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Disney's A Christmas Carol - Blu-ray Movie Review

 


Disney's a Christmas Carol Blu-ray

Robert Zemeckis wants you to believe he is a man on a mission; a creative mission to re-imagine (and/or re-introduce) classic and celebrated works of literature to modern audiences via the art of CGI rendering. Some audiences appreciate his intentions and some critics argue with the very necessity of them at all... despite the sincerity communicated in his interviews. First, he brought The Polar Express to the silver screen, then there was Beowulf (again arriving at Christmas), and now we have A Christmas Carol to delight the seasonal senses. Zemeckis wants to own this Holiday. The third time is the charm, right? Well, in this case, the third time, in all honesty, is just the third time we've seen this now all-too-familiar format from Zemeckis - complete with the same marginal results; it adds nothing new to the Dickens' mythos, detracts little from the story with its visual effects, and its end result is only rudimentary satisfaction with a few moments of scenery-chomping computer animated awe and fright.

The story of A Christmas Carol is well-known and recapping the events of the oft told story about a miserly old man named Ebenezer Scrooge seems as silly as describing A Christmas Story to an audience well-versed in Bob Clark's film thanks to the collaborative efforts of TBS and TNT reruns. With Zemeckis' version; however, it's in how the classic story unfolds with the aid of computer effects (finally capturing the true horror of Dickens' work) that is the proper phenomenon. Watching Jim Carrey's nearly one-man show is darkly hysterical, and the film glows with his charm both in character and in spirit; however there are too many moments when Carrey's Scrooge comes off as more Goofy-inspired (yes, that â"yahahooooy" Disney creation) than it should which for the children in the audience is a treat considering the darker themes highlighted by the effects in the story, but for the purists this change in character is somewhat dismissive of Dickens' intentions. It's the same criticism that marred the release of Beowulf; Zemeckis is all about the visuals but has little concern for preserving the tone of the original characters. In his mind, the characters need to be as bright and as bold and as modern as the special effects are which is why Beowulf was a flawed hero in his version instead of the warrior women-be-damned supreme hero of Anglo-Saxon lore.

Rounding out the cast of A Christmas Carol is Robin Wright Penn, Carey Elwes, Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins, and Gary Oldman most in multiple roles that, once recognized, become an interesting and frustrating choice for audiences to mew over. The familiarity of the voice actors as far as their computer-visualized â"looks" go is, at times, eerily off-putting. Remember how distracting it was to recognize Angelina Jole's face and figure in Beowulf? I do. Distractions aside; however, the actors' continual use in multiple roles throughout the story only leads to irritating questions without answers for the audience. Oh, and there's that pesky Tiny Tim character (Oldman) downplayed so much by Zemeckis' adaptation that his closing dialogue, seen as the narrative's central message, is rendered tired and pedestrian. Which, given what audiences already assume about Dickens' story, seems a categorical sin or at least a major failure of the film. Despite its many attempts to capture the darkness of Dickens' prose visually, Zemeckis' version of A Christmas Carol simply cannot animate the characters as richly as real people in front of a camera can.

Again, the grand spectacle of these Zemeckis-helmed computer animated features lie in their usage of the computer to imagine the locales of the narrative in a specific and stylized manner live action cameras simply cannot. A Christmas Carol's landscape and camerawork is no different in that process than the wonderfully articulate landscape of Zemeckis' Beowulf; it's detailed in richly bold colors with warm and cool tones and full of specifically illustrated scenes that both engage the audience visually and aurally (especially in 3-D). Cinematographer Robert Presley's camera swoops and sweeps across the imagined streets of London performing, at times, flawless aerial Burton-esque acrobatics - and then crash lands the audience into the very source of Dickens' dirt, filth, and grime in detailed London alleyways. Magical? Yes. Meaningful? Absolutely not. Somewhere alongside all the zips and the zaps of the camera, bejeweled special effects override the beating heart of the story and the film loses its momentum. As a result, the film's conclusion is as thunderously announced (thanks in part to Alan Silvestri's score) and as ungraceful an arrival as a gooney bird's landing.

With nothing near as inventive as Bill Murray's Scrooged or The Muppets Christmas Carol, there simply is zilch added to Dickens' work to deepen its impact upon modern audiences. Its narrative is still solid and intact which I suppose in this day and age of remakes and re-imaginings is something to be applauded. Children will love it, adults will be entertained, but few adult and child alike - will actually be moved, unlike the power of the classic narrative (which is why it continues to be retold and repackaged and resold in the first place).

A Christmas Carol is imaginative and has moments of inspiration, but it's also, four pictures into the whole CGI formulaic machine (including Monster House), a somewhat tired meditation on the wonders of CGI from one of Hollywood's most creative minds (in that Once-Upon-A-Time-Of-Long-Ago-Land where Spielberg and Lucas reigned supreme). With more CGI movies planned from Zemeckis including a remake of The Beatles' Yellow Submarine one wonders what exactly Zemeckis is gaining from this genre of filmmaking beside money. We know Crispin Glover irritated him, but does he hate actors so much as to only direct their voices? With Roger Rabbit 2 on the horizon, is he simply out of original ideas and instead driven to retool pop culture classics? Despite the computer-driven visions fueled throughout A Christmas Carol, its visual successes did nothing to stop me, once again after viewing a new Zemeckis movie, from going home to stare forlornly at my well-worn copies of Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, Castaway and What Lies Beneath. Seriously, wherefore are thou, Robert Zemeckis? And what the hell happened?


Component Grades
Movie
 
Blu-ray Disc
2 stars
 
4 stars
     
Blu-ray Experience
3 Stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - November 16, 2010
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs:
50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); DVD copy

Supplements:

Picture-in-picture Feature:

Behind the Carol: The Full Motion Capture Experience (1080p, 1:35:48)

Featurettes:

  • Capturing Dickens: A Novel Retelling (1080p, 14:43)
  • Countdown to Christmas Interactive Calendar (1080p)
  • On Set with Sammi (1080p, 1:52)
  • Discover Blu-ray 3D with Timon & Pumbaa (1080p, 4:23)
  • Learn How to Take Your Movies on the Go (1080p, 1:04)
  • Mr. Scrooge's Wild Ride (1080p, 2:33, full HD 3D)
  • Disney Blu-ray 3D Sneak Peek (1080p, 1:25, full HD 3D)

DVD and digital copies of the film

 

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