Well, we passed Thanksgiving, and Christmas is just around the corner. And what does that mean? Holiday movies! And this is as perfect a time as any to talk about the films that deserve more love, especially this time of year.
Back in 2009, ImageMovers, who brought you The Polar Express (2004) starring Tom Hanks, combined forces with Disney to bring us yet another retelling of the classic Charles Dickens tale, A Christmas Carol (2009). It was directed by Robert Zemeckis, who not only directed The Polar Express, but also some other films you have probably heard of like Forrest Gump (1994), Cast Away (2000), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), and Back to the Future (1985).
For many people, it is hard to get on board with the type of animation featured in The Polar Express, A Christmas Carol, and later the almost unheard of Mars Needs Moms (2011), and it is certainly unique. It is clear that these characters are animated, yet they are so lifelike it comes across as almost creepy. However, here this actually lends itself well to this film.
Despite what you have been told or what people say, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is NOT a children's story. So many audiences were turned off by this version because there were too many scary moments. If you read the book however, you'll find those same slightly disturbing and unsettling scenes, and that is how they are supposed to feel. No, this version of A Christmas Carol is not as fluffy or fun as something like The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) with Sir Michael Caine, which actually shares its own grim scenes with the Ghost of Christmas Future. That is not to say however that there are not heartwarming and humorous moments in this movie, because there are plenty of those to go around.
For this writer, this version of A Christmas Carol is the best incarnation of the haunting yet inspiring Charles Dickens story, remaining very faithful to the source material, and the favorite retelling to watch during the holiday season. If you look past the somewhat uncomfortable animation style of the characters (the actual animated production design of backdrops is really quite engrossing) and look into the heart of the film, you will find something truly special. The musical score here by Alan Silvestri is a beautiful, sweeping sensation that offers originality but also its own medley and blend of classic, traditional Christmas hymns, with a closing and opening theme of "God Bless Us Everyone," performed heartwarmingly and breathtakingly by the great Andrea Bocelli over the end credits.
The performances in this film also must not go amiss, the motion capture startlingly believable yet cartoonish from Jim Carrey especially, who here played four different roles and four differently aged Ebenezer Scrooges. Other standouts include Gary Oldman, who portrays the fun-loving and optimistic Bob Cratchit against a very terrifying Jacob Marley ghost, as well as Bob Hoskins as Fezziwig and Old Joe, and Colin Firth as cousin Fred.
Like The Polar Express, Disney's A Christmas Carol remains a special frozen moment in time, because this animation style is no longer done, at least in this way with the company being dissolved just a few years later.
If you have not seen this Christmas film, I strongly urge you to do so, especially at this time of year. If you have seen it and haven't seen it since, I hope you will go back and give it another chance. It is a simple yet strong reminder of what the Spirit of Christmas is all about, told in a feel-good, Victorian England time with falling snow, carolers, plum pudding, and prize Turkeys. It's the perfect film to snuggle up with around the fire.
Merry Christmas, and God Bless Us Everyone!
"I have always thought of Christmas time...as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely." - Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.