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November 20, 2009
Vol. 51 No. 10

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'Carol' a mere ghost of good Christmas movies past

Courtesy of Disney
Fans of the classic version of Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" may be left a little disappointed by Robert Zemeckis's new film adaptation.

The movie begins with Ebenezer Scrooge, played by Jim Carrey, identifying the body of his colleague, Jacob Marley. In this first scene, Scrooge reveals his greed by hesitating to even pay the undertaker in charge of the body.

The film then flashes forward seven years to an even surlier and anti-holiday cheer Scrooge, his nephew and Scrooge's faithful clerk, Bob Cratchit. After several outright displays of narcissism by Ebenezer Scrooge, the movie then follows the traditional outline of visits by the ghosts of Christmases past, present and future. Each of the ghosts essentially represents previous adaptations, showing many of the classic scenes we associate with the holiday tale, but adding some new ones along the way.

While much of this film representation sticks to the basic structure of Dickens's original story, there are several parts that lovers of the classical model may find peculiar in the 2009 version.

To begin, the Ghost of Christmas Present that has typically been portrayed as a luminescent female figure appears to be more of a male figure in this film's version.
Also, those of you who anticipate Ebenezer Scrooge sitting down next to Tiny Tim for Christmas dinner at the movie's conclusion may be disheartened to find that instead, Scrooge attends dinner with his nephew. This small twist was effective for the story line, but nonetheless disappointing if one was anticipating that special moment.

A complaint echoed amongst major film critics has been that moments in the movie were drawn out simply for the sake of filling time. It is evident that filmmakers struggled with how to make this classical tale long enough for movie-goers to get their money's worth. The solution ended up being several additional scenes and many drawn-out moments of twisting and turning action sequences that, while beautifully executed, left me and several viewers around me checking our watches to see when the plot would snap back to moments of familiarity.

The major highlights of this film for me were most certainly the breathtakingly simple scenes of falling snow and the long views of the city. The realistic look of the animated film left me questioning if some of those scenes could in fact be shots of London.

That being said, my advice is to see this movie in 3-D. Several scenes in the movie were obviously designed for 3-D viewers, leaving those who choose the 2-D version somewhat bored.

The 3-D version of the film also makes many of the aforementioned scenes feel like a ride as they twist, turn and plummet to the ground. I was surprised to feel myself jump a little as I, along with Ebenezer Scrooge, flew downward toward a burning coffin which disappeared into the floor just in the nick of time for Scrooge to land unharmed beside his four-poster bed.

Overall, "A Christmas Carol" should be commended for its valiant effort to conjure up some Christmas cheer as the holiday season approaches. While you may leave the theatre slightly taken aback by the alterations to the classic tale, the feelings the story usually summons are still present. The desire to be more conscious of those less fortunate than ourselves, the recognition that family will always be there and the realization that money does not necessarily make you happy are themes that hold true for this adaptation.


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'Carol' a mere ghost of good Christmas movies past



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