If the only reason you’re remaking a classic is to one-up whoever remade it previously, is it really worth the effort? Fortunately, Jim Carrey decided not to waste a wasted opportunity.
Ebeneezer Scrooge (Jim Carrey) is a penny-pinching miser, a personal policy that has made him well off but also isolated him from his fellow man. Believing himself better off in his financial security than in being happy connecting with family and friends, Scrooge takes the most comfort in laughing at how pitiful those without are in their self-made situations. When the ghost of his old business partner, Jacob Marley (Gary Oldman), makes an appearance, he gives Scrooge a glimpse of what awaits him in the afterlife unless he changes his ways. To help him see what must be done, Marley tells Scrooge he will be visited by three spirits…
Okay, you know the story and how it ends. My personal favorite of the classic versions was always the one with George C. Scott as Ebeneezer, whereas my favorite reinterpretation of the tale has always been Bill Murray’s turn in Scrooged. This new version, however, is a little of both, using motion capture and CGI to take Scrooge not only through time but across a sweeping landscape EVERY time the camera moves. In the same way that Peter Jackson’s King Kong kept upping the ante from the original (three T-rexes instead of one, jumping at bi-planes instead of mere swiping), this latest “Christmas Carol” agenda seems mostly interested in pushing everything over the top: better, stronger, faster (Steve Austin would be proud.)
The other side of the equation is Jim Carrey himself, playing multiple roles as Scrooge and all of the ghosts (he isn’t alone; many in the cast does the same as well). Unlike the film production, however, Carrey seems to be reigned in and focused on each character, particularly Scrooge himself. Like an actor who’s been given a dream role (or several in this case), it works better than one might imagine (except for those who actually enjoyed The Truman Show and already believe Jim has chops.) Carrey gets to be both his silly self and stretch his acting chops all without a drop of makeup; too bad the filmmakers could barely keep the camera still long enough to capture the performance rather than sweep the audience off their feet.
Especially in 3D where available, Disney’s A Christmas Carol accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do: update a classic holiday story by showing off as many filmmaking tricks as possible in the hopes people will line up for tickets. Somewhere underneath it all, however, is a versatile actor who’s so good at making faces and taking pratfalls that most audiences fail to notice he’s a good performer, too.
(a two and a half skull recommendation out of four)