Previous adaptations of Charles Dickens’ festive favourite have boasted Bill Murray, Mickey Mouse and the Muppets. So what does this new Disney version have in its hamper?
Well, it has hi-tech motion capture animation in the vein of director Robert Zemeckis’ earlier Polar Express and Beowulf.
It has tasty-looking 3D visuals that offer a dazzling 360º perspective of Victorian London, viewed from above in swooping, Snowman-style tracking shots. And it has Jim Carrey at the head of a largely home-grown cast, featuring the vocal stylings of Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins and Gary Oldman.
What it doesn’t have is a soul. From the opening scene of Carrey’s Scrooge stealing coins off the eyes of his late business partner’s corpse, this is a chilly, remote experience, filled with unemotive avatars, gloomy candle-lit interiors and ghosts that look like Harry Potter knock-offs. (Christmas Present, a boisterous bearded giant with an Irish accent, is a dead ringer for Hagrid, while Christmas Yet to Come is a Dementor in all but name.)
Comedy is almost non-existent, with Carrey’s mumbling improvisations constantly falling foul of Alan Silvestri’s bombastic score. It’s also really dull, despite elaborate set-pieces that see a nightie-clad Ebenezer rocketed into the upper atmosphere or pursued by a spectral stagecoach.
The latter is beautifully realised, as is the Ghost of Christmas Past – represented here as a fluttering lame-with-a-face that, in one terrific moment, morphs through all of Scrooge’s non-friends and acquaintances. Indeed, you can’t fault the care and craft that have been lavished on every impeccably rendered frame.
Sadly, at no point do you feel that the old miser has endured a redemptive ordeal that’s made him a better and wiser person. He has simply been taken on a theme-park ride that’s no emotional rollercoaster.
A state-of-the-art update that squeezes the lifeblood out of Dickens’ seasonal classic. Motion capture may be good for some things, but here it’s just so much humbug.