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AICN Downunder: Latauro Blesses Zemeckis' A CHRISTMAS CAROL!!

I am not the person Disney wants reviewing A CHRISTMAS CAROL. See, for the past seven odd years, my father has been doing a one man show in Melbourne in which he portrays Charles Dickens reading "A Christmas Carol", in much the same manner Dickens did back in the day. It's become bigger each year, and if you think that watching someone recite a book at you can't be entertaining, you really need to come see it. But my point is that not only do I have a personal motive for disliking any competition, I now know the text inside out. (Everyone has biases and pre-conceived notions when they see a film. The only dishonest thing is not admitting to them.) Unfair it may be, but I went into this film with my knives sharpened and at the ready.

This is the point at which Disney may allow itself a sigh of relief: I loved it. It's not just good, it's very good -- far, far better than I thought it possibly could be. Robert Zemeckis adapted the material himself, and he has a pretty clear understanding of it. It's also a surprisingly faithful adaptation, with large chunks of dialogue repeated verbatim, instead of being "updated" for a younger audience (which was my biggest fear). The film is not narrated, but classic descriptions of Scrooge -- "Even the blind men's dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as thought they said 'No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!'." -- are depicted visually. Rather than being easter eggs for fans of the book, they illustrate Scrooge the way Dickens would have... they way he did, and so the spirit of the book remains intact.

So do the characters. Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins and Cary Elwes all do superb work, inhabiting their roles perfectly. Jim Carrey, playing Scrooge, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, and god knows who else, is at his best here. His frequently-untamed characterisation is conducted to superb effect, and there's not one moment where I thought he was getting away with himself. As much as I love Carrey, I wouldn't have picked him for this role; his nailing of it therefore came to me as a total surprise.

I really enjoyed BEOWULF and the majority of CASTAWAY, but I'd say this is the best Zemeckis film since CONTACT. As for his new toys? Well, they're certainly improving. There's something wonderfully unnerving about Scrooge -- perhaps the first photorealistic caricature in history -- but the "dead eyes" that plagued THE POLAR EXPRESS are well and truly gone. There's still room for improvement in the facial expressions, but this is an impressive leap forward for the technology.

There are two great Christmas stories, both about redemption. IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE tells the story of a good man at the end of his rope. "A Christmas Carol" tells the story of a bad man who lived his entire life there. George Bailey spent his life saving people and is then redeemed. Ebenezer Scrooge is redeemed, and then spends the rest of his life saving people. They're essentially the same tale, mirror images of one another. Robert Zemeckis's A CHRISTMAS CAROL may not be the first adaptation to get it right, but it's nice to have another great version to add to the collection.


Readers Talkback
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  • Nov. 4, 2009, 1:30 p.m. CST

    Big Ben Bell-ride into the sky = FAIL

    by HarryCalder

    Or whatever that is he's riding... Is that from the original text? Getting smacked in the face with icicles? I'm not a Dickens scholar - please correct me if I'm wrong.

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 1:30 p.m. CST

    There is only one Scrooge...

    by DocPazuzu

    ...Alastair Sim, bitches.

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 1:35 p.m. CST

    Bill Murray pwns in Scrooged

    by HarryCalder

    Another guilty pleasure of mine.

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 1:36 p.m. CST


    by HarryCalder


  • Nov. 4, 2009, 1:36 p.m. CST

    Christmas Carol cartoon

    by cyberskunk

    Does anyone remember a made for television cartoon of A Christmas Carol that had some frightening imagery? I don't remember if it was in black and white or not. I recall one of the ghosts presented two little children spirits who were introduced as need and want, and they looked really creepy. Also really creepy was the swarm of otherwise invisible ghosts hovering around a destitute woman and her child in a park that Scrooge was able to see.

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 1:57 p.m. CST

    The George C Scott one is a favourite of ours...

    by Charlie & Tex

    ...Mis-tah CRATCHETTT!!!!

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 2:11 p.m. CST

    Doesn't look as good as Beowolf

    by grievenom

    from the commercials. At least not as realistic. But I'll give the movie a chance.

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 2:14 p.m. CST

    Totally off-topic: The Gute is back, baby!!!

    by HarryCalder

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 2:23 p.m. CST

    RDJ must have been too busy

    by lockesbrokenleg

    It would have been interesting to see his take on it.

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 2:28 p.m. CST


    by shodan6672

    My main problem with the film is the obvious overly done voice-acting by Jim Carrey. The commercials are painful.

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 2:48 p.m. CST

    a word on Alistair Sim ...

    by madCanada

    I wjust ant to say, heretically, that I am SICK & TIRED of hearing that Sim is the definitive Scrooge and no one else comes close ... HUMBUG! I find Sim way too cuddly in the part, even at the beginning where he's supposed to be hard & mean. Best Scrooge yet? Michael Caine (Muppets). That's right, bitches. I will attend this Carrey version with an open mind, and from now on, all knee-jerk Sim idolators will be punched in the balls.

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 2:51 p.m. CST

    The man I REALLY want to see play Scrooge ...?

    by madCanada

    Sean Connery. That would rock.

