An­other lump of Hol­ly­wood coal

This ex­trav­a­gant CGI-re­tool­ing of the hol­i­day warhorse drains the life out of Scrooge & co, writes Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews -

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

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