A Chradvent Carolendar #24: A Christmas Carol (2009)

Prominent anti-vaxxer and comedian Jim Carrey plays the most hideous Ebenezer Scrooge yet in Robert Zemeckis’ 2009 CGI fucksterpiece.

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Look at this not quite stylised but not quite realistic mess. We skip the opening narration in favour of a scene where Scrooge signs Marley’s death certificate. They make such a fucking deal out of Scrooge tipping the undertaker that it physically pains him. And me.

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You look at these two and tell me it doesn’t look like a shitty PS2 cutscene. 

Boom! Sweeping CGI shots of London!

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Get used to those.

Some callbacks to the 1935 version (!!!) with the mayor’s feast and the children outside begging for scraps.

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This was the first 3D film I ever saw in the cinema (Avatar completely passed me by) and the film continually reminds us that with a series of gratuitous shots that will never, ever be seen in 3D again by anyone.

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Gratuitous is probably a word I’m going to be coming a back to a lot today as there is no better way to convey now needlessly bloated this all is. It’s actually quite faithful to the Dickens – it might be one of the most faithful so far – but pointless CGI action chase sequences and indulgent performances from Jim Carrey make it basically worthless as an adaptation of A Christmas Carol.

Bob looks SO UGLY. And why is he SO SMALL?2009xg

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Either go highly stylised or ultra realistic. Make up your mind! Anything inbetween is gonna look garbage. Did Polar Express have this same problem? I don’t know, I haven’t seen it. Sound off in the comments.

Fred is played by Colin Firth. He looks like Colin Firth in a way that just meets the benchmark for “unsettling”.

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Scrooge heads off home to his mansion.

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Why does Scrooge choose to live alone in a huge house? Surely a miser wouldn’t want to pay a cleaning lady when he could be living in a smaller place and do it himself. Some versions explain this away by saying that he inherited it from Marley but, even then, a good businessman would’ve sold it on. What need has he for it? It must cost a fortune in heating. 

In versions where he’s not a miser and just ideologically predisposed to hate giving money away this is fine; but here it is not. 

We don’t get a knob transition. Just a cut away and cut back. Interesting decision for a cartoon where there are limitless possibilities but I like how it’s underplayed. They blew their wad on the rest of the ghosts I guess.

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There is a place for CGI in this story. The ghosts are an obvious choice, but making a comedy scene out of Marley using his hand to make his chin flap up and down isn’t one of them. It’s like the film has to constantly justify itself as a cartoon. “We can” doesn’t mean “we should”. This whole scene plays out like something out of Resident Evil.

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Let’s talk a bit about Jim Carrey. Jim plays all three of the ghosts AND Scrooge through motion capture and voice. You can see his face is literally just superimposed over a lit candle for the Ghost of Christmas Past whom he gives a Northern Irish accent. Jim Carrey is a comedian, not an actor, a good comedian, but a few films aside doesn’t really change that. This is going to sound incredibly wanky and drama school-y but he’s not playing Scrooge for truth, he’s playing him for laughs and as a result the performance suffers. Remember when Michael Caine said he wanted to play Scrooge totally straight as if there were no muppets around him at all? The spirit here does a weird little shuffle back and forth here which is very out of character and was clearly just Carrey messing around in front of the green screen. 

Carrey has described the film as “a classical version of A Christmas Carol […] There are a lot of vocal things, a lot of physical things, I have to do. Not to mention doing the accents properly, the English, Irish accents […] I want it to fly in the UK. I want it to be good and I want them to go, ‘Yeah, that’s for real.’ We were very true to the book. It’s beautiful. It’s an incredible film.”

I’m sorry, Jim. Scrooge is a slight variation on your Count Olaf, Past is just a whispery Northern Irish accent and Present is… well…

Another zoomy scene on their way Back to the Past.

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Why is Fan so small? Why does everyone look like a potato?

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The same actress who plays Fan, Robin Wright, also plays Belle because why would you need to cast two female actors?

Scrooge tries to extinguish the spirit with his cap as he does in the book but is blasted off into space like a rocket!2009xm.png

You have verbatim extracts from the book followed by shit like this. I’m reminded of That Classic Simpsons Quote:

“So, you want a realistic, down-to-Earth show, that’s completely off the wall and swarming with magic robots?”

“Yes” ~ Robert Zemeckis (presumably) (not appearing in The Simpsons)

The Ghost of Christmas Present is another Jim Carrey motion capture with a bad northern accent that’s also a bit Scottish.

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Things that this film does that I like #1: Present shows Scrooge visions by moving the floor around London and making furniture fly across the room.

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Why is Martha Cratchit so huge?

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 The more I watch the more I realise it might be one of the ugliest animated movies I’ve ever seen, though it still doesn’t hold a candle to Foodfight!.

Oh, we’re doing Ignorance and Want here? Ok.

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Their reveal is instantly ruined by one of them saying “naff off” in the most cockney accent imaginable.

Present dies needlessly dramatically here. He grips his chest, falls to the ground and laughs as his corpse turns grey, then white, then all his flesh is stripped off. 

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Meanwhile, Ignorance and Want go crazy, aging up instantly and assaulting Scrooge, throwing his “are there no prisons? are there no workhouses” line back in his face as the camera swings around him wildly.

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It’s all frenetic and pointless and needlessly excessive. This is The Phantom Menace of A Christmas Carol. It’s so obsessed with showing off what it can do it completely neglects all the reasons why it should want to be doing it in the first place.

The Future ghost is the most headache inducing extreme of this. He starts off quietly, as Scrooge’s shadow, occasionally pointing at things. But then we get a full action scene where Scrooge is chased by a wild CGI hearse, catches and rolls a barrel on his feet, shrinks down and climbs through a sewer pipe, is sent flying on a whiskey bottle at max speed across the street, slides down a drain and rides an icicle straight into Old Joe’s, where we meet these Eldritch horrors. 

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No time for talk! Scrooge and a nearby rat are attacked with a hammer. Old Joe uproots his floors as both cackle in glee.

This is the only adaptation where we see the young couple grateful that Scrooge died so they don’t have to repay their debts. 

Things that this film does that I like #2: The Future ghost slowly reveals Scrooge’s name and death date on the gravestone in time with the music. It’s very tense, even if the rest of the scene is over complicated with way too much CGI action nonsense.

Scrooge wakes up redemption blah blah blah. The only things to note here are that Scrooge sends both the poultrer AND the boy outside his window off to deliver the turkey to the Cratchits. Why? That poor boy doesn’t live anywhere near Camden Town.

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Scrooge goes to Fred’s house for dinner and nervously waits outside. He comes in the second his name is about to be revealed as part of Fred’s mean party game. Nice touch. Thing I like #3.

Then it’s the end. After being given a raise, Bob Cratchit turns to the camera and starts narrating. 

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Far more terrifying than any spirit.

Faithful to the original in content, but so, so weak in execution. A huge budgeted Disney animated film could’ve done so much with A Christmas Carol but it’s uncanny valley effect and weird, out of place humour makes it a really unsettling watch. 

4 1/2 completely underused Colin Firths out of 10


Well my lovelies, we did it. I made it through the month without dying (superficially). Advent may be over, but Chradvent is not. Chradvent will return once more tomorrow for a big finale as… A Chrischradvent Carolenday*.

*raincheck on the name

One thought on “A Chradvent Carolendar #24: A Christmas Carol (2009)

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