Page 18 THE VILLADOM TIMES II & IV • November 18, 2009 Charles Dickens’ holiday classic gets a new look by Dennis Seuling Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” has been adapted to the screen well over 25 times, if you combine theatrical, TV, and modern versions of the tale of a cold, detached man who learns the spirit of Christmas in one haunted night. The latest adaptation is a 3-D computer generated image version incorporating the technique of image capture, giving the movie the look between animation and live action. Director Robert Zemeckis, who used the technique in “Polar Express” a few years ago, giving that film a sort of creepy look, has taken advantage of improved technology that allows greater facial expression, so the characters look more lifelike. The story is well known. Ebeneezer Scrooge (Jim Carrey) has devoted his life to amassing money at the cost of love and family. He is the antithesis of joy and happiness as he toils away daily in his shop with clerk Bob Cratchit (Gary Oldman) freezing at his station, forbidden to have a proper fire in order to save money on coal. As Scrooge retires to bed one Christmas Eve, he is visited by the ghost of his dead partner, Marley (Oldman again), who warns that Scrooge will be visited by three ghosts who will unfold an overview of Scrooge’s life: past, present, and future. The opening scenes are pure magic as low-soaring views of 19th century London sweep viewers through streets, above buildings, down alleys, and around corners, providing an aerial tour of the city. Then Scrooge unemotionally removes the two pennies the undertaker has placed on dead Marley’s eyes. The visit from Marley’s ghost is one of the film’s best scenes, conjuring up a gruesome, bluish specter laden by chains and weights: the burdens of mankind, as Marley explains. This wonderful opening soon gives way to a showcase of overly busy scenes designed more to show what the filmmakers can do than to serve the plot. There are scenes of Scrooge flying, Superman-like, over buildings, spirited by the Ghost of Christmas Past, and more aerial images shown through the floor of Scrooge’s flying bedroom courtesy of the Ghost of Christmas Present. Transported by the Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-Come, a shrunken Scrooge scampers among cobblestones and slaloms through pipes, turning the film into a Tom & Jerrystyle cartoon. Rather than impress, as the early scenes do, these scenes make the viewer too aware of technique The Ghost of Christmas Present (left) is one of four spirits who visit Ebeneezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve. over story. In addition to voicing Scrooge as an old man, Carrey lends his voice to Scrooge at several other ages and to the three spirits that visit him after Marley warns him of their coming. The Ghost of Christmas Past is depicted as a kind of candle, its head aflame. Traditionally, the role is played by an elderly man with a kind smile. This interpretation is more spectral and interesting. The Ghost of Christmas Present is more traditional, a gigantic, bearded, cloaked, jovial fellow seated atop a huge pile of Christmas presents in a room ablaze with light. This rendering is less successful, as the ghost looks and sounds like a third-rate department store Santa. The Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-Come is rendered as a mere shadow with skeletal hands. This specter and the sequence of Scrooge seeing events of the future should be both disturbing (the fate of Tiny Tim, Cratchit’s son, is revealed) and terrifying (Scrooge sees his own grave stone), but they are not, probably in deference to the movie’s PG rating and the wish not to traumatize a large portion of the target audience. This walking-on-eggshells approach diminishes the story and waters down the impact the ghosts and their images have had on Scrooge. I was disappointed that the scenes of the transformed Scrooge get little screen time. These scenes, in contrast to those of the miserable, misanthrope seen early on, should be exhilarating. More attention here and less time showing off a flying Scrooge would greatly improve the film. The best version of “A Christmas Carol” is still the masterful 1951 British film starring Alastair Sim as Scrooge. That film, and Sim’s superb portrayal, perfectly capture the Dickens’ tale. In fact, at certain points in this new version, Carrey’s Scrooge sounds remarkably like Sim’s. “A Christmas Carol” is suitable for family viewing. Its darker, scarier moments have been softened by Disney, taking away from some of Dickens’ more powerful scenes, but in its present state, it is a pleasant holiday picture. 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