A Christmas Carol
Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman
Charles Dickens (Book), Robert Zemeckis (Screenplay)
Jim Carrey plays Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly money lender living in 19th century London. Scrooge is an unhappy man whose misanthropic tendencies and obsession with money alienates every person he knows. Scrooge works long days, and proceeds to go home to his large house alone. His only employee, a clerk named Bob Cratchit (Gary Oldman) works for a meager wage in Scrooge's freezing office as Scrooge is too miserly to buy coal and heat the office. Each year as Christmas approaches Scrooge's mood grows darker. He considers Christmas to be a wasteful holiday without purpose, where a perfectly good workday is exchanged for a pointless holiday.
The film begins with Scrooge at a mortuary, signing the death certificate of his former business parter, Jacob Marley. Scrooge accepts the certificate from the undertaker and turns to leave, halted by the mans outstretched palm as he awaits payment for his services. Scrooge reluctantly pays the man a single coin (one pence) and scowls as the mans hand does not move. Scrooge reaches once more into his purse, visibly shaking as he slowly drops the second coin into the palm of the undertaker. Satisfied, the undertaker stands aside as his assistant prepares to seal Marley's coffin. Scrooge forces the young man to stop, bending down on his way out to take the two coins covering Marley's eyes and growl "Tuppence is tuppence".
Seven years later it is Christmas Eve and Scrooge is methodically counting coins at his desk while Bob Cratchit shivers in the corner, trying feebly to keep his hands warm as he writes. Scrooge is disturbed by the door opening as his nephew walks in and attempts to invite Scrooge to Christmas dinner. Scrooge scowls at his nephew and offers him nothing but a "Bah, hum-bug", ignoring his pleas as he resumes counting coins. Almost as soon as Scrooge's nephew leaves the office the door swings open again and a jovial pair of good samaritans walk in, seeking donations to help purchase food for the poor. Scrooge refuses to donate, informing the two gentlemen that any poor people who would rather die than go to the work camps should "hurry up and do so", thus easing the burden of overpopulation. The two men leave Scrooge to his own devices while Bob Cratchit stares on. Scrooge complains that Cratchit wishes to have a full day off for Christmas, warning the poor clerk that he expects him in all the earlier the following day to make up for it.
Scrooge shuffles out of his office and proceeds to lock up before heading home to his empty mansion. Upon his arrival at the house Scrooge is startled when he thinks he sees Marley's head in place of his door knocker. Uttering another "hum-bug" Scrooge proceeds into his house to spend a solitary evening in his bedroom. As Scrooge is about to being eating a bowl of soup, he hears the door bells chime and begin to go off uncontrollably. Visibly shaken, Scrooge locks his bedroom door and sits back down on his chair. The front door is then heard opening as a massive weight is heard slowly being thrown forward repeatedly with the clanking of chains, up his staircase step by agonizing step. Scrooge is terrified by the time the doorknob moves, not budging. Scrooge is about to call out his defiance as a glowing apparition passes through his door, carrying with it giant boxes of coins at the end of ghostly chains. Scrooge asks the ghost who he is, and is told that he is talking to his old parter, Jacob Marley. Marley relates in ghastly detail how he is doomed to wander forever with the weight of his worldly wealth as his punishment for greed and heartlessness while he was alive. He informs Scrooge that he must change his ways while he still has a chance, explaining that he will be visited by three ghosts when the clock tolls one, a ghost of Christmas past, a ghost of Christmas present, and a ghost of Christmas that is yet to come. Marley then casts his coin boxes out the window and says goodbye to Scrooge.
Scrooge crawls into his bed and cowers under his blankets shivering uncontrollably until the clock-tower chimes one. What awaits Scrooge in the night to follow is a journey of the mind and spirit, a journey where he must discover once again his humanity and capacity to give if he is to save his immortal soul. What changes come to Ebenezer Scrooge as a result of his visit with the ghosts of Christmas will determine his future in this world, and the next.
A Christmas Carol
is rated PG for frightening sequences. While there is no profanity, nudity or gore in the film there are several moments that could cause a fright or surprise. This should be a safe film for accompanied children of age ten and older.
I entered into reviewing this title with high expectations, as animated titles have been particularly impressive since the Blu-Ray format became available. Starting with Dreamworks and Disney/Pixar titles we have seen consistent near reference or reference quality releases and Disney has proven repeatedly that their animated releases are held to a high standard of quality. Despite my high expectations, A Christmas Carol's
20 Mbps AVC encode was impressive to behold. The lifelike animation and cinematography of the film lend themselves particularly well to the Blu-Ray format, with incredible texture resolution and fine detail in every scene. Black levels throughout the film were flawless and inky, and in a film that has many night scenes, this is well appreciated. The color palette of the film is predominantly that of warm brown, sepia and flesh tones with plenty of Christmas red, green, blue and gold thrown in as required. The result is a rich, warm and inviting presentation that has all the depth of field we've come to expect from 3D animation rendered in 2D. Shadow gradation and detail is superb and is used to great effect in many dimly lit or candle lit scenes throughout the film. The glow of coals and candles is used to cast a multitude of dancing shadows on walls, characters and objects and gives the film a very realistic look.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack presented with A Christmas Carol
is also excellent. The fronts and surrounds are used to great effect to create an enveloping sound-field that is extremely impressive. Dialogue is crisp and clear though at times integration of the dialogue with the rest of the mix feels a little less than perfect (I found myself noticing the center channel in particular). Overall this is an excellent mix that doesn't disappoint, from start to finish the excellent sound design, Alan Sylvestri's imaginative score, and a great surround mix completely immerse the viewer.
With the plethora of extra features in recent releases this is not quite as impressive as competitors, but still a solid offering.
Behind The Carol: Full length picture-in-picture feature going behind the scenes and explaining motion capture film-making. [SD]
Capturing Dickens: A novel retelling – 14 minutes [HD]
Countdown to Christmas: interactive calendar [HD]
On set with Sammi: A kid’s eye view [HD]
Deleted Scenes - Robert Zemeckis introduction, 6 scenes. [HD]
Discover Blu-ray 3D with Pumba and Timone – 4 minutes marketing fluff [HD]
DVD version of A Christmas Carol [SD]
The timeless story of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol
is retold with a modern animation twist in this Disney blockbuster and despite millions of dollars and plenty of Box Office performance pressure, the film remains surprisingly true to Dickens' book. Carrey's performances (yes, multiple characters) are excellent and display his uncanny ability to inhabit so many voices and accents. The motion capture acting is also extremely well done, and the result is a very realistic animated film that manages to strike all the right holiday season chords while retaining all the sizzle and spectacle we rely upon Hollywood for. With the added benefit of a reference video presentation it is hard not to enjoy this Disney take on a holiday classic. As someone who missed the theatrical release of this title I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw, and I believe those of you who aren't familiar with the film will be as well. Recommended.
For those of you interested in purchasing the title, Disney has a $10.00 coupon you can access here