Robert Zemeckis’ 3-D animated Disney's A Christmas Carol is clearly a labor of love and, like so many labors of love, it feels slightly ill-advised.
Yes, the motion-capture animation is gorgeous—saturated, detailed, almost hyper real. But Zemeckis seems strangely intent on showing us just how real it can be.
In one of the opening scenes, an undertaker’s apprentice is shown with a bulbous pimple on his chin. Later, the ghost of Marley spits some sort of otherworldly sputum at Scrooge. The Ghost of Christmas Present is a half-malevolent, half-jolly red head with a big beard and—ew!—a hairy red chest (he looks, disconcertingly, like the Burger King).
No one can argue with the depiction of Scrooge himself: Sunken-chested, hook-nosed, hunched, and thoroughly miserable, he seems, at first, to be a man completely devoid of spirit. But during the course of his night visitations, this character comes to life—he’s infused with dread, then sadness, then empathy, until he actually experiences a rush of unadulterated joy. The changes in Scrooge, both in terms of animation and in Jim Carrey’s pitch-perfect vocal performance (he voices all of the Christmas ghosts, too, which is a bit of overkill) are revelatory—and capture the true essence of Dickens’ tale.
Still, why make this movie again? Zemeckis, I suppose, thinks he’s bringing this classic to a whole new generation. But when both Mickey Mouse and the Muppets have already had their crack at the material, I’d say the gig is up. (Also, though I'm sure this wasn't Zemeckis' call, the whole Disney in the title makes me a bit ill. What next? Disney's Hamlet? I shouldn't give them any ideas.)
In the end, as lovingly rendered as his A Christmas Carol is, I’m not sure young people will flock to it. It’s far too scary for small children and perhaps a bit too ponderous for older ones. Fans of Edgar Allan Poe and Hitchcock might appreciate Scrooge taking a creaky stair one by one or staring with dread at a slowly ticking clock, but young people are probably thinking, “Just die, old man!”