It's Disney's Christmas Carol, but director Robert Zemeckis stayed true to the best sentiments of Charles Dickens in this animated version of the classic.
With Jim Carrey voicing Ebenezer Scrooge, the film, which played in 3-D in theaters but not on DVD, is enjoyable, even as it explores the grim pall that hangs over the London of Mr. "Bah! Humbug!"
It's almost impossible to botch Dickens' tale (although Hollywood has tried), but Zemeckis smartly doesn't try to reinvent it. Instead the director uses the wizardry of modern cinema to bring to life the ghosts and spirits and take us whizzing through the Victorian streets and country hillsides and into some of the dark places of the story in a way that only animation can.
Also to Zemeckis' credit, he didn't try to modernize the language or dumb it down for this generation, sticking mostly to Dickens' prose.
Young and old will appreciate Zemeckis' skill. He's been at the forefront of motion-capture technology (The Polar Express, Beowulf), and although the technique has a ways to go, its ability to create expressive features on the characters has come a long way.
Casting Carrey as the miser was a wise move. He knows how to be a clown, but he's a skilled dramatic actor and has a face meant for animation. In Christmas Carol, he is able to give us a glimpse into Scrooge's humanity.
Top-notch actors Colin Firth, as Scrooge's nephew, and Gary Oldman as Bob Cratchit give the film weight and credibility, too.
It seems you can't do a big animated feature without delivering some silly razzle-dazzle, and Disney's Christmas Carol has a few of those moments. Still, we won't begrudge it that. The film is meant as a holiday entertainment, albeit one with a heartfelt and eternally relevant message, and on that it delivers.
Disney's A Christmas Carol retails for $39.99 for a two-disc Blu-ray/ DVD combo.