A Christmas Carol Out of Tune

A Christmas Carol starring Jim Carrey

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 ventured to with his first such movie, The Polar Express. Disney’s 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 spirits 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 more prominent filmmakers championing the 3D movement for the past five years now. While the animation in Zemeckis’s 3D films keeps improving, the technology continues to thwart his overall storytelling. A Christmas Carol follows a ever growing-number of films where the 3D  format serves no real purpose at all. The flow of each ghost’s 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 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. The director even goes so far as to make 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.

CHRISTMAS CAROL, A 2009 2Another thing that 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 as the three ghosts as well. As Scrooge, Carrey finds the right balance to make us believe him as both a 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 of 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.

Born and raised in Toronto, long time film lover Courtney Small shares his passion for all things cinema through his daily blog Big Thoughts from a Small Mind.  Courtney also contributes two monthly features for the Large Association of Movie Blogs as well.