A Christmas Carol
Directed
by Robert Zemeckis

Starring Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin
Firth, Bob Hoskins

Stingy Scrooge and hungry Londoners,
scary spirits and creepy doorknockers: we have all seen countless
versions of Charles Dickens’s novella A Christmas Carol.
It’s been trivialised in a musical and lampooned with puppets. The
last thing one expects is for the Disney version to be among the most
faithful versions of the immortal tale of avarice versus charity. But
wait.

Rather than reducing the story line to
a vehicle to showcase special effects and off-colour slapstick as do
many Christmas-themed films, A Christmas Carol returns to the
heart of the Dickens’ story. It offers a piercing glimpse of a man in
a prison of his own making. But then ghostly visitors quite literally
lend him a hand to break free in time to celebrate Christmas. The
stunning special 3-D effects were created with performance capture, a
technique director Robert Zemeckis used in The Polar Express
(2004) and Beowulf (2007).

The emotional power of the acting and
the use of Dickens’ original dialogue maintain the strength of the
story against the intensity of the special effects. Wild flights
through the streets of London and unanticipated bits of levity kept
it from being a downer and are likely the very things Dickens had
intended with his descriptive passages. Surprisingly, this may be the
film which best conforms to his original conception.

Though minor scenes from the book are
not shown, and some liberties are taken with the plot, the central
scenes are played with respect for their original meaning. Zemeckis
makes powerful use of close-ups. Particularly moving is the scene
where Bob Crachit is brought face to face with the invisible visitor
Scrooge as he mourns the loss of his son Tiny Tim, poignantly aiding
Scrooge’s discovery of the secret of a life which is well lived.
Mature themes of charity, repentance, and greed are portrayed in a
way which reaches the youngest of viewers.

Jim Carrey is at his flexible best in A
Christmas Carol.
He
scowls as the curmudgeonly Scrooge, is sprightly and winsome as the
Ghost of Christmas Past, and laughs uproariously as the Ghost of
Christmas Present. His personality is as varied as his characters,
yet does not overpower them. Thanks to Carey’s physicality, Scrooge
is dramatically overwhelmed by the powers of the spirits, who remind
him that there is a world where money has no power. Colin Firth is
charming as Scrooge’s nephew, adding an authentic accent to the
film.

Beautiful orchestration weaves together
favourite Christmas carols and keeps the fantasy alive. The credits
roll with a new Christmas song sung by Andrea Boccelli. In short,
everything clicks to make this film a new Christmas classic.

The teenagers who accompanied me took
turns hiding their eyes from and laughing at the
up-close-and-personal ghosts. They loved the 3-D which gave them the
feeling of actually flying. As long as you do not bring children who
could be frightened by the larger than life ghosts, this is the
family film to ring in the Christmas season.

Leticia Velasquez writes from New
York.