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 3:02 p.m. CST

    Dickens WAS known for his slapstick comedy.

    by IndustryKiller!

    I mean the part of the book where Scrooge is shrunken and says Humbug randomly in a squeeky voice is, if I'm not mistaken, what inspired Peter Sellers into comedy as a young man. Yup Zemeckis really has a handle on that text all right.

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 3:09 p.m. CST


    by standundermyumbrella

    Why ? Well, it is a long story and actually quite a convoluted one, long story short, Devin actually got upset that he could not attend an advanced preview (as a member of press) to see an advanced preview of a picture that shall remain nameless. He also has a personal grudge against Jim Cameron himself. This i will explain, Devin has been blacklisted by FOX execs, the reason for this is partially down to the fact that Devin was obnoxious in reviews insulted core members of various teams and insinuated lies and lawsuits. This can even be seen today in his writings on AVATAR`s plagiarism claims. There is also it has to be said a great deal of backdoor shenanigans involving Devin and the hierarchy of FOX. In short Devin is blackballed. Devin found this out via his own message board forums. Now im not standing here trying to defend FOX`s output for the last 6 years, how could i ? What i am trying to inform you on is this... This is personal, This has nothing to do with fan expectation, it has nothing to do with the progress of cinema... IT HAS EVERYTHING TO DO WITH A PERSONAL EFFORT TO DERAIL THE PRODUCTIONS IMPACT. Yes it is pathetic, yes it is childish, but if you read Devin for any amount of time, you realise childish is exactly what Devin is. the whole AVATAR deal on is what the online industry describe as "Leaf littering" take your core audience turn them onto your ideals and use that in turn to attack your enemies. Very simple and very effective. It has been done before and it will continue to happen. It can be a good thing, however when the motives become personal and not representative of the greater fact, that is when moral issues arise. I have it on high authority FOX and in particular Jim Cameron is highly upset with Devin and the continuing abuse he keeps throwing at not just the production but the people who this movie is aimed at (which by the way, is everyone). If you were to lay out the level of abuse aimed at AVATAR and pin that to the production outgoings, you will clearly see that Chud and the level of attack has steadily gone up with the anticipation, until finally we see an attack so blatant and mean that it will make even the most skeptic sit up and pay attention, Devin is literally trying to get third parties involved to actually file lawsuits against the core creators of AVATAR, in particular James Cameron. I am told this is serious stuff, and fox is itching for Devin to step a foot out of line so he can be drawn over the coals. This is a very childish and personal situation Devin has created for himself. My guess is the biggest backlash will eventually fall on Devin.

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 3:15 p.m. CST

    Rocketing into the sky

    by Spacelab

    I will not see this movie, based on the ridiculous sequence in the trailer of scrooge being flung into the sky. Why? What does that add? Nothing. Muppet Christmas Carol is still the best one.

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 3:17 p.m. CST

    I'll go see it.

    by Madcapper

    Maybe this weekend. If I don't like it, I will become very mad. And then, I'll mail a bag of vomit to Zemeckis. And then, I'll giggle and think about how he might mistake it for a stew from his mom and eat it. And then, I'll wait for a week, and mail him a letter telling him it was norwegian vomit, and that I ate the ticket slips to his latest movie before I vomited in the bag. Then I'll giggle some more.

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 3:22 p.m. CST

    If I do like it..

    by Madcapper

    ..good for Zemeckis, good for me.

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 3:51 p.m. CST


    by CatVutt

    If what you're saying is true...then I still don't care.

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 4:17 p.m. CST

    Will someone address the Looney Tunes in a review?

    by D.Vader

    Again, I'm amazed no one mentions it in their review. I'm starting to wonder if pple just *want* it to be good so they ignore the dreadful looking stuff for their reviews...

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 4:21 p.m. CST

    Its 53% rotten at RT

    by D.Vader

    Which worries me and makes me wonder about these AICN reviewers... <p> But, thats just based off 15 review so far.

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 4:24 p.m. CST


    by slone13

    At least use paragraph breaks in your rants, would you? I would have at least read all of your post if you had.

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 4:28 p.m. CST


    by DocPazuzu

    You really ARE mad.

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 4:48 p.m. CST

    "I really enjoyed BEOWULF..."

    by batzilla

    uuuhh.... yeah... Beowulf sucked ass dude. EVERYONE knows this so... so much for your opinion. Right fellow talkbackers! GIVE ME "HELL YEEEEUUUUUUHHHH!!!!"

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 4:49 p.m. CST

    No Ninja Assassin reviews?

    by NippleEffect

    trailers on tv are bat shit crazy eff'in insane looking

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 4:50 p.m. CST

    And this fucking comment:

    by batzilla

    "This is the point at which Disney may allow itself a sigh of relief: I loved it."<p>OH BROTHER!! Who is this guy? Give me break... I'm embarrassed for this weirdo. Like Disney gives a fuck what you think.

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 4:51 p.m. CST


    by batzilla

    I'm a little high right now and was a little harsh...

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 4:55 p.m. CST

    Actually Batzilla

    by D.Vader

    I rather like Beowulf myself.

