Robert Zemeckis (“The Polar Express,” “Back to the Future”) adapts Charles Dickens’ tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, a cheap mean old man shocked into decency on Christmas Eve by three ghosts who forcibly transport him from his bed to revisit his past, eavesdrop on his employee and nephew in the present, and foresee his miserable demise. CGI allows Jim Carrey to play Scrooge at four ages, as well as the three ghosts administering the radical short-term immersive humanizing therapy. Actually, the night terrors Scrooge experiences smack of alien abduction. He plummets and plummets and plummets through night skies. These nocturnal set-pieces, as well as a terrestial chase by snorting black stallions, evoke Hitchcock’s perverse panics. Carrey fans and Disney stock watchers may not expect the fidelity to Dickens’ prose in the dialogue, nor the morbid supernatural tone. It’s forty minutes of grim before Scrooge zooms through sunny London skies with cheerful music. The hybridized live-action amalgam creates a kind of actorized animation. Disney over-sells this 3D holiday product as “a multi-sensory,” although I only counted two: sight and sound. That’s all Zemeckis needs to remake a classic by taking nice risks. With Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright Penn, and Cary Elwes. 96m. (Bill Stamets)
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.