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Sunday, November 1, 2009

DISNEY'S A CHRISTMAS CAROL

By D.E.Levine

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writers: Robert Zemeckis (screenplay) and Charles Dickens (novel)
Cast: Jim Carey, Steve Valentine, Daryl Sabara, Sage Ryan, Ryan Ochoa, Bobbi Page, Ron Bottitta, Sami Hanratty, Julian Holloway, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Cary Elwes, Robin Wright Penn, Bob Hoskins, Jacquie Barnbrook, Leslie Manville, Molly C. Quinn, Fay Masterson, Leslie Zemeckis, Paul Blackthorne, Michael Hyland, Kerry Hoyt, Julene Renee, Fionnula Flanagan, Raymond Ochoa, Callum Blue, Matthew Henerson, Amber Gainey Meade, Aaron Rapke, Sonje Fortag
Producers: Jack Rapke, Steve Starkey and Robert Zemeckis
Associate Producers: Katherine C. Concepcion and Heather Smith
Original Music: Alan Silvestri
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Fantasy, Capture Animation

This is a story that is visually stunning but in the translation to new technology loses the heart of the original novella.

It isn't "A Christmas Carol". Now it's "Disney's A Christmas Carol" and it has been subjected to the latest and greatest in digital technology.

While making the film breathtaking with special effects, the transition changes the essence of the underlying message since the emotional meaning of the film is subjugated to technological sleights of hand.

We must remember that Dickens wrote an unforgettable horror tale about miserly Ebernezer Scrooge's night of being assaulted in his own bedroom by the menancing spirits of his long-dead business partner Marley and three others.

With clanking chains they take him through his past, present and future life, exposing his misanthropic nature and his miserly manner.

When asked for a donation for the poor and the orphaned he asks "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?" That stinginess and prevailing social atitutude is as frightening as the visions he sees and the voices he hears during his night of terror.

Dicken's tale is a dark and forboding look at Scrooge's soul. It is an examination of how emotions can get trampled and stunted but it is also a story of redemption when Scrooge learns that life is richer and better when with empathy and affection he opens his life to others and is rewarded with joy beyond anything he's previously known.

The Disney version is true to the original story with text being identical to the novella, but using the latest in 3D digital technology, motion picture capture and computer animation Zemeckis has made the film his own and in some ways changed the story's impact.

The use of animation and advanced technology allows the star-filled cast to play multiple parts since only their characters, not the actors themselves, are seen on screen.

However, the use of motion capture, distorted faces and figures, plus exaggerated body language, make the characters into caricatures.

Because Dickens created prototypical or classic characters, turning them into caricatures detracts from them and from the overall tale.

In the original novella, Tiny Tim is an important character representing the true spirit and true message of the book. In Disney's film Tiny Tim seems like a relatively unimportant character because his character never embraces the far flung exploits made possible by technology.

The third of Zemeckis's motion capture animated films, it is better than either Polar Express or Beowulf. The voice work is excellent, Victorian London has been designed remarkably well and the animated figures look very much like the actors who do their voices.

However, the heart and emotion that I still feel when watching the 1951 Alistair Sim version is missing when I watch this latest effort. At some points it's almost like watching a video game rather than a film.

The viewer is never as emotionally involved with Scrooge and the other characters as with the characters in the preceding films.

Still, this is a not to be missed film that will keep children enchanted and a bit scared, while offering adults a look at the latest advances in digital technology, motion capture and animation.