Scrooge 6: Disney’s A Christmas Carol

A_Christmas_Carol 2009

Trailer:

 

Cast

  • Jim Carrey as:
    • Ebenezer Scrooge
    • Ghost of Christmas Past
    • Ghost of Christmas Present
    • Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
  • Gary Oldman as:
    • Bob Cratchit
    • Jacob Marley
    • Tiny Tim
    • Tim’s voice is provided by Ryan Ochoa.
  • Colin Firth as Fred
  • Bob Hoskins as:
    • Mr. Fezziwig
    • Old Joe
  • Robin Wright Penn as:
    • Belle
    • Fan Scrooge
  • Cary Elwes as:
    • Dick Wilkins.
    • Mad Fiddler
    • Businessman #1
    • Guest #2
    • Portly Gentleman #1

I already mentioned in my ‘Family Movies I Like that Others Do Not’ post that the Disney 2009 version of a Christmas Carol I really enjoy even though many others do not.  Hopefully here I can explain a little bit more thoroughly why it works for me even if it is not perfect.

Differences-

The biggest difference is this is the only stop motion animated version so it has the feel of an animated film with the realism of live action.  For what is basically a ghost story I think it works very well.

flyingI think shots like this are beautiful

flying2

I love the scenes where we are flying through London although some go on a bit too long (As I have said I have a weakness for characters flying in movies.  I almost always love it) .The colors are bright and the way it uses shadows and light is very beautiful.

Another big difference is this version tries to stay extremely close to the text.  There are passages such as the men joyfully shoveling snow off the rooftops that is almost never included but it is here.

snow shoveling

I also love in that same scene when they are flying past a steeple and cross we hear ‘hark the herald angels sing’ and Scrooge (in a direct quote from the book) justifies his lack of faith in Christ by asking the spirit about poor people on the sabbath day. (the same man who suggested workhouses and prisons is condemning the church for being closed on sabbath day! See he’s rationalized his lack of need for faith and Christ’s grace. It reminds me of how the Pharisee’s question Christ in the Bible)

““You would deprive them of their means of dining every seventh day, often the only day on which they can be said to dine at all,” said Scrooge. “Wouldn’t you?”

cross

I have never seen a version that includes this but it is crucial to understanding the message I believe Dickens meant behind the story that not just shutting out Christmas, but rationalizing away Christ made Scrooge cold.

sabbath

The Spirit says in response

““There are some upon this earth of yours,” returned the Spirit, “who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.”

That is such an important moment in the story and almost never included.

Anyway, other differences is that 6 actors portray most of the characters Jim Carrey ( who plays Scrooge remarkably straight), Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright Penn and Cary Elwes. All are very good in their differing roles. bellecratchit 2009fred 2009

Another difference is it sticks close to the book in its portrayal of Scrooge.  I went back and read the novella before starting the project and there is absolutely no attempt by Dickens to soften Scrooge or make him sarcastic.  I don’t mind when versions do this but it is not canon.  Listen to how Dickens describes Scrooge:

” Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.”

sinner scrooge

I mean the rooms get colder when he enters.  He is a “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner” (again making the religious fall a part of his bitterness and anger).  I actually think this version captures that Scrooge extremely well.

It is perhaps a more enjoyable movie when we think of it as telling a ghost story and less of a Christmas story.  They include Marley’s jaw coming off and ignorance and want is dark and quite scary.

marley teeth

Strengths- As I said the closeness to the book is a real strength.  I also like the performances and I know some hate the stop motion look but I think it is beautiful.  The music by Alan Silvestri is wonderful including the closing credits song by Andrea Boceli- God Bless Us Everyone.

I wish more people had seen it because I would have loved to see what Zemeckis could have done with other classic stories like Jane Eyre using this medium.

There are many moments which the film gets right that few do.

I love that it is Tiny Tim’s declaration of Christ that first moves Scrooge.  Nothing else has but as soon as he hears Bob talk of Tim he worries and begins to feel again.

“Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.”

"DISNEY'S A CHRISTMAS CAROL"

A lot of versions skip over this line trying to appeal to those of all faith but it is a loss in my opinion because can a nice pleasant holiday really be enough to get someone to change?  No it is a higher religious conversion, a higher meaning to life and goodness, that  prompts Scrooge to repent his ways.

past 2009

I also like the way the appearance of all 3 spirits is very close to the descriptions in the book. This and the Muppets I believe come closest to the ethereal quality of Past.  He looks like a candle, which is creative.

The ending is good when Scrooge see’s his body on the bed and is desperate for some sense of feeling at this death.  Then we see the couple who is grateful the death gives them more time to pay back their loan (something often skipped) and then the Cratchit’s mourning the loss of Tim.

Weaknesses- Trying no doubt to appease modern viewers they do spend a bit too long in segments zipping through London.  Particularly at the end when they are chased by black horses carrying a hearse it goes on too long and gets old.  I typically fast forward that segment.

Also I don’t see why for the pawn shop scene Scrooge needs to be shrunken down with a high pitched voice.  Another ploy I suppose to appease modern viewers.

It can be pretty dark and scary for kids so it will depend on your child’s tolerance for those kinds of films.  The scene where Present dies is like no other version.  It is very scary but I think it is cool.  Like I said if you look at it as a ghost story (which it is)  like Corpse Bride or something like that than it is less upsetting. But it is the area where the movie takes chances.  It embraces Christmas Carol as the ‘scary ghost stories and tales of the glory of Christmases long, long ago’.

And I know for some who aren’t as in love with the book as I am the strict adherence may be a problem. They want a more nuanced, softer Scrooge than the book gives us.  It quotes a lot from the text and makes no attempt like in Muppets or other versions to explain things in a modern way.

So all in all, I know it isn’t perfect but I really like it.  It’s a definite part of my holiday viewing and I appreciate all the hard work which went into making it accurate, heart felt and visually captivating.  Others do not care for it but that’s their opinion and this is mine. 🙂