Format: Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Written by: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright Penn, Cary Elwes
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Review by: Bill Jones
A Christmas Carol has been adapted countless times in various formats by various artists. Disney’s latest attempt at keeping the Charles Dickens classic relevant for modern audiences may be the most technologically advanced of the bunch, but despite its visual prowess and stellar performances by its actors, the elements don’t do the story service, and fail to reinvigorate the tale to justify the latest attempt.
For those unfamiliar with the classic tale, Scrooge (Jim Carrey) is a penny-pinching businessman who spits in the face of Christmas cheer, works his single employee, Bob Cratchit (Gary Oldman), to the bone, and turns away the remnants of his family by dismissing his nephew, Fred (Colin Firth). But then he is visited by three ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, who show him both better and worse times and what will become of him if he continues down the same path.
Writer and director Robert Zemeckis tried to spice up the tale visually by motion-capturing actors’ performances and animating those performances beautifully. Furthermore, in theaters he added a notable 3D element to the film. But the flair actually distracts from what is important about the story more than aiding it. The major themes of generosity, plight and redemption are overshadowed by the nonsense littering the screen.
And the performances, while incredible, give the actors a little too much leeway to experiment. As a result, Jim Carrey leaves audiences with one of the creepiest versions of the Ghost of Christmas Past they will ever see. The tone of the film also strikes an odd chord, being a little too brutal for young audiences, and still too outlandish to be taken seriously by anyone older. The craft of the actors and filmmakers is evident, but there is little emotion communicated to audiences though it.
While Zemeckis may have received praise for his overt use of 3D in the theatrical realm, on home video it just goes to shows why many directors play it safe and reserve 3D technology to add depth to the scenes, rather than jump out of the screens. Disney offers a 3D combo package of the film, but for those who have not upgraded to the high-priced technology, A Christmas Carol can be a weird experience on account of 3D gimmicks failing to translate to the 2D realm.
The film otherwise looks stellar in high-definition, and the sound mix is solid for surround systems. The combo pack’s standout special feature is “Behind the Carol: The Full Motion Capture Experience.” The picture-in-picture mode lets viewers see any scene that features a character through the lenses of the cameras that captured their performances before animation. The mode allows viewers to switch back and forth between which version of the feature is shown in full screen and which is in the picture box.
It also offers an optional Robert Zemeckis audio commentary. Unfortunately, this is a mix of quality, technical information, and Zemeckis simply touting his abilities and those of his actors, going as far to say that this version of A Christmas Carol will be the quintessential one for this generation. Hmm.
The extras are rounded out by “Countdown to Christmas Interactive Calendar,” “Capturing Dickens: A Novel Retelling,” “On Set with Sammi” and deleted scenes. The calendar is similar to a day-by-day Advent calendar, only instead of chocolates viewers are treated to silly digital goodies. “Capturing Dickens” is better avoided, as its narrator is more of a ham than it is worth.
Overall, the quality of the Blu-ray is solid, and the full-length motion capture extra is fantastic. But it is lacking in terms of other quality extras, and the quality of Disney’s A Christmas Carol is one of the worst adaptations of the story in recent memory. The 3D gimmick doesn’t translate well to home video, and Disney has opted not to provide a free digital copy as with past company releases, instead now charging (discounted rates) for online streaming options. It’s a small step backwards for the company, and a weak release all around.
For more info, http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/achristmascarol
Pads & Panels received a copy of the Blu-ray courtesy of the studio for review purposes.