At the Movies with Alan Gekko: A Christmas Carol “09”

At the Movies with Alan Gekko: A Christmas Carol “09”

MPAA Rating: PG/ Genre: 3D Computer-Animated Christmas Dark Fantasy/ Stars: Jim Carrey, Jim Carrey, Jim Carrey, Jim Carrey (no that is not a typo), Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright Penn, Cary Elwes, Fionnula Flanagan, Steve Valentine, Daryl Sabara, Sage Ryan, Amber Gainey Meade, Ryan Ochoa, Bobbi Page, Ron Bottitta, Sammi Hanratty, Julian Holloway, Jacquie Barnbrook, Lesley Manville, Molly C. Quinn, Fay Masterson, Leslie Zemeckis, Paul Blackthorne, Michael Hyland, Kerry Hoyt, Julene Renee-Preciado/ Runtime: 96 minutes

I think it is safe to say that, based off observation and prior obtained knowledge, “Charles” and “Dickens” might just very well be a pair of the most terrifying and groan-inducing words to be found in the timeless realm known as high school. Indeed it really is no secret that the celebrated author of such iconic masterpieces as Tale of Two Cities, and Oliver Twist amongst others really has gone out of his way towards making English class one of the most excruciating times for the vast majority of kids who find themselves in absolute agony trying to get through his written word and attempt to comprehend the subtleties in his iconic works beyond simple orphans and anarchic revolutions with a hint of chaos about them. Yet if you look behind the too numerous to count pages and the excruciatingly teeny tiny print, you will see that these are truly iconic stories that manage to be infinitely better than the Cliffs Notes you used to understand them would have you believe. Suffice it to say that although intriguing characters, beautiful worlds, and brilliant dialogue are present in this stories, they are also the defining ingredients in perhaps Dickens’ finest saga A Christmas Carol. Indeed first introduced to the world in December 1943, the story of how a man by the name of Ebenezer Scrooge is paranormally changed for the better not only out of fear, but also because of the inherent goodness that has been waiting for just the right moment to take this curmudgeon, give him a good shake and kick, and help him see the error of his ways has become a practical staple of the holiday season by this point. This of course brings us to Disney’s 2009 take on the tale with noted film helmer Robert Zemeckis at the helm and Jim Carrey in the timeless role of Scrooge, I am pleased to let you know dear reader that with the aid of computer technology, this dynamic duo along with a talented cast and crew backing them up are able to update this story whilst also keeping a lot of the charm that has made this story so timeless to this day and as such is a true holiday winner that will be enjoyed by you and your family time and time again.

The plot is as follows: As our story opens we are quickly introduced to our protagonist who takes the miserly, crotchety, and eternally grumpy form of one Ebenezer Scrooge. Indeed here is a man whose facial expressions could perhaps be the best direct glance into his soul ever which is equal parts grouch, despicable, and just plain mean all rolled into one. More than anything though, our crotchety man of the hour is especially t’d off when it comes to the very joy and happiness that is seemingly inherent to the Christmas season and views it as a nuisance at best and a complete travesty at worst. Put another way: Mr. Scrooge absolutely hates Christmas with a thriving passion and who would not be devastated in the least if it were to “mysteriously” fall off the calendar one year and simply not occur. To that end, we see Scrooge soon, with great reluctance, decide to give his top employee in the form of one Bob Cratchit the day off to spend time with his family while he himself goes home to sulk about what he sees as a day being wasted and pass the time alone in front of a roaring fireplace and in his favorite chair. Without warning however, Scrooge’s evening is seriously upended with the arrival of an unnerving sight in the form of the apparitional spirit of his former partner, ol’ Jacob Marley who appears before our terrified out of his wits “hero” all lathered in chains which are his penance, he claims, for all his wickedness he did whilst among the living. In addition to all of this however, we also soon learn from our ghostly presence that Scrooge is to be visited by a trinity of fellow spirits who are going to take Scrooge on an odyssey of sorts in the hopes that it will help him see where he is going wrong since only through changing his ways can he hope to avoid the same fate as Marley. Thus the stage is now set for Scrooge to go on a truly unforgettable journey on one of the most magical nights of the year that will see him revisit who he was and who he is in the hopes that maybe just maybe he can change who he might eventually become….

