3 Weeks of Christmas Presents: A Christmas Carol

Here we are at week two of the 2015 edition of the three weeks of Christmas. Last week, I made several mentions of the holiday classic, A Christmas Carol. Its numerous interpretations and legacy have made it essential viewing during the holiday season. I even referenced one of my personal favorite renditions of the popular Charles Dickens novel in Disney’s The Muppet Christmas Carol. With a cast containing the likes of Michael Caine and all the familiar Jim Henson characters, it always makes for an enjoyable outing. Hell, I went to a live stage show of A Christmas Carol at Radio City Music Hall back when I was in middle school. It starred Roger Daltrey of The Who which was definitely something I didn’t appreciate back in the day.

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As great as they were, neither of those versions are what I want to discuss with you today. What I want to talk about is the other Disney produced adaptation of A Christmas Carol directed by filmmaker, Robert Zemeckis.

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Robert Zemeckis is best known for bringing us the historic Back to the Future trilogy as well as the quotable masterpiece, Forest Gump. After the release of his Oscar-nominated drama, Cast Away in 2000, Zemeckis went through a period of only directing motion capture films. The first movie of this kind was 2004’s The Polar Express, based on the children’s book. It was the third collaboration between Zemeckis and Tom Hanks.

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He then captained an eye opening version of Beowulf in 2007 starring Ray Winstone and Angelina Jolie. Finally, he teamed with Walt Disney Productions for A Christmas Carol which hit theaters during the holiday season of 2009.

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Funnyman, Jim Carrey, stars as Ebenezer Scrooge, the lonely, grouchy old man who tries to make Christmas miserable for all those around him. Destined to spend another holiday alone, three ghosts visit Scrooge and show him the true meaning of the holiday and that if he doesn’t start showing a chipper attitude, he’ll end up dead with an inconceivable hereafter. Ironically, Carrey also lends his voice to the roles of The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. First, Scrooge is paid a visit from the spirit of his former business partner who is now rotting away in the afterlife after years of sin. He warns Scrooge to not end up like him. That same night, Scrooge also meets the ones who encourage him to change his tune, the first being the Ghost of Christmas Past who shows his origins and how exactly he came to be the resentful chap he is today. He excelled at school then falls with love with Belle, the woman of his dreams. He plans to spend the rest of his life with her once he raised enough money for their life together. Eventually, Scrooge’s lust for money was enough for Belle to leave him helping him on his downward spiral.

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Next, The Ghost of Christmas Present drops in to show him what happened to the Cratchit family. The Patriarch of which works for Scrooge but the selfish businessman barely pays him enough to get by and as a result, aren’t able to have the Christmas they want. Still, the family has fun at his expense.

Finally, The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come shows him how the general public really feel about him. Scrooge sees that no one respects him and he comes face to face with his future gravesite. This all sounds kind of morbid and depressing but I assure you, it’s fun for the whole family! Not wanting to suffer this fate, Scrooge changes his ways becoming a happier, more generous man.

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While this may have been the first time Carrey and Zemeckis have teamed up, this wasn’t the former’s first ride with Walt Disney. In fact, this wasn’t even the first time he starred in a reimagining of a  Christmas classic. The first was 2000’s The Grinch which of course was a retelling of How The Grinch Stole Christmas. It was directed by Ron Howard and while reviews weren’t very kind, Carrey’s performance was praised.

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Future Academy award winner, Colin Firth, appears here as well as Scrooge’s only living creed, his nephew, Fred, who encourages Scrooge to spend the holiday with his family. This was also one of the last films that Bob Hoskins appeared in before his untimely death in 2014.

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The motion capture here was well administered just like Zemeckis’ previous two films. It was done with the movements of the actors all being  recorded using different garments such as rubber suits. After that’s completed, computer graphics were used to animate the backgrounds and to make the characters come to life. It’s not too dissimilar to the rotoscope animation that Richard Linklater has utilized in the past for his pictures, Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly where the movie was filmed in live action then animated afterwards. A Christmas Carol had the extra gimmick of being in 3D which was starting to make a comeback in cinema around this time. It helped rake in extra dollars and to give audiences the experience of viewing the Dickens classic in a way they haven’t before.

The movie, while overlooked in a lot of respects, was actually very profitable grossing over $300 million at the box office. The general consensus is that while it was a solid film, it just sort of got lost on the shuffle. I thought it was one of the better retellings of Dickens’ story with superb acting and stunning visuals. It helped convey its excellent message sternly bringing the holiday spirit out of all of us. So why wasn’t it more memorable? Well, it didn’t help that Disney’s The Princess & The Frog was released that same month. It was Disney’s first non-Pixar animated film in years and boasted its first Princess of African American descent which piqued everyone’s interest. Those two factors were definitely noticed more by moviegoers. Unfortunately, this would be Zemeckis’ last mocap film for the time being as he returned to live action with 2012’s Flight.

Make sure you’re all here next week for the third and final week in the 3 Weeks of Christmas. I have something special in store!

Written by Matthew Reine

is a New Yorker with a strong passion for film and television. Also the biggest Keanu Reeves fan you know.

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