'Christmas Carol' Movie Review

POSTED: Friday, November 6, 2009 - 8:22am

UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 10:58pm

When it was announced that writer-director Robert Zemeckis would do a new version for Disney, using the same motion-capture animation technique that begot The Polar Express and all its eager rubber-faced children, about all I could think was, "Not for me."

How wrong I was! Disney's A Christmas Carol, starring Jim Carrey as Scrooge, turns out to be a marvelous and touching yuletide toy of a movie. The miracle is that it goes right back to the gilded Victorian spirit of those Christmas Carols from long ago.

From the hypnotic opening shot, which seems to travel through every nook and cranny of London, Zemeckis signals that he's made a bold technical leap: The faces are now fully expressive, the streets and buildings so real you could touch them.

Ebenezer, with his drooping flesh and coldly fearful eyes, is no caricature -- Carrey plays him with scolding sharpness and a plummy, deep-down melancholy.

A Christmas Carol, as Dickens wrote it, might almost be about the original case of psychotherapy, with the ghosts as shrinks who reveal to Scrooge the forces that have shaped him.

Zemeckis stages the familiar episodes briskly, with more showbiz than we're used to, but without sacrificing their feeling.

The ghosts themselves have a spooky majesty, and when Scrooge's home gets turned into a roving hovercraft, it mirrors the dislocation of a man who is now dreaming with his eyes wide open.

Zemeckis does hit one false note, dropping a bogus action scene into the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come episode.

Yet that's the rare misstep in a Christmas Carol that left me festive with delight, not to mention in dire need of a holiday hankie. For NBC News, I'm Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly.