw” mo-cap
footage alongside the completed film. With its stark white stage and black
jumpsuit-clad actors, this footage looks like something out of Tron
Other extras include a rather juvenile “making of” featurette (“Capturing
Dickens: A Novel Retelling”), a “Countdown to Christmas”
Interactive Calendar (in other words: a digital advent calendar), six deleted
scenes and a Timon and Pumbaa cartoon (commercial) shilling, you guessed it, 3-D
Blu-rays and TVs.