Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Christmas Carol in 3-D

How do I even start this? First, let’s look at a few facts; In the past I have acted in a professional rendition of A Christmas Carol, I have worked in the technical department of the professional version no less than 5 times, I have seen at least 3 versions of the play, have seen a different rendition of the movie at least seven times, and have read the book once. All that to say, and please excuse the sacrilegious comment here, I have hated the story, never got anything out of it, seen very little value in the story, haven’t understood it, and been rather bored with this classic from Charles Dickens. That is until today, today I had the opportunity to see the new Disney animated 3-D rendition starring Jim Carrey. Today I saw something that reminded me of the classics of Disney when I was a child, an experience I haven’t had from Disney this powerful since The Lion King, and Beauty and the Beast, in fact, I would say that for the first time in a long time, I got to experience what some of us who are older used to call Disney Magic.

Few films come about that are deserving of being called Epic or Classic. I think the last Christmas style story to display this type of character was The Polar Express. Thankfully, I had the chance prior to the start of this Christmas season another film fitting the mold of The Polar Express when I went to see A Christmas Carol in 3-D.

Most of us are familiar with the story of Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. In this classic story Ebenezer is an old geezer who has no respect for Christmas, what it stands for, or the people around him. Some seven years later, after the death of his coworker Marley, performed by Gary Oldman, he is visited on Christmas Eve by the Ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present, and The Ghost of Christmas Future. He sees his life in a different light and is challenged to do something with it. In many ways, Scrooge is one who represents all of us, all of us who go through life not enjoying life in the fullness life has to offer, including the benefits of a faith where we see others as valuable and deserving of love, love that goes beyond words, love that is moved and motivated by action.

Technically from the exceptional sound to animation, A Christmas Carol is BRILLIANT! Not only is it brilliant technically though, Jim Carrey is exceptional and if awards or nominations could be given for acting in an animated feature, he is deserving of it. Frankly I think Jim Carrey does such an exceptional job in this movie that he should be considered for nomination in major awards. If the animation team could also be considered for the life they give to the characters in this movie, they should also be considered. The life like qualities given to the characters in this film are second to none of any animation I have ever seen, in any style, in any form. Carrey takes on the role of numerous characters in the film, but leave no doubt about it, Ebenezer Scrooge is the character to watch. The work of the animation team is the work to enjoy and admire.

One of the extremely enjoyable components about the film version I saw was the 3-D effects. While a great many 3-D effects in movies go for scare and jump tactics, Disney in their brilliance used the effect to draw the viewer into the story, there are virtually no jump effects in the film, but for the first time, it was as if I was in the film, witnessing the story first hand. From the incredible scenery, to the beautiful characters that fill the screen, the 3-D isn’t just a gimmick here, it is a beautiful part of the story. One of the other things that frankly surprised me was the Disney dedication to telling the story in its original form, being true to the original style, language and concept. Jim Carrey brings the characters to life and the animation and direction brings the audience into the story. A story that for me, for the first time, had me understanding this annual classic.

Charles Dickens was a deeply religious man whose Christian faith was vitally important to him. This version of The Christmas Carol holds true to showing the concepts that are deeply rooted in Spiritual concepts and for me, the change in the life of Ebenezer Scrooge that we see take place is deeply emotional. I have to tell you, I even teared up with joy for the change in life that takes place in Ebenezer. While many still focus on the character of Scrooge and his “bah-humbug” approach, this movie illustrates in a beautiful way the drastic and dramatic change that takes place in the life of Ebenezer, not only does he notice it though, so do those around him. In many ways, he reminds me of the character in the Bible, Zacchaeus, his life is changed and an indication of that life change is his willingness to give massive amounts of money to the poor, and those he has wronged. We see Christian concepts revealed from the songs that are true to the Christian tradition of Christmas to the imagery of crosses, the church, and even what many would consider to be concepts of God displayed in the three ghosts that visit Ebenezer. From the Holy Fire of the Holy Spirit in The Ghost of Christmas Past, to the kingship and attitude of Jesus for the Ghost of Christmas Present and the ultimate judgment rendered by God in the Ghost of Christmas Future. The imagery intended by Dickens is all there. While many may not recognize it, especially those not looking for them, they are entwined in this story just as much as in stories by C.S. Lewis, Flannery O’Connor and many others.

While I was so impressed with this movie, there was one disappointing attribute. I personally felt Carrey was not nearly as strong in his role as The Ghost of Christmas Present. Frankly this part of the story was a bit of a let down and if the quality of acting given to Ebenezer Scrooge had been given to the Ghost of Christmas Present, this would have not been a very good exceptional film; it would have been a close to perfect film. I really hate to say that because this film is so good, but it is a part of the film that was a let down.

I love Christmas, I love the movies related to Christmas, I have already started watching them and this is one I will watch again. I have always appreciated Jim Carrey, and he gives one stunning performance and Robert Zemeckis in his direction does the Charles Dickens Classic justice. Not only does Zemeckis do it justice though, for me, he brought the story to life for the first time in my many, many experiences. I never expected to tear up, I never expected to think that highly of this film but I did and I personally believe so will the majority of people who see it. That is also true for those like me, who haven’t been impressed with the story in the past. I would say one other thing, if having the opportunity to see this film in 3-D do so, the extra cost is worth it and I don’t think you will be disappointed. You will likely not experience magic like this for the remainder of the Holiday Season.

On a scale of 1 – 10, for a movie as close to perfection as one can get, a very satisfying 9

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