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‘A Christmas Carol’ (2009) by Robert Lee Zemeckis – a movie review

By Beatrice Cargnelutti

Аs the Christmas season has begun, among the several tales defined as ‘timeless’, it is impossible not to mention Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ (1843). Its storyline reaches the soul and warms the heart, and because of its strong impact on the public, it has been adapted into numerous films. This review is on Disney’s animated movie adaptation of 2009, ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Robert Lee Zemeckis.

The plot of the novel the movie is based on is a known to most “evergreen”, but in a nutshell: the old miser and heartless usurer Ebenezer Scrooge, after being visited by three Spirits of Christmas, understands the true essence of Christmas and the importance of doing good to others.

Disturbing and dark, this version of the original novel is not characterized by the usual Christmas idyllic mood, being entirely permeated by the gruesome, with features of a horror film. Victorian London is where the events take place, twisting and stretching its setting to reflect the macabre atmosphere. Therefore, many viewers probably could feel it as being too frightening for a Christmas movie, especially if animated and aimed at a younger audience. But the extreme fidelity to the novel with which the characters and dialogues are portrayed makes it a very successful work, suitable for viewers of all ages, from children who are entering the literary world for the first time to adults nostalgic to see a new adaptation of a classic.

In fact, the movie captures in some ways the essence of Dickens as he merrily exaggerates. He often begins with brave young heroes, surrounding them with a sequence of characters and caricatures. In this case the main character is the caricature himself of the story as Ebenezer Scrooge’s thinness, stooping and bitterness are preponderantly accentuated and emphasized.

In a twinkling part of casting, Jim Carrey animates Scrooge taking on the archetypal role of the latter, serving up a really grumpy and emotional old type, not offering a foregone cartoonish performance at all.

Zemeckis’ film is rich of innumerable details; the soundtrack is touching and overwhelming, the tone is convincing, and the pacing pleasant. The balanced rhythm alternates between the strenuous slowness of some scenes and an intriguing virtuosic dynamism, guiding the viewer through extremely diverse sequences without overly clashing with each other. The film does not fail in the intent it sets out to perpetuate.

The use of the technique of Performance Capture translated into 3-D animation provides a sensational visual experience, with an extremely realistic representation of the different characters, some of whom are performed by the same actor. In fact, Carrey played not only the role of Scrooge but also of all three Christmas ghosts and Gary Oldman acted as Bob Cratchit, Marley and Tiny Tim. The actors are there beneath the performance-capture animation; it is possible to recognize their expressions, but in general the Zemeckis characters don’t resemble their originals excessively, as their facial features are effectively modified and adapted to the characters they perform.

“A Christmas Carol” is a famous classic that is re-proposed countless times each year at this festive season through its many different film adaptations. The 2009 version is one of the most recent and successful, faithfully evoking the atmosphere of Dickens’ novel, allowing the spectators to cathartically identify with the story and make them feel the pure spirit of Christmas.

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