Men Who Stare at Ghosts: A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol_reduced

Season's Greed-ings... cute tagline!

An Active3D Movie Review

Rating (out of 5 stars): * * * *

When I tell you that this is the darkest, scariest movie ever to have emerged from the Disney Studios, you’d better believe it. It opens with the close-up of a corpse (that of Jacob Marley), and gets creepier from there…

If it’s a family film, then it’s one for families in which the children are either over ten years of age, or have sturdy constitutions. The film carries a “Mature Accompaniment for Under-Tens” rating in South Africa. (Does this mean that kids younger than ten should cart along an ageing pianist?)

Director Robert Zemeckis and his team have endeavoured to remain faithful to Charles Dickens’ original short story, so Jim Carrey doesn’t trot out his customary ad-libs – which would’ve shattered the credibility of this serious, old-time morality tale. By the end of the movie, Dicken’s ‘message’ (i.e. of compassion toward the less fortunate) is made manifest in the least subtle way, with nothing being spared in the way of stereoscopic and other effects work.

Zemeckis appears to be wed to the ‘motion capture’ technique of animation (as witness his previous animated 3-D movies, the execrable Beowulf and the delightful Polar Express). This system employs hundreds of electronic sensors which are attached to actors’ bodies and faces, which inform the movement and performance of their animated counterparts. I’m not crazy about this technique, as, in its present incarnation, it lacks the ability of either live performances or other types of animation to completely engage and persuade me. These ‘virtual actors’ come across as rather rigid – and squint-eyed – to my disconcerted eye.

The film’s idealised, three-dimensional realisation of old-time London, however, is quite the visual treat. And when the ghosts start appearing, it’s a runaway festival of ghoulish thrills

As the tight-wadded Ebenezer Scrooge, Jim Carrey (or, at least, his animated avatar) is nastier than he’s even been, yet gradually reveals more of his humanity and vulnerability as the tale unfolds and his long-buried compassion is brought to the fore.

The film’s loaded with Christmas carols, although it has a greater, more humanistic appeal which should also access those of us who don’t celebrate this religious holiday. (Forget about those ridiculous councillors in the UK who believe that non-Christians will be offended at the mere sight of a Christmas tree in a shopping mall.) By staying away, you would not only be behaving like a churlish old Scrooge, but missing out on a hair-raisingly wild and unfettered 3-D adventure. Tat Wolfen

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