And the onslaught begins.
Here we are, not even 10 days into November and the Christmas spirit has already begun to seep through the cracks of the nation. Christmas commercials are popping up on television, retail stores are preparing for the onslaught of holiday shoppers and Christmas music has already begun to ring in our ears. America has a strange fascination with the holiday and Hollywood is happy to oblige, this time in the form of yet another version of the timeless classic, A Christmas Carol.
A quick Internet Movie Database search of “A Christmas Carol” pops up 26 exact matches of the title, with an extra 12 partial matches that include adaptations of the story from the Muppets, Sesame Street, the Flintstones and, evidently, Barbie. There are, quite literally, dozens of versions of this story and although director Robert Zemeckis’ newest iteration is far from a bad film, it is this overabundance of adaptations that really holds it back.
By now, you know the story. Scrooge, a greedy, curmudgeonly old money-grubber, hates Christmas. He treats his employee, Bob Cratchit, like scum and he thinks of nobody but himself. Little does he know, though, his whole mindset is about to change because three ghosts are coming to visit to show him past, present and future Christmases, not all of which will be merry.
I haven’t been so unequivocally torn from a movie in quite some time. Robert Zemeckis’ A Christmas Carol is a sight to behold, a visual masterpiece. Never before have I seen motion capture technology used so superbly. Furthermore, the 3D is exquisite with a depth of field that ranks among the best I have ever seen. The foreground takes no precedent over the background because each is as lushly vibrant as the other.
However, I found it hard to care about Scrooge and his journey, not because it’s a bad story—on the contrary, it’s among the best ever told—but because I’ve seen it so many times. I knew exactly where it was heading from the get go and it only sets itself apart from the cavalcade of other adaptations through its visuals. Narratively, it is precisely the same, never taking any liberties with the material.
What little new this movie does bring to the story is not enough to salvage it. In fact, it detracts from the experience. The action scenes, like late in the movie where Scrooge is chased, shrunk to the size of a bug, hurled through a slide of drainage pipes and tossed down the city streets surfing on an icicle, feel pretentious in a way that makes you feel like the filmmakers wanted only to show how amazing their new technology was instead of giving us a new emotional experience. What does that have to do with the messages of redemption and kindness the movie so fervently displays?
Despite these quibbles, you will still find yourself smiling at the end because you can’t help but feel good for the old coot, though you will still feel puzzlingly empty inside.
As far as adaptations of this beloved story go, Robert Zemeckis’ A Christmas Carol is somewhere in the middle and although I do think it is worth seeing, I cannot stress enough how much more beneficial it would be for you to stay in and rent a different version instead.
A Christmas Carol receives 3/5