By Christian DiMartino
Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol is a tale so timeless, I wouldn’t even try to begin to guess how many adaptations there have been. Little Women has been made four times. A Star is Born has been made four times. A Christmas Carol has probably been made, hmm, 400, but there is something about this story that continues to resonate. It would be hard to screw up an adaptation of this because all you have to do is follow a specific blueprint. Some adaptations include details that others don’t, and so on. Yet each is interesting in their own way.
The last time it was brought to the big screen, to my knowledge, was Robert Zemeckis’ 2009 rendition with Jim Carrey. This was during Zemeckis’ obsession with stop-motion animation, and it was also his last tango with the technology, following The Polar Express (which needs a revisit, but was beautifully animated and warm) and Beowulf (which is at times piss-your-pants disturbing). Zemickis’ Christmas Carol feels like a combination of both, and while that sounds jarring to some, it happens to be my cup of tea. Plus Jim Carrey is in it, so extra points.
Your approach to a Christmas Carol rendition rests upon not only your interest in the story (which we all know, and I’m not even going to dive into it here), but also how it is done. Everyone does things a little differently. The one that burns in the memory the most, and is perhaps my favorite (potential controversial hot take) is the Michael Caine starrer, The Muppets Christmas Carol (which I would review this year, but one Christmas Carol is enough). It’s a film filled with joy, great music, laughs, tears, the whole shebang. It’s great. Zemeckis’ film is quite different. I mean, not too different, but Zemeckis goes for a much darker edge, which when you think about the nature of some of the story elements, is a fine decision.
Zemeckis’ film is part Dickens, part Victorian ghost story, and it is equally as charming as it is chilling. Its chilling moments, particularly in the final act, could be a bit of a turn-off, and considering the mixed reception the movie received, it was. Yet I always went for it. Zemeckis’ A Christmas Carol works as “the creepy one,” but it also is defined by its visuals, which are gorgeous. Rewatching it recently, it can be said that not every visual here has aged well. Yet I think back to when I saw this film in 3-D back in 2009. This was a time before Avatar, and before 3-D burned us out, and Zemeckis knew how to use it, and he used it beautifully here. He even created action sequences within the story to, in my opinion, show off, and show off he did.
Carrey not only plays Scrooge here, but also all of the ghosts. Who better for the job? Sure, I am perhaps biased, but he is pretty strong here. Last little thing I’ll mention is the score from Alan Silvestri, which is beautiful. The cast, which also includes Colin Firth, Robin Wright, Bob Hoskins, Gary Oldman, and Cary Elwes, is decent too, if a bit brief. I’ll also say that this adaptation does touch upon just about everything from the book, including Scrooge’s romance, and his sister, Fanny- both instances that fuel Scrooge’s hatred towards Christmas and humanity. Yet you know how the story goes, and the message that Dickens captures is timeless, no matter who delivers it, or how it’s delivered.
This Christmas Carol isn’t quite a classic, but it is (mostly) a ghoulish beaut.