There’s really no point in putting a synopsis of the tale here as, surely, everyone knows about Mr Scrooge (played here by a motion-captured Jim Carrey) and his memorable night when he was visited by the ghost of Christmas past, the ghost of Christmas present and the ghost of Christmas yet to come.
Having been taken on by everyone from Albert Finney and co. to Patrick Stewart, from Alastair Sim to The Muppets, just what does this version add to the selection we already have?
Unsurprisingly, director Robert Zemeckis brings us 3D. Oh yes. That seems to be the big selling point this time around and we’ll come back to it shortly.
First of all, let’s look at the cast. Jim Carrey gets to play Scrooge and all of the main spirits so he obviously gets a chance to show some range and have fun, which he does. He’s very good in the role of Ebeneezer but the incarnation of the ghost of Christmas past disappoints. The ghost of Christmas present is as fun as ever and the ghost of Christmas yet to come could have been played by anyone. Essentially, hit and miss then.
In the other roles we have Gary Oldman playing Bob Cratchit (as well as Marley AND Tiny Tim, bizarrely enough) and he doesn’t do too badly. Colin Firth is good as the cheery nephew trying to get his Uncle Scrooge to attend Christmas dinner, Cary Elwes makes little impression with a few roles but Bob Hoskins steals his scenes whenever he appears in the guise of Mr Fezziwig.
The screenplay, written by Zemeckis, is largely faithful to the original story and transfers the most familiar chunks of dialogue directly on to the screen. It’s not the dialogue that causes frustration though. As others have mentioned, it’s the inclusion of one or two moments not in the original tale that feel the most out of place and jarring, especially an extended chase sequence with the ghost of Christmas yet to come going after a shrunken Scrooge.
How about the visuals? Well, there’s a lot of lovely stuff on show here and the 3D is really well-done but that provides another problem, one that casts its shadow over every other aspect of the film (including the acting) – this movie really does feel like nothing more than a showcase for some fancy visuals. From the opening sequence that features a pointless, though impressive, journey over the rooftops of Dickensian London through every journey that Scrooge makes with a ghost to that terrible chase scene it just feels as if everything has been shoehorned in around all of the visual flourishes and swish camera moves. Robert Zemeckis seems to have been so carried away with his bag of tricks that he couldn’t leave well enough alone. Sadly, he didn’t trust the movie to be carried just by the material he so adores. That’s a great shame because I really enjoyed The Polar Express so I certainly didn’t expect to dislike this (a version of one of my own favourite tales) so much.
Maybe it’s that familiarity with the greatness of the source material that soured my experience. Somehow, in between all of the fancy special effects and constant need to get extra gliding camerawork in there, Zemeckis has managed to suck all of the fun out of a story that is a classic because of how much fun there is inherent in the concept. That’s just something I cannot pardon.
DIRECTOR: ROBERT ZEMECKIS
STARS: JIM CARREY, GARY OLDMAN, COLIN FIRTH, BOB HOSKINS, CARY ELWES
RUNTIME: 98 MINS APPROX