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 5:26 p.m. CST

    The 500th 'Christmas Carol' movie...

    by cheyne_stoking_DMS

    starring Jim Carrey. The man who ruined 'The Grinch' forever. No Thanks.

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 6 p.m. CST


    by Sgt.Steiner

    How much is Lightstorm paying you? NippleEffect: I hear you. Outside of Mori on Hitflix, all connected to AICN have been mum on "Ninja Assassin". Weird, considering it was at Fantastic Fest. I, for one, am stoked. Sho Kosugi, bitches!

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 6:03 p.m. CST

    Come on! How come no on yelled PLANT yet?

    by ricarleite2


  • Nov. 4, 2009, 6:07 p.m. CST


    by Latauro

    Thanks for the apology, but I take your point. What I meant was that they could be relieved that somebody who could be described as a purist and being very familiar with the source material still thinks their version is great. Probably should have been clearer about that, as it did end up coming across a bit egotistical, didn't it?

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 6:12 p.m. CST

    Re: madCanada

    by ricarleite2

    Got a better choice. Kevin Spacey. Beat that one.

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 6:23 p.m. CST


    by cheyne_stoking_DMS

    He retired and took a permanent vacation to Mars. Good luck with that.

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 6:43 p.m. CST

    cyberskunk - yep I remember

    by DreadPirateRoberts

    Now I am racking my brains on it. It was in color if I remember and it freaked me out when I was younger too.

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 7:26 p.m. CST


    by shambots

    award on PBS tonight? The next Cosby talkback on AICN will be his OBIT. ignore me.

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 7:27 p.m. CST


    by DrMorbius

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 7:28 p.m. CST

    NO "V" TALKBACK!!!!!

    by DrMorbius

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 7:31 p.m. CST


    by SubliminalJones

    The creepy cartoon version you refer to is the 1974 Richard Williams directed version that aired on ABC, with Alistair Sim reprising his role as Scrooge, albeit only in voice. It was indeed in color, but the most memorably creepy images you mentioned (the boy and girl, the restless spirits) were rendered in mostly black and white.

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 7:32 p.m. CST

    I found it on youtube!

    by cyberskunk

    Here's part 1

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 7:35 p.m. CST

    P.S The 70's cartoon version may be availble for viewing....

    by SubliminalJones at Google Video; I can't verify becuase my work blocks the site, but a search on google does show it as available for viewing.

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 7:37 p.m. CST

    Thanks also for the info.

    by cyberskunk

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 7:50 p.m. CST

    Great review

    by raw_bean

    Harry is awesome, but a review by someone with a little more level head on his shoulders is much more likely to get me to actually see this. Glad you liked it Lat. Wonder what McWeeney thinks of it.

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 9:57 p.m. CST

    More awesome Scrooges would be ...

    by madCanada

    Ian McKellan ... Anthony Hopkins ... Daniel Day-Lewis ... John Hurt ... Michael Gambon ... Christopher Lee ... Ben Kingsley ...

  • Nov. 4, 2009, 11:58 p.m. CST

    There's no Kosugi like Sho Kosugi

    by Jawa 007

  • Nov. 5, 2009, 3:53 a.m. CST

    for the last time

    by winteralfs

    The loony toons stuff is not a majority of the film. Its there to add action and excitement to an otherwise very dark and talky story. It makes up about 25-30% of the film. It works in context. Judge it after seeing it. That is why its not coming up in reviews. because in the larger context it is a very minor aspect of the movie. In other words its irrelevant and will not make you hate or love the movie.

  • Nov. 5, 2009, 5:35 a.m. CST

    As the best Scrooge, I vote for...

    by gopher

    ...Albert Finney as Scrooge. The 1970 musical. That's right, I said I love that musical. Loved it so much I got the DVD. "Thank you very much!..."

  • Nov. 5, 2009, 6:54 a.m. CST

    I prefer the Stooges version of christmas carol

    by ricarleite2

    Moe played a dandy Scrooge, Curly was a great xmas past, and Larry a great xmas present.

  • Nov. 5, 2009, 7:56 a.m. CST

    Zemeckis film since CONTACT

    by knowthyself

    Really? Contact?

  • Nov. 5, 2009, 8:30 a.m. CST

    Agreed on Finney's Scrooge

    by The PimpDragon

    He is my pick for the big screen's best Scrooge! I love that film and it's versions of the ghosts - not to mention a certain Jedi as Marley - and the look/feel of the film is just note-perfect. Finney has a great edge as Scrooge at the beginning and his transformation is very believable and heartwarming at the end. Can't be beat for my money's worth!

  • Nov. 5, 2009, 9:47 a.m. CST

    one more dig at you 1951 people ...

    by madCanada

    "Sim" partisans are Dickensian sleepwalkers and knee-jerk conventionalists. I'd rank Sim merely 3rd or 4th-best Scrooge, at highest. And I'll soon tell y'all what I think of Carrey.

  • Nov. 5, 2009, 9:50 a.m. CST


    by batzilla

    I was just being an ass. Ignore my comments. Everyone should always ignore Batzilla. : )