The latest from actor Jim Carrey and director Robert Zemeckis ("Polar Express") is this retelling of the popular holiday tale, "A Christmas Carol". The film uses the same motion capture (actors play out their movements with those suits with the little mo-cap balls on them, then the computers capture those images and translate them on-screen) CGI technology that was put to use in "Polar Express" (and the not exactly family-friendly "Beowulf"), but it looks a bit more detailed here and movements are smoother. Some may find the look still a touch plastic-y, but I didn't find that to be as much of a concern here as I did in the prior two animated films from the director. Maybe this format is a way that the movie adaptation of the video game "Halo" can finally be done.
The story, however, is familiar: the focus is Ebeneezer Scrooge (Jim Carrey), a crotchety old man (sort of like Montgomery Burns, but without finding the same glee in being evil), who is visited by a series of ghosts on Christmas Eve, who all try to convince him of the error of his evil ways. The story plays out in much the same manner, and Carrey gives an all-out performance in the role, not only doing a terrific job with facial acting via mo-cap, but the vocal performance also does a wonderful job portraying the character's inner turmoil and arc throughout the tale. Carrey could have gone over-the-top with the performance, but he doesn't, and the results are really quite good. The "Ace Ventura" actor also voices several other characters, and does so quite expertly.
The other solid supporting effort is Gary Oldman, who voices Bob Cratchit, Marley and, quite oddly, Tiny Tim. Also offering terrific supporting performances are: Robin Wright, Colin Firth and Cary Elwes. Again, the particular style of animation is not quite perfected, but it's still certainly steps ahead of where it was when Zemeckis directed "Express". The story doesn't veer in any unexpected directions, but it's questionable - I suppose - how much leeway one could have with updating such a classic.
Overall, Zemeckis has crafted another enjoyable animnated flick; although the story is certainly familiar, "Carol" moves rapidly and offers a terrific performance from Carrey. Still, with films like "Cast Away", "Gump" and others, one hopes that Zemeckis will find his way back to live-action filmmaking sooner than later.
VIDEO: "Christmas Carol" is presented by Disney in 2.40:1 (1080p/AVC) and the results are a pure delight. Sharpness and detail are exceptional, as the animation looks superbly detailed and smooth throughout the show, even in the the more dimly lit/shadowy sequences. Given that I'm guessing this was a direct-from-digital transfer, the picture remained free of specks and other debris. No edge enhancement was spotted, but a few traces of light pixelation were spotted in a couple of scenes. However, the majority of the presentation was pristine. Colors were muted throughout many scenes, but did certainly perk up during the lighter sequences. Overall, this was a very fine presentation from the studio.
SOUND: The film's DTS-HD 5.1 soundtrack does flare up during some of the more intense sequences, with the surrounds providing an enveloping and enjoyable presentation of the universe of the film. However, other portions of the film's audio are more straightforward. Overall, while the level of activity is a tad inconsistent, audio quality is first-rate throughout, with clear dialogue and well-recorded effects.
EXTRAS: Feature length picture-in-picture "Behind the Carol" mode, "Capturing Dickens" featurette, "On Set with Sammi" featurette and deleted scenes.
Final Thoughts: Overall, Zemeckis has crafted another enjoyable animnated flick; although the story is certainly familiar, "Carol" moves rapidly and offers a terrific performance from Carrey. The Blu-Ray presentation offers a handful of extras and solid audio/video quality.
The Film B