When I heard that Robert Zemeckis was bringing A Christmas Carol to the big screen in animated 3-D, all I could think was how interminable I found his earlier adaptation of The Polar Express. Yikes! I was also a little dubious about Jim Carrey as Ebenezer Scrooge. Carrey is an incredibly gifted performer, but his talents are often over-the-top in ways that overwhelm certain films.
This time Zemeckis brings a welcome addition to the holiday cinema scene. Carrey makes a wonderful Scrooge and is helped by a supporting cast that includes Colin Firth, Gary Oldman, and Bob Hoskins among others.
Most versions of A Christmas Carol are pretty interchangeable for me, though I admit a lingering fondness for the 1951 version starring Alastair Sim and the TV special from 1962, Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol with Jim Backus voicing Scrooge.
A Christmas Carol 2009 is worthy of mentioning with the others because it sticks rather closely to the original narrative (Zemeckis also adapted the story from Dickens’ original), but the movie also offers some thrilling animated sequences and uses the fine cast and the 3-D effect to good advantage here.
I saw the film at a Greensboro theater, and I’m happy to see how well local cinemas are screening 3-D films now. When I did see The Polar Express just five years ago, I drove out of town to see it projected in IMAX 3D. IMAX is an enhancement to be sure, but I appreciate being able to see commercial films released in 3-D locally on what is becoming a regular basis instead of having to travel out of town.
As for A Christmas Carol, the animated ghosts are probably too scary for younger children (the film is rated PG, and I admit that I jumped once or twice), and I would recommend reading or otherwise conveying the story to children who have not encountered it before as a preparation for the frightening sequences and to help young viewers grasp the larger meaning of the story without trying to work it all out at one time. Normally, I do not endorse “spoilers,” but sometimes it is helpful to know that everything will work out.
One other note, however, about animated 3-D films: the preview trailer for Alice in Wonderland (coming this spring from Tim Burton) looked magnificent! Seldom do I see a preview trailer for a mainstream, Hollywood film that has the effect on me that this one did. I was so thrilled with the look of the film and the power of those particular images in 3-D that I realized a few seconds into the trailer that I was holding my breath and my mouth was hanging open. Wow! I hope the narrative delivers, too. I always like to watch Tim Burton films, but sometimes I end up wanting to like them more than I actually do because the story elements just don’t quite hold up for me as well as the visuals.