Another lump of Hollywood coal
This extravagant CGI-retooling of the holiday warhorse drains the life out of Scrooge & co, writes Donald Clarke
CHARLES DICKENS’S A Christmas Carol may be imperishable, but, with a hundred adaptations out there on film and DVD, you have to do something very innovative to stand out from the pack.
Robert Zemeckis has achieved just that. Sticking stubbornly with the horrible amalgam of motion capture and computer animation he devised for The Polar Express and Beowulf, the director has delivered a version performed by ambulatory showroom dummies sporting the glassy eyes of recently embalmed corpses.
Few figures in recent cinema have been quite so terrifying as this Tiny Tim. Placing Gary Oldman’s slightly over-inflated head on a child’s contorted body, the boffins have created a monster for the ages. As your children fall asleep after seeing the film (if they ever sleep again, that is), they may imagine Tim scraping his pathetic fingernails down the bedroom window. “Merry Christmas everyone. ’Tis the season to die!” he could squeak.
With so many petrifying representatives of the living about the place, the poor old ghosts don’t stand a chance of chilling the blood. Undaunted, the three spirits turn up once more to turn Scrooge from a ruthless but spirited malcontent into a hysterical, port-crazed, happy-clappy bore.
Much has been made of the fact that Jim Carrey is doing the voices of Scrooge and the ghosts, but, on this evidence, the studio would have been better advised to hire a few theatrical knights. The grumpy miser sounds just about okay, but Carrey’s Irish (why?) Ghost of Christmas Past is straight out of Darby O’Gill, and the middle spirit can’t decide if he’s from Liverpool, Birmingham or Turkmenistan.
It should, of course, be acknowledged that, as was true with Beowulf and The Polar Express, A Christmas Carol constitutes an impressive technical achievement. Once again, however, our thoughts turn to Dr Johnson. “Difficult, you say?” he remarked of a complex, experimental violin piece. “Would that it were impossible.”
Clean and ordered where it should be messy and fuggy, under-populated where it should be buzzing with Thameside noise, this version may be studiously faithful to the text, but it doesn’t come half as close to the spirit of the original as The Muppets Christmas Carol.
Will we end with a “Bah, Humbug“? It seems we already have.
Carrey on up the panto: as Scrooge and the Ghost of Stage Irishmen Past