Review: A Christmas Carol Not Merry Enough

The old aphorism goes "don't throw out the baby with the bathwater," but the makers of the latest iteration of A Christmas Carol have flipped the script; they've created a film that looks amazing and combined it with an appalling lack of story. In essence they've provided a lovely, piping hot bath, all the while forgetting to actually place the dirty baby into it. We're left with only a dirty baby. Who needs that?

Jim Carrey plays the iconic Ebenezer Scrooge, the miserly and miserable man to be visited by the Ghosts of:

Christmas Past (played by Jim Carrey)

Christmas Present (played by Jim Carrey)

Christmas Future (played by Jim Carrey)

If I were in charge of the Screen Actors Guild I'd immediately look into why Jim Carrey was needed to fill so many roles. Were no other actors available? If this sort of thing continues we'll be left with only Jim Carrey films, the extras filled out by Jim Carrey in a green screen suit via CGI, chairs with "Jim Carrey" stenciled on them littering the set. Worrisome.

On a more positive front, the movie is rendered in gorgeous 3-D, and when there is movement onscreen it feels like an amusement park ride. You whoosh through the streets of old England and you see layers of snowflakes, each with a different depth, fall on the character's noses. But talk about sound and fury signifying nothing; with each moment of visual wonder you're left pondering why so little attention was paid to dialogue, pacing, and entertainment. Why go to the trouble of making something beautiful when it's devoid of any semblance of a soul?

An example of the problems facing A Christmas Carol comes in the form of The Ghost of Christmas Present (Jim Carrey). TGoCP meets Scrooge and attempts to show him the error of his mean-spirited ways. No, perhaps that's too kind. What really happens is that TGoCP laughs and laughs, like a fiend, while Scrooge looks on, slightly worried. Laughing manically isn't really a dynamic story element, it's more of a time-filler, but it's what we're left with where The Ghost of Christmas Present is concerned. The Ghost of Christmas Past is probably the best of the bunch, but far too much time is spent in silence (attempting to set "mood," I guess?) while we, the audience, wait for something to happen. The Christmas Carol tale has been told better in black-and-white, by Bill Murray, and by The Muppets.

I also question the intended audience and MPAA rating presented here. The film is rated PG, but I don't think I'd take youngsters anywhere near this. There are laughing skulls, overt and morbid overtones, and very little in the way of redemption. Chances are the kids will like the "ride-like" parts and find themselves either confused or scared by the rest.

Adults will have a better time; the narrative of treating people better (or else) is certainly a welcome one, and if nothing else you'll appreciate the art that went into the making of A Christmas Carol. But if Pixar is the best in the business (and they are) it's because they put story first and "looking cool" second. If Dreamworks is second best in the business (and they are) it's because they put comedy first and CGI second. This version of A Christmas Carol has very little story and even less Christmas cheer -- not exactly the sort of film I'd encourage urge people to see. See it for the artistry if you must, but stow your expectations of a full-fledged film. Sorry, dirty baby!

Grade: C