Critics get accused of being biased about certain movies. There are some we pretty much know we’re going to dislike.
Chop and slash flicks come to mind for me. High-school movies packed with pimpled kids full of angst rank right up there. I do — however — give all of them a fair shot and have even been known to like some.
Bias is important to my review of A Christmas Carol. Charles Dickens’ classic tale of greed and redemption is my all-time favorite story. Going in I know no matter how much it sucks, I’m going to rank it high.
Doing this incredible story correctly is a challenge — even for an A-list director and writer such as Robert Zemeckis. Outside of The Count of Monte Cristo, it may be the most filmed classic story of all time. Dickens’ lesson on the human condition has been done several dozen times for the big screen and for TV. Maybe hundreds of times. Everyone from the former Fonz — Henry Winkler — to the Muppets have done one.
Jim Carrey does Ebenezer Scrooge and the voices of ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. He’s joined in the journey by acting great Gary Oldman who does Bob Cratchit and a few other vocal chores, Cary Elwes, Robin Wright Penn, Colin Firth and Bob Hoskins.
Carrey’s ability to do a variety of voices borders on genius, but its forced to stick to a strict script. And so the energy is sucked out of his performance, taking away the zing that only Carrey’s exceptional ad-libbing skill can add to a script.
A Christmas Carol is almost impossible to ruin. Though I give Zemeckis and Carrey an “A” for effort, I find myself loath to say Zemeckis 3-D version comes closer to irreparably ripping the fabric of the story to shreds than any in recent memory. For a major motion picture done by a director who should take the concept to a whole new level, Zemeckis’ film sucks almost as badly as the Bill Murray 1988 bomb Scrooged.
Zemeckis tears Dickens’ words from the pages of his novel and inserts them into his script nearly verbatim. He just doesn’t tear out enough of them. Zemeckis puts a few scenes in about Scrooge’s youth but fails to define the events that turned Scrooge into Scrooge. Instead, we get endless and technically gorgeous scenes where Scrooge and the creative companion ghosts are whipped willy-nilly across the countryside.
Like Zemeckis did with his equally lame 3-D enhanced The Polar Express and Beowulf, in an effort to stun the senses with most amazing effects and powerful 3D images, Zemeckis forgets that Dickens’ novel is about coming to terms with life — past, present and future. His movie has no life. No emotion. No connection to Scrooge or, the ever patient, always loving and kind, Bob Cratchit and his son Tiny Tim.
Not to anyone. And worse — not to you. Yes — I am giving A Christmas Carol a high rating. It is technical perfection and brilliantly done. However, I am very disappointed. By the time the credits roll, it is too much Zemeckis, too much Carrey. Not enough Dickens.
Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars
Rated PG for mature themes. It opens Friday, Nov. 6 at the Carmike 12 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.