Two out of five stars
Rated PG/96 min.
Of all the actors who’ve played Ebenezer Scrooge over the years, I have a soft spot for George C. Scott (others argue that Alastair Sim, Michael Caine and even Bill Murray were better). When I was 17, I played Scrooge in the Ka‘ahumanu Hou production of Scrooge and, even at my young age, I understood that I was playing the world’s loneliest man, a wealthy curmudgeon who needed people in his life but was too good at pushing them away. Whether the role is played by Scrooge McDuck or Frank De Lima, the story remains timeless and universal. Even though you know how it ends, you watch or read it enraptured.
Unfortunately, Robert Zemeckis’s new CGI motion-capture animated adaptation seems to think what Dickens had in mind was an action movie.
The screenplay mostly sticks to the outline of the original story and Jim Carrey plays Scrooge with gusto, but his appearance and performance are similar to his Count Olaf character from Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, making his work seem not especially fresh. The computer animation is vivid and beautiful when rendering Scrooge and his surroundings but uneven on every other character—Colin Firth and Gary Oldman appear like talking action figures.
Zemeckis faithfully reproduces the classic dialogue, but completely omits the crucial love story that establishes where Scrooge went wrong in his life and, most disastrously, he makes Tiny Tim a barely significant side character. I recall a scene from Mickey’s Christmas Carol where Mickey Mouse, playing Bob Cratchit, stands at Tim’s grave, eyes full of tears as he places Tim’s crutch next to a tiny tombstone and it still chokes me up. Nothing in this new version makes any emotional connection.
Other big mistakes: Bob Hoskins, playing Fezziwig, cartoonishly bounces all over the screen, as though Hoskins were once again playing one of the Super Mario Brothers. The ghost of Jacob Marley, whose scene goes on forever, loses his jaw and improvises as though he were Beetlejuice. Scrooge is shown falling down flights of stairs and getting smacked around by giant icicles. Worst of all are the action sequences, which admittedly look great in 3-D but are big showy set pieces meant to keep the little ones from getting bored with all the talking.
Aside from the four ghosts, the story is populated by people—why couldn’t Zemeckis have made a live-action film and only rendered the spirits in CGI? I enjoyed the flawed but enchanting The Polar Express and Beowulf was a great 3-D showcase, but I wish the director of some of my favorite films—like Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which seamlessly blended effects and animation with human actors—would go back and make a real, flesh and blood movie. Maui Time Weekly, Barry Wurst II