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Legacy Review

A Christmas Carol (2009)

You may as well call it “A Tale of Two Carols” because I’m not sure any Christmas Carol adaptation has given me more whiplash between the two poles of its craft.

On the one hand, this is one of the best pieces of storytelling for most of its runtime among any of the Christmas Carol adaptations I’ve seen. It leans heavily on the Dickens text to great effect, using the reality-defying nature of animation to capture vivid details of the novella usually ignored on film.

And some of the visual designs are truly marvelous. It goes to show what a visionary director with a big budget and great team can create with the material. From the creepy door knocker and Marley ghost, to the sprawling dormitory at Scrooge’s school, to the streetlife panorama element of Christmas Present usually ignored in adaptations, to — most memorably of all — the half-shadow Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come — there’s so much I loved in this.

Truly, this film does exciting horror-tinged stuff with Christmas Carol material that has never been matched in other adaptations.

And yet…

It’s all packaged in the ass-ugly mo-cap CGI that looks like a PS2 cutscene. Some of these character models and textures are absolutely wretched to look at (the Ace Ventura-looking Ghost of Christmas Past might be the worst, but there are a lot of contenders).

More distracting still is that plenty of scenes are designed like a 3D thrill ride more than a piece of cinema. It’s extremely jarring to hop from a tense/moving moment to a wacky flight simulator. Why Christmas Yet To Come had to spend 7 minutes in a goofy chase scene, shrinking Scrooge to mouse size, I’ll never understand.

Scrooge himself looks quite good (you can tell they spent the time and technical budget on him), though Carrey’s vocal performance is mediocre, maybe approaching average.

The film starts promising and had me engaged, but gradually loses its emotional thread as the movie does more and more tech demo-type stuff. Alas, I’m left with quite a bit of cognitive dissonance about the whole thing and can’t give it a strong recommendation.

Is It Good?

Nearly Good (4/8)

Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.


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