A Christmas Carol |
directed by Robert Zemeckis
(Walt Disney, 2009)
A stooped and crooked curmudgeon walks the streets of Olde London Towne, scaring off beggars, bedraggled but merry carolers, the well-meaning businessmen trying to provide a bit of charity and, in general, anyone who dares to make merry in his presence, including his nephew Fred (voice by Colin Firth). That old man is Ebenezer Scrooge (Jim Carrey), the sole remaining partner of the countinghouse of Scrooge & Marley. It's Christmas Eve, the seventh anniversary of Marley's death.
Having decried his faithful clark, Bob Cratchit (Gary Oldman) for "robbing him" for wanting the entire day of Christmas off, Scrooge limps his way home to a solitary dinner. Little does he know his former partner, Jacob Marley (also voiced by Gary Oldman) is coming in spirit to visit him and offer him one last chance at redemption. Three ghosts will visit him this Christmas Eve night -- if he doesn't accept them, he could end up with a fate as bad as Marley's.
A Christmas Carol is for the most part faithful to the Dickensian classic. Director Robert Zemeckis has, of course, added some heart-breaking and fearsome twists to the three manifestations of Christmasses Past, Present and Yet to Come (also voiced by Carrey). He's also given Scrooge almost exactly the face I envisioned when I first read the story many years ago. He's a hawk-nosed, hard-eyed, bitter pill of an old man who looks like he's stewed in his own bitter pudding for many years.
Carrey's performance is spot-on, with just the right hints of humor to keep the film from getting too bleak. London is lovingly rendered in white show and industrial ash, a mix of prosperity and poverty that Charles Dickens would have recognized and approved as a landscape for his story. The feel of the place is so real I wanted a bowl of hot soup to warm me after. The final glory and benediction was Andreas Boccelli singing "God Bless Us Everyone."
Iterations of this tale have been my favorite Christmas films since Mr. Magoo's Christmas. Up until now, my favorite version starred Patrick Stewart, whose theatrical experience and British accent lent an autheticity to the film that I had not experienced before. This new A Christmas Carol may well have replaced Stewart's version for me simply because it depicts Scrooge and London so well. This film's going to be a classic for years to come.
One caution: although this film is by Disney, it is not for very young children. Some of the ghostly images scared the younger kids in the audience.
12 December 2009
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