There are a great many imponderable questions in this life. One of them is “Why does Kristen Stewart always look like she just took a bunch of Benadryl?” Only slightly less perplexing is “Why do so many filmmakers take beloved classics–especially childrens’ classics–and make cinematic train wrecks of them?” I’m looking at you, pretty-much-anything-based-on-a-Dr.-Seuss-Book-in-the-last-decade.
So it was with great trepidation that I allowed my daughter Devin to drag me to the Robert Zemeckis-helmed A Christmas Carol this past Sunday. The marketing for the film leads one to believe it is a wacky slapstick comedy. Jim Carrey being Jim Carrey! Scrooge ramming his nuts into an icicle as he slides down a roof! Fun!
“What the heck,” I thought. “The popcorn will be good.” That’s how desperate I am for any kind of moviegoing experience.
Much to my surprise, the film is absolutely nothing like what is portrayed in the ads. (I know! The scandal!) In fact, with the exception of one interminable, meaningless scene injected by the creators (presumably to punch up the action a bit, as it comes during a slow point… sadly, robbing that slow point of much of its very important emotional impact), this is the most authentic rendition of Charles Dickens’ original I’ve seen. Much of the dialog is preserved verbatim. And it is far and away anything but a comedy. At its heart, it has always been a creepy ghost story with a strong moral, and that is exactly what this film is. And here the marketing team has done the film a further disservice. If I had brought small children to this film thinking it was a bit of animated puffery, I would have had to walk out. There were parts where, frankly, it was bordering on too intense for Devin, who is on the sensitive side of 11. But if you’ve got kids in that age range (maybe even a little younger if they’re into that sort of thing), it’s excellent.
The mocapped animation still creeps me out, though it gets better with every film. Gary Oldman’s Bob Cratchitt is simply off; he’s not just visiting the Uncanny Valley, he’s building a summer house there. But the film is actually good enough to overlook that. Strongly recommended.
(N.B. — I didn’t see the 3D version of the film, so I can’t comment on that either way. 3D just isn’t my bag.)