Saturday, 5 December 2009

A Christmas Carol (PG)

Although Robert Zemeckis’s latest offering has been widely publicised as a mo-cap, 3D event, the real surprise lies not in its technological advancements but its ability to breathe new life into a well-known, albeit classic story. So imprinted has A Christmas Carol become in popular consciousness that I along with many others greeted yet another adaptation with mild indifference; yet astonishingly, Disney has reinvigorated Dickens beloved novel by, ironically, adhering faithfully to the source material and delivering a near-perfect translation of the quintessential feel-good tale.

Visually, A Christmas Carol is a delight. The blinding yellows and icy blues invoke a palpable sense of the 19th century rather than a pale imitation and the surprisingly modest approach to the depiction of London lends a much needed touch of realism to a film which could so easily have been ruined by indulgent fantasy. The expressionistic camerawork also offers a sense of hyperreality which owing to the fluidity with which it traverses Scrooge’s city justifies completely the use of mo-cap, whilst remaining grounded during the more sombre moments.

True the animation is sloppy at times and considering the time that has passed since The Polar Express (2004) one would expect a far greater leap in the technology than displayed here. Yet somehow it works, perhaps because unlike previous efforts A Christmas Carol is more concerned with caricaturing Dicken’s world, rather than attempting to re-create it. Ebenezer Scrooge in particular is portrayed wonderfully by Jim Carrey, who brings just the right amount of frivolity to the role while restraining himself from ever becoming too theatrical. Yet for all its visual panache – the 3D being exceptionally strong also – the real surprise is how beautifully powerful the whole picture really is. It’s shockingly scary, heartbreakingly sad and tearjerkingly uplifting, which for a story so heavily etched into popular consciousness is a major achievement indeed.


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