Oooh… Christmas…. I hate it.
Let’s get this over and done with…
* Jim Carrey
* Gary Oldman
* Colin Firth
Director:- Robert Zemeckis
As an extremely opinionated and devoted Atheist, Christmas is a time of year that tugs various emotional strings for me. The demand, the marketing exploitation, the kids, St Nick himself, and of course… the films. Though admittedly, I have always held a great admiration for Charles Dicken’s tale ‘A Christmas Carol’. The setting is pointless, it’s the story, the journey that made it such a great, entertaining read, and its message is timeless. So, I’ve taken this ‘Seasonal opportunity’ to review the latest adaptation (Muppets being my favourite). And this is going to be a straight review… No exposition or filler shite.
2009’s take of Dicken’s classic tale is a motion capture feature, directed by Bob Zemeckis (Back To The Future, The Polar Express). Jim Carrey is cast in multiples roles, but of course most notably as Ebeneezer Scrooge – the selfish, unappreciative miser of whom the story is centered, from a youth all the way up to big nosed greedy pensioner, humbug!
Additionally Carrey portrays the 3 Christmas apparitions that Scrooge encounters, and co-star Gary Oldman takes up the mantles of Bob Cratchit, Jacob Marley and Tiny Tim (performance only). This is one of the film’s most striking flaws. In short, Carrey is particularly annoying. The comedic mainstay, though his Scrooge is delightfully wicked, is excruciatingly frustrating as the Ghosts (of Past and Present, Yet to Come does not speak, only motions to Scrooge) . ‘Past’, represented faithfully as an androgynous human/candle – has Carrey delivering lines in a hushed Irish dialect with a tone that is often incoherent, and spends most of the time on-screen in nauseating flying sequences. What’s more absurd, is an obvious ad-libbed moment of sarcastic spooky dancing by the apparition. It’s totally boggling and a moment of total madness…. Ghost of Christmas Present, a burly bearded fellow wearing a flowing robe, again abuses the gift of voice by the overbearing of Carrey’s extroverted performance. Understandably, the character is traditionally depicted as a ‘jolly’ man, however the abnormality of his constant chortling and loud laughter made me itching for the remote – it just soured as the scenes progressed.
These two roles, as integral as they are, are played out as a vehicle for Carrey’s comedic repertoire and knack for ‘rubberfaces’. In hindsight they come off as mere shadows, fantastical and whimsical, as opposed to the haunting spectres of home truths that I’ve come to know them as. I can’t really find a distinguishable issue with the dialogue from either of the characters, as it’s true to the original. There are a few bits here and there left out or replaced – but it would be a serious nitpick (and I love that word, so much), and it wouldn’t bode well for further reading. Simply put, Jim Carrey just didn’t do it for me here.
As Scrooge, Mr Carrey is impressive through most of his scenes as the older version of the character. Nailing down those familiar mannerisms and expressions that we have all come to know and love to hate about Ebeneezer – additionally marking out his dialogue with a hint of sarcastic humour and smugness that Carrey pulls off so well. A particular scene where this comes to mind is his encounter with the Ghost of Jacob Marley (Gary Oldman), it’s a scene worth You Tubing at least. A great fun-poking few minutes from our Jim.
Good ol’ Gary Oldman has a fairly good outing as Scrooge’s long-suffering assistant, Bob Cratchit. A man, loyal, dedicated and faithful to his superior, even through his constant mistreatment and persistent nagging from his impoverished family to stand up to Scrooge and demand a more handsome wage for his efforts. Oldman’s CG character is one of the more obscure that the film has – doesn’t really look much like Oldman, but it’s certainly that delicious East End accent there that he is known for. It’s a great fitting to one of Dickens’ most famous characters. Oldman delivers a modest performance overall with the material provided, but the role is so minimal it’s almost forgettable in a heartbeat.
Visually, Bob Zemeckis’ movies have a penchant for looking from amazing to incredible, A Christmas Carol fits neatly somewhere among those. The CG motion capture is, of course, breathtaking – yet another masterstroke from Zemeckis. It’s worth noting that the difference between this standard from what we saw from the highly entertaining The Polar Express is miles ahead. The facial captures have been altered to dramatically enhance certain stand out features of characters, which in turn makes them more ‘caricature-like’, such as Scrooge’s crooked nose and pointed chin, Cratchit’s boulder-shaped bonce, and Fezziwig’s rotund tummy (A perfect little cameo from Bob Hoskins). It does adhere well to such a story with extrovert characters such as Scrooge, the Ghosts and even Jacob Marley in his declaration of warning to his old business partner (a unnerving performance from Oldman). The setting of Victorian London is perfectly depicted with a murky, washed-out tone throughout, and a series of sequences of a bustling neighbourhood that broadly entices the audience into the heart of the film – brilliantly complimented by Zemeckis collaborator Alan Silvestri’s joyous score. It’s a festive delight to behold and to listen to.
Mr Zemeckis and his ImageMovers Studios have carved an instantly recognisable visual pattern with their work, and here’s hoping under Universal Studios they will continue to thrive and showcase such unique and unforgettable animations for years to come. As much as I genuinely did enjoy this adaptation, it’s the multiple role castings for Oldman and Carrey and his cringeworthy moments of madness that just made this film fall short of a more favourable summary. But, it’s a faithful adaptation nonetheless.