I took a fair amount of criticism around this time last year for my originally review of Robert Zemeckis’ A Christmas Carol, which I liked very much on its cinematic release. I found it was as far removed from a Disney take on the tale (as it had been billed) as it was had been sold, save for the occasional sojourn into a mini-theme park ride.
Instead, Zemeckis tapped into Dickens’ novel and went dark, bleak and often really quite scary. It’s certainly a film that didn’t suit a very young family audience, I thought back then, and there’s little to change my mind on rewatching the Blu-ray.
And I also stand by much of what I thought then. I’m not a massive fan of the performance capture approach that Zemeckis has taken here, mainly because there are moments here that simply don’t seem to need it. I still have a bit of an old-fashioned liking of proper actors, without them hiding behind a computer-generated veneer.
But what I do like is the traditional horror movie approach that’s taken with the film, not least the terrific use of sound, and the selective implementation of silence. It adds a tension to the film that really helps when Zemeckis takes things to darker places, and the film as a whole is strongly directed.
The missteps, for me, come with the identity crisis of doing such a crossover between Dickens and Disney. The two, simply, don’t fit together very well, and as such, you get Jim Carrey playing multiple characters (very well, to be fair), quite brilliant, but oddly out of place soaring through the sky sequences, and moments of jolliness that don’t sit quite so easily with the journey that Scrooge has to go on.
For it’s when focusing firmly on Scrooge, as most of the film rightly does, that A Christmas Carol hits top gear, being about as faithful to the source novel as any adaptation before it. It remains, for me, a compelling film. It’s just not one, as Disney may like, to crack out and watch with the kids every year.
One reason you will be reaching for the disc regularly, though, is to salivate over the presentation of the film. This is, for me, as stunning a Blu-ray for picture quality and sound as any other that I have. Granted, animated movies in any digital form have an inherent advantage here, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that A Christmas Carol looks and sounds glorious.
The extras package isn’t bad, either. The highlight of the extras, many of which are fairly routine, is the documentary that digs into the performance capture techniques of the movie. It’s really interesting, and I’d have liked a lot more along these lines.
Nonetheless, even with what you get, this is a strong release of a film that’s yet to be fully appreciated. It might not swing you over to the virtues of performance capture, but it is a strong, well executed piece of storytelling nonetheless.