Now the first thing I have to commend this film is for the technical skill utilized in bringing this film to life since this film is completely and totally riveting. Indeed the fact that those working behind the camera have managed to this skillfully bring to life an older charm whilst using the digital tools of filmmaking today is absolutely phenomenal. Even more astonishing than that though is the fact that they also have managed to make sure the narrative is given priority over the spot-on computer work thus bringing this fantastic tale to life in a way we have not seen before. As a result, the London setting is beautifully brought to life to the point that the filmmaking team is able to utilize both shadows and an omission of positivity in order to strengthen Scrooge’s grumpy view of the world perfectly. More than that though is the fact that the locales in the film, enhanced by overwhelming fog, snow-filled roads, an depressing atmosphere, and clothes that are devoid of color all aid a narrative support system that may be obvious in regards towards what its purpose is for the film, but is one that is at the same time darn close to flawless In how it is presented to the point that I feel that Zemeckis may have provided this film with perhaps the definitive look for a Charles Dickens adaptation in this. Yes, in all fairness, no other adaptation has had the technological resources he did at his disposal, but I digress since it really is the brilliant merging between the film’s throwback look and the way the animation vanishes under both the importance and the heart and soul of the story that are what help this version to soar. Indeed be it small things like Scrooge’s night wear or the spirits who come to visit him, this slice of cinematic pie manages to brilliantly take us to old London whilst at the same time amusing and delighting us with just what mo cap technology and CGI are able to bring to the table and in the process give us a delightful regaling of an iconic story in a manner that just might redefine how to tell that particular tale from now on.

Of course I would be seriously amiss if I did not take the time to mention the fantastic job done by Jim Carrey in this as Scrooge. Yes his performance might have looked very much like something you could expect to see on Star Trek’s Holodeck and his digital recreating of a bony old miser who looks as much like Carrey on the level that Kevin Spacey looks like Brad Pitt (hint: not even close. Kudos to you though for trying to picture it), the physical performance given, aided immensely by his digital assistants, really does breathe life to this truly iconic grumpy, miserly grouch (3 words incidentally that no proper review of A Christmas Carol should ever go without saying at least once) and presents him in a way movie lovers hadn’t seen before. Yet while Carrey and his role in this do owe a fair bit to the film’s top-notch team of digital artists, it should be noted that his distinct style of physical comedy and his gift of providing a decent amount of both heart and pathos to the roles he performs also help make him a great choice for this truly iconic character. In addition, this film is also filled with a group of other brilliantly brought to life characters, at least 3 of whom are also played by Carrey, but which also include such acting icons as Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright Penn, and Cary Elwes. Indeed not only do all these other gifted performers manage to be truly wonderful in their own right, but their characters are also brought just as brilliantly to life as Carrey’s thus making this a true win in regards to the acting department.

Yet perhaps the finest component to this film is the fact that whilst it does tell this timeless story in a brand new way, the film still manages to keep the main thematic idea in play that there is an inner goodness to most men that may not always be on the surface, but that is still ever-present and under the right circumstances is allowed to come out and roam amongst the rest of us despite being thought gone in the face of all the complications that life can potentially throw our way. Suffice it to say then that A Christmas Carol really is a simplistic narrative that does a wonderful job at mixing together humanity and this truly magical time of the year whilst also allowing them to operate off each other in order to fully showcase not just how magical Christmas can be, but also in how crucial good cheer and good will towards both yourself and your fellow man can be at any point in time during the year. Suffice it to say then that film helmer Robert Zemeckis’ movie is one that holds up as quite the integrity-laced take on this timeless story by putting an emphasis on the heart of the tale by showcasing all the potent pathos, both the good and the ill that is part and parcel of that. Indeed this is a tale that whilst it can be hard to watch and quite infuriating, but is also one that overall comes to be one of the heartwarming type since its core message deals with how sometimes people need a little intervention to let their goodness run free. Yes the spirits are merely tools designed to nudge our grumpy hero onto the right path and even when taking into account just how dark this story tends to oftentimes get, this is still a family-friendly (but perhaps for ages 8-9 and up) holiday tale that’s purpose is to not only bring out the best in those who watch it, but also encourage the viewer to be the best possible person that they could hope to be.

All in all I do feel obliged to let you know that Robert Zemeckis’ adaptation of Charles Dickens’ timeless story doesn’t do anything that hasn’t been done before, but even still I can venture to say that you might not look at any of the iconic ingredients of this timeless story the same ever again. Indeed this is because this take manages to brilliantly showcase the typical atmosphere, mood, and general fondness for the original story whilst at the same time managing to bring it to life for the next generation courtesy of astonishing visual effects work that has to been seen and preferably on the biggest screen possible.  Thus when you combine that with not only a group of winning performances along with an integrity and heartwarming sticking to the concepts and ideas that have made this story so beloved, what you get is a new iconic holiday for the family to enjoy for years to come. On a scale of 1-5 I give A Christmas Carol “09” a solid 3.5 out of 5.