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A Christmas Carol (2001)

November 22, 2015

A Christmas Carol (2001)
Director: Jimmy T. Murakami
Actors: Simon Callow, Kate Winslet, Nicolas Cage

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Synopsis: Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly, uncharitable man, has his conscience pricked on Christmas Eve night.

Review: This strange hotch-potch of an animation falls between all stools – failing to honour the seasonal elements to this most famous of Christmas fables, while also not really succeeding in its attempts to offer a more original interpretation of its familiar subject matter.

Though the background animation canvases are actually quite impressionistic and painterly (London looks suitably wintry, dingy and Victorian), the 2D character sketches and the way action moves are both extremely mediocre. This extends to the film’s conception of its main character, Ebenezer Scrooge. Although the filmmakers have tried to do something different by making him a middle-aged rather than older man, and in giving him Simon Callow’s very rich, deep and expressionistic voice, it simply doesn’t work. For Scrooge to be miserly and unsympathetic, he needs to be aged, sinewy and thin of voice.

Perhaps the film’s biggest crime is the inclusion of two mice who randomly follow much of the action around in Scrooge’s office then on his various night-time flights. Presumably included to appeal to children, the simple problem is they have no discernible dramatic purpose, and they are not even anthropomorphised, meaning they squeak around a lot…and that’s about it!

On the plus side, the idiosyncratic animation did work for Scrooge’s encounter with the Ghost of Christmas Present (a pleasingly surreal sequence), and I applaud the attempt to colour in more of the Victorian context on inequality and the plight of the poor in the opening act of the film. That aside, the film doesn’t really capture that seasonal, emotional edge which will appeal to viewers, and I’ve never seen an adaptation of A Christmas Carol that extracts such a small air of euphoria and catharsis at Scrooge’s ‘second chance’, as this film does. (November 2015)

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