review for Disney's A Christmas Carol on AllMovie

Disney's A Christmas Carol (2009)
by Alaina O'Connor review

A Christmas Carol is as much a part of the Christmas tradition as Santa Claus and mistletoe, so it's no surprise that this year there's yet another film version of the classic story. In Disney's A Christmas Carol, the animated retelling of Charles Dickens' classic tale of charity, redemption, and embracing the Christmas spirit, director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future) creates a visually stunning multi-sensory thrill ride that's sure to please both kids and adults alike. The story centers on Ebenezer Scrooge (Jim Carrey), a penny-pinching miser who cares nothing for the people around him, least of all his hopelessly downtrodden employee Bob Cratchit (Gary Oldman) and infectiously optimistic nephew, Fred (Colin Firth). On Christmas Eve, after a frightening encounter with the ghost of his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley, Scrooge is visited by three spirits -- the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come -- who take him on an eye-opening journey to expose the truths he is reluctant to face.

The film takes a while to get its footing, taking entirely too long to engage, but once Old Scrooge flies above the buildings of London while snow falls all around him, the audience settles in for quite a spectacle. Once again, Zemeckis teams up with ImageMovers Digital, the visual effects company that created the fantasy worlds of his last two animated endeavors, Beowulf and The Polar Express. As he did with Beowulf, Zemeckis adds 3D to the experience (in selected theaters), setting this film apart from previous adaptations of the classic story. The utilization of motion capture and computer-animation technology adds an incredible amount of detail and realism, most notably with Carrey, who expertly portrays four different characters in the film, including the three ghosts.

For the most part, the film stays true to the original source material -- from the Victorian vernacular to the visual representation of the three ghosts first illustrated by John Leech for the original publication -- yet, Zemeckis takes liberties with certain sequences in an attempt to drive home the overall theme and showcase the visual effects. Though the film is sprinkled with moments of humor that one would expect from a film with a comedic performer like Carrey, there's a visually frightening element; with haunting imagery amplified by the CG effects, the film barely earns its PG rating. Still, the sense of wonder and enchantment overpowers this, and by the end everyone will be infected with the Christmas spirit.