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“A Christmas Carol” - (2009 - CGI version) {Blu-ray}
Wayne Klein
Studio: Disney Home Video
Release Date:
Special Features:

Production featurettes, Interactive Christmas Calendar, Picture-in-Picture Commentary by the director, second disc with standard DVD.


We’ve had so many film versions of “A Christmas Carol” that all I have to say about the new CGI version by Robert Zemeckis is “bah humbug”! Retold countless times in a variety of formats, “A Christmas Carol” has worn out its welcome. It’s message may be redemption but in these times it seems to me the redemption of Scrooge is too easily earned. Hopefully someday we’ll come up with something as uplifting as “A Christmas Carol” that will actually make us as a society do some good for those who are homeless and work like Bob Cratchit in what only be termed today “a hostile work environment”. ***

It’s not that Zemeckis’ movie is bad—it’s just that we’ve seen it all before and, in some cases, told much better. Every generation needs to reinvent old myths, legends and stories but, at some point, it’s worthwhile to come up with something original. Zemeckis’ film is a sure thing because of the story it is adapted from and because audiences have trekked to various versions over the years. It would be far more interesting if it were actually daring, different and original. ***

That said, Zemeckis’ “A Christmas Carol” manages to be entertaining so boring the audience is one sin that Zemeckis doesn’t commit and he does have a talented cast even if they are all playing well within their comfort zones. Jim Carrey plays Scrooge while Gary Oldman tackles the smaller oles of Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit and Marley. It’s with Marley that Oldman has the most fun since he gets to play Scrooge’s old partner now long dead and a ghost to boot who tries to show Scrooge the error of his ways before death claims him condemning him to an afterlife of regret. Robin Wright appears as Belle the one woman to warm Scrooge’s heart and one of the reasons his heart turned as cold as ice and Bob Hoskins appears in the role of Fezziwig. ***

The good and bad news is that Zemeckis doesn’t take much liberty with Dickens’ story and, as great as it is, creative interpretation is what has often made retelling a familiar tale worthwhile. I doubt that Carrey’s fine performance will make anyone (who knows) forget George C. Scott’s interpretation in the 1984 TV movie or even Bill Murray’s bizarre take on the character with “Scrooged” which, if it didn’t completely work, had the audacity to take the story in new, unexplored directions but he is quite good nevertheless. Zemeckis does tackle the darker hues that were often ignored in previous versions on film and that does give his film a bit more character than most versions of the story and kudos to him for not taking the completely worn path that has highlighted just about every version over the years. ***

Zemeckis film still suffers from the “dead eye” look that characterizes most motion capture CGI projects but the design and look of the film is quite handsome and imaginative throughout almost as if to make up for the rather pedestrian telling of the story. ---

Image & Sound:

Fans of the film should note that there are two version floating around out there; a conventional Blu-ray and a 3D Blu-ray. My review is on the conventional presentation as I’m not completely convinced that I really want to wear 3D glasses and want to purchase all the need gear necessary for 3D TV. Quite honestly, in this economy it seems a bit irresponsible and, perhaps, indulgent to be releasing new technologies and, much worse, buying it when there are people begging for food on street corners or dying when their head is being turned off. I’d also like to see where this technology is going before wasting a large sum of money on it (i.e., into the junk heap beside HD-DVD or the treasure pile that characterized DVD and, to some degree, Blu-ray). ***

The presentation of “A Christmas Carol” is very nice with a top notch high def transfer that uses an AVC MPEG-4 codec. The good news is that this means that the presentation is smooth, with sharp detail, colors that pop and surprisingly strong depth. This may not be a 3D presentation but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t the strong sense of depth one sees in a terrific theatrical presentation of a movie. Black levels are outstanding throughout ***

Audio sounds equally impressive with a wonderfully active and detailed 5.1 Lossless soundtrack. ---

Special Features:

The good news is that all of the bonus features are in high def the bad news is that some of the bonus features are pure fluff. ***

“Behind the Carol” focuses on the motion capture work and allows you to see picture-in-picture presentation of the original footage along with commentary by director Robert Zemeckis. ***

“Capturing Dickens” focuses on what Zemeckis hoped to achieve in this retelling and also features the actors discussing their roles. It’s primarily fluff with little substance. ***

“Countdown to Christmas Interactive Calender” is pure fluff using Java (which slows down a lot of BD players). I (and my kids) could have done without it. ***

“On Set with Sammi” serves up one of the girls did the motion capture acting in the film and she takes us around the “set” and shows how the motion capture work is modified. ***

We get six deleted scenes in various states of completion and a video introduction by the director with the latter, again, falling into the unnecessary fluff area. You probably will watch the intro one time—maybe. ***

Disney has also provided us with a second disc with the film on DVD. While many people feel this is silly it’s nice to have if you want to play this in the car to keep the kids quiet on long holiday drives, or if the kids want to watch the movie in their room while you’re busy playing Santa for your spouse in the privacy of your bedroom. ---

Final Words:

Although a bit short on meaningful bonus material, most folks won’t care as even if the story doesn’t take very many imaginative twists, you will get sucked into the film due to the lovely design and CGI rendering of the film. Personally, I’d glad to hear that Zemeckis is returning to live action movies as he is a talented director and while motion capture CGI has been a fascinating area to watch blossom, I believe he’s become somewhat stagnant because of all the time he’s spend in directing in an “animated” world vs. the real one. The film is entertaining and, again, ultimately that’s its goal so it’s worth a rental maybe even a blind purchase.


Copyright @ Teakwood Productions 2000
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