Disney’s A Christmas Carol
Dickens’ classic holiday tale has been told countless times, a testament to its durability. The most recent iteration is from Robert Zemeckis, who brings his admirable ‘no fear of technology’ approach to the forefront. Whereas his use of technology in the past rendered the technology rather seamless and invisible (think “Forrest Gump” or his “Back to the Future” trilogy), here the technology always seems to be on display. Zemeckis has assembled a notable cast and outfitted them with 3D motion capture capability. The result is an animated film with fluid life-like action, driven by the likes of Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Cary Elwes, Bob Hoskins and Robin Wright Penn.
In several instances, the technology serves its purpose. Most notably, the sequences where Scrooge is awe-struck by the visions he is given work effectively for us as well. Too often, however, we seem to be looking at the technology rather than through it.
The title sequence certainly lets us know what is in store, as we fly through London of the mid 1800s. We quickly get our introduction to Scrooge, right down to the hair on his nose. But soon we notice that (contrary to assertions by Zemeckis) the eyes of the characters look dead and lifeless. Although most all of the topline castmembers play multiple roles, it is certainly Carrey who garners the most screen time. Hoskins is essentially perfect as Fezziwig, reminding me of my first boss.
In one sequence, there seems to be an homage to Spielberg as the soaring Scrooge is backlit by a full moon over the London skyline, a Victorian E.T.
The use of shadows is prevalent and generally effective, often portending the dread Scrooge is facing. Towards the end of his wild ride on Christmas Eve, Scrooge is sent on a sort of runaway train chase that seems wholly out of context. Vertigo was one result for several viewers.
All in, this is a crisp 97-minute retelling of a glorious holiday story. It may be that in this digital age of near infinite fidelity, less is more. This is a lot of filmmaking.