Sunday, January 03, 2010

A Christmas Carol Out of Tune

A Christmas Carol

The massive success of Avatar only cements that 3D films are here to stay. So the question now becomes what requirements does a movie need to warrant this technology? Would Inglourious Basterds or Up in the Air be better or worse if they were done in 3D?

Robert Zemeckis follows up his Old English 3D epic, Beowulf, by revisiting the holiday terrain he first ventured to with his 3D movie, The Polar Express. A Christmas Carol finds Zemeckis tackling Charles Dickens classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge (Jim Carrey) who is visited by three ghosts (all Carrey) on the eve of Christmas. The three ghosts will not only show Scrooge the errors of his past and present, but how Scrooge's decisions may lead towards an unsettling future.

Zemeckis has been one of the prominent filmmakers who has been championing the 3D movement for that past 5 years now. While the animation in Zemeckis's 3D films keeps improving, the 3D technology continues to thwart his overall storytelling. A Christmas Carol follows a ever growing number of films that serves no real purpose in 3D format at all. The flow of each ghosts' segment is constantly interrupted for no other purpose than to justify the extra price of admission. As a result we are provided with 3D scenes of Scrooge being shot into space, speeding down the street on a soda bottle, etc. Sure these scenes may please the really young kids in attendance, whose attention spans are small to being with, but for the rest of us this is just plain annoying.

The need to justify the 3D format hurts the one element of the film where Zemeckis actually got it right, the story. Although the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge has been interpreted numerous times, it was actually refreshing to see how close Zemeckis stayed to Charles Dickens' original story. While many incarnations of A Christmas Carol have glossed over, or simply left out, the religious element of the text; Zemeckis does not shy away from it at all. Robert Zemeckis even goes as far as making the ghost of Christmas-present God himself. There is even a great scene where the ghost of Christmas-present, after being questioned by Scrooge, chastises those who use his name as grounds for conducting evil deeds. It is moments like this, and not the 3D snowflakes, where A Christmas Carol really connects with the audience.

Another thing connects, but ultimately gets lost in Zemeckis' 3D excess, is Jim Carrey's performance. Carrey actually does a really good job not only as Scrooge but the three ghosts as well. As Scrooge, Carrey finds the right balance where we believe him as botha crotchety old-man and a misguided soul who just wants one last shot at redemption. In A Christmas Carol, Carrey is actually the best he has been since his 2004 combo of Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind and Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. It is just too bad that Zemeckis inadvertently overshadows Carrey's work with his need to have objects flying off the screen. If A Christmas Carol had just played it straight, it might actually be worth recommending. Unfortunately Zemeckis tries too hard to create a 3D experience for a picture that should not have been in 3D in the first place.

1 comment:

  1. I was actually quite pleasantly surprised by how good a job Carrey did as Scrooge and how much I was liking the movie. Unfortunately, it's almost like they "realized they were making a Jim Carrey movie" and felt that had to throw in some slapstick scenes that just did not belong in the movie. Take those out and it's one of the better adaptations of the story.

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