Monday, November 16, 2009

A Christmas Carol

Stingy Scrooge and hungry Londoners, scary spirits and creepy doorknockers, we have all seen countless versions of Charles Dickens’s novella, “A Christmas Carol.” It’s been trivialized in a musical,” and lampooned with puppets. The last thing one expects is for the 3-D Disney version to be among the most faithful versions of the immortal tale of avarice vs. charity. But wait.

Rather than reducing the story line to a vehicle to showcase special effects and off color slapstick as do many Christmas-themed films, “A Christmas Carol” returns to the heart of the play. It offers a piercing glimpse at of a man in a prison of his own making. Enter ghostly visitors to quite literally lend a hand in breaking free in time to celebrate Christmas. Overcoming the limitations of the unrealistic figures, the emotional power of the acting and use of Dickens’s original dialogue maintain the strength of the story against the intensity of the special effects. Wild flights through the streets of London and unanticipated bits of levity kept this film from being a downer, and are likely the very things Dickens had intended with his descriptive passages. This may be the film which best conforms to the writers’ original intent.

Though secondary scenes from the book are not shown, and some liberties are taken, the central scenes are played with respect for their original meaning, and powerful use of close-ups. Particularly moving is the scene where Bob Crachit is brought face to face with the invisible visitor Scrooge as he mourns the loss of his son Tiny Tim, poignantly aiding Scrooge’s discovery of the secret of a life well lived. Mature themes of charity, repentance, and greed are portrayed in a way, which reaches the youngest of viewers.

Although the story already has strong Christian moral themes, the filmmakers added completely appropriate Christian elements to the film including; the score’s rendition of the “Ave Maria” as the Spirit of Christmas Past touched Scrooge’s heart in blessing, and an aerial view of a London church with worshippers streaming in. As Scrooge beholds the gold cross on the church’s steeple, he exclaims “how beautiful” to the approval of the Ghost of Christmas Present. The only disappointment was when the converted Scrooge passed a church on Christmas Day without entering himself.
Jim Carrey is at his flexible best in “A Christmas Carol” he scowls as the curmudgeonly Scrooge, is sprightly and winsome as the Ghost of Christmas Past, and laughs uproariously as the Ghost of Christmas Present. His personality is a varied as his characters, yet does not overpower them. Thanks to Carey’s physicality, Scrooge is dramatically overwhelmed by the powers of the spirits, who remind him that there is a world where money has no power. Colin Firth is charming as Scrooge’s nephew, adding an authentic accent to the film.

Beautiful orchestration weaves together favorite Christmas carols, and keep the fantasy alive. The credits roll with a new Christmas song sung by Andrea Boccelli, helping to make this film a new Christmas classic.
The teenagers who accompanied me took turns hiding their eyes from and laughing at the up-close-and-personal ghosts, enjoyed the 3-D which gave them the feeling of actually flying. They loved it.

As long as you do not bring children who could be frightened by the larger than life ghosts, this is the family film to ring in the Christmas season. Some immodest dress and a slightly provocative dancer. No language. Brief violence and frightening scenes.

My review is also up at Mercatornet.

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