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Carrey Christmas!

Published November 11. 2009 05:00PM

The merits of yet another movie version of A Christmas Carol are debatable.

After all, there have been more than 50 movies, including animated films and those for television, as well as numerous stage versions, based on Charles Dickens' 1843 novella about the world's most famous fictional curmudgeon and his conversion and redemption.

And yet, if it's in 3-D computer-generated animation, stars Jim Carrey as Ebenezer Scrooge and is directed by Robert Zemeckis, well, then, yes, have yourself a very Carrey Christmas.

Zemeckis, who directed the classics to cinema animated films, Beowulf (2007) and The Polar Express (2004), as well as Forrest Gump (1994), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) and the Back to the Future series (1985, '89, '90), stays true to the spirit of the Charles Dickens' classic in his screenplay, right down to the Victorian era setting, plot and specific dialogue.

That's why, to paraphrase the movie's poster, "season's greedings arrived Nov. 6."

While this might seem like rushing the Christmas season well before Thanksgiving, the timing makes sense.

That's because, despite its Walt Disney imprimatur, this Christmas Carol plays more like Tim Burton's A Nightmare Before Christmas.

This is a dickens of a Christmas Carol, and very dark, figuratively and literally. One scene, where Scrooge witnesses a glowing-green Marley's Ghost ascending into the night with dozens of specters cavorting about, is like scooting into a room in the Haunted Mansion at Disney World.

"There's more of gravy, than grave," Scrooge says. In this version, there's more of the grave.

The spooky Halloween take makes eminent sense. After all, Dickens' original tale, titled A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, has lots of rattling chains, ghosts, and dry bones.

Here, the Ghost of Christmas Future is a hooded Darth Vader presence leading Scrooge to his graveyard tombstone, the Ghost of Christmas Present is a gargantuan Kris Kringle figure and the Ghost of Christmas Past is a candle flame apparition with a face.

Shape and scene shifters abound. Zemeckis whisks old Ebenezer in his nightgown through time and space, shooting him to the moon, dropping him from the sky and having him chased down London's cobblestone streets by two red-eyed black stallions pulling a hearse.

The special effects are set against a Currier and Ives-style depiction of Merry Olde England. At times, you feel as though you are inside a Snow Globe.

Carrey is in great voice as Scrooge, as well as all three of the Christmas Ghosts. Gary Oldman does a credible Bob Cratchit and also voices Jacob Marley and Tiny Tim. Colin Firth is engaging as nephew Fred.

There are two main quibbles with Zemeckis' Christmas Carol.

The performance capture cinematography, which used to be referred to as rotoscoping, still, at least in this film, gives the sense of puppets and lacks the heft, balance and grace of real actors.

The film, at least the 3-D version, is visually too dark for the animation artists' enormous amount of detail to be fully enjoyed.

Still, any film that advances the reason for the season "God bless us, everyone" is worth checking out.

After all, one wouldn't want to be a Scrooge about it.

Disney's A Christmas Carol: MPAA Rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children) for scary sequences and images; Genre: Action, Drama, Family, Fantasy. Run time: 1 hr, 36 min. Distributed by Walt Disney Studio Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous: Andrea Bocelli sings "God Bless Us Everyone" over the closing credits of A Christmas Carol.

Box Office, Nov. 6: A Christmas Carol opened the holiday movie season at No. 1 with a solid $31 million, moving Michael Jackson's This Is It to No. 2, $14 million, $57.8 million, two weeks. The Men Who Stare at Goats, starring George Clooney, opened at No. 3 with $13.3 million.

4. The Fourth Kind, $12.5 million, opening; 5. Paranormal Activity, $8.6 million, $97.4 million, seven weeks; 6. The Box, $7.8 million, opening; 7. Couples Retreat, $6.4 million, $95.9 million; five weeks; 8. Law Abiding Citizen, $6.1 million, $60.8 million, four weeks; 9. Where the Wild Things Are, $4.2 million, $69.3 million, four weeks; 10. Astro Boy, $2.5 million, $15 million; three weeks

Unreel, Nov. 13: 2012 is about the end of the world as we know it, based on Mayan calendar predictions. Roland Emmerich directs John Cusack and Thandie Newton. Pirate Radio is based on true events during the 1960s when an illegal radio station based on a ship in the North Sea pumped pop music to eager England teens. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays one of the deejays.

Tune in to Paul Willistein's movie reviews on Lehigh Valley Arts Salon, 6 - 6:30 p.m. Mondays on WDIY 88.1 FM Lehigh Valley Community Public Radio. Listen to recent movie reviews at Read his previous movie reviews at:

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