A Christmas Carol
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Robert Zemeckis's version of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol is kind of like the weather: you've gotten used to it so it's worth a remark or two when it shifts one way or another, but overall it only really changes so much. Zemeckis's is not the first film adaptation, and it's definitely not the last, but it would've been nice if it were at least a little emotionally stirring and not nearly so terminally slick and visually unmemorable.
Both A Christmas Carol and his previous 3-D computer animation Beowulf suggest that Zemeckis is making his way through a Brit Lit syllabus, with little success—I'm looking forward to his next project, a dramatization of Mary Wollstonecraft's "A Vindication of the Rights of Women." The films primarily satisfy his need to use his new motion capture animation technology to make older pop classics popular again, with little conviction and little emotional resonance beyond a few fleeting scenes of runaway, slapstick energy. Oh, look, it's raining.
For the three of you reading this that don't yet know the story of A Christmas Carol, here's the skinny: Ebenezer Scrooge (a dismally restrained Jim Carrey) is a hard-hearted, proto-Objectivist miser who thinks poor people should get to work or go to jail or die trying. This means he has no place in his heart for Christmas and shows no signs of practicing a different faith, making him fair game for a good old-fashioned Christian haunting. He's visited by four ghosts who show him things that melt his heart like butter and make him want to lavish a favored employee with money, complement people incessantly, dance like a spazz, sing like a loon and give lame children piggyback rides. Having not died of a brain aneurism or suffered a stroke or heart attack from the experience, he instead learns from it. It's a Christmas miracle—in November.
Skeptical as a Jew like myself may be, I would be lying if I said that my blase attitude is a direct result of the story itself, and not a product of just how homogenized it's become thanks to a relentless series of mediocre adaptations. There's no life in this A Christmas Carol save for those aforementioned brief intervals, where Zemeckis revels in little flourishes of comic detail that the film's more essential, broad beats sorely lack. The animation itself is mostly unremarkable, save for the ephemeral pleasure of watching it in 3D. The highlight of the film is the final ghost, The Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-Come, as it's almost entirely comprised of ungrounded visual play. It'll make you work up a taste for A Muppet Christmas Carol, a more ebullient and a smidge more faithful an adaptation, but that's about it. Don't forget your umbrella.
Opens November 6