There are numerous big-screen adaptations of Charles Dickens’ merry masterpiece A Christmas Carol, and over the decades, the one that has garnered the biggest following is The Muppets Christmas Carol (and rightly so!). But there’s one version that tends to get overlooked.
The 2009 film that stars Jim Carrey as the frugal, merry-less miser is among the most faithful to the 1843 novel. Of course, this isn’t something audiences are always on the lookout for – after all, anthropomorphic animals didn’t populate Dickensian London!
But there are many reasons why Disney’s A Christmas Carol is one of the greatest Christmas movies ever. In fact, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to convince you that it should be as much a part of your festive watchlist as the likes of Home Alone and The Nightmare Before Christmas!
7. A Classic Christmas Story
Even if you’ve never had the pleasure of cracking open this Christmas classic, we think you’ll agree that A Christmas Carol is the definitive seasonal story. And if you consider other such stories from decades past, you’ll recognize that many revolve around a character who, for whatever reason, is disenfranchised with Christmas, a trope that started in Dickens’ 1843 novel.
But it’s not just the fact that A Christmas Carol has inspired over 170 years’ worth of storytelling, and to this day remains just as popular and beloved, it’s that it tells such a simple yet effective story. And what better way to convey its message and themes about the season of goodwill than through a character who seemingly possesses no such thing!
6. Dark Undertones
You might be wondering why a Christmas tale with a dark undercurrent can be considered in any way a good thing, but the truth is that many classic tales – especially those set around the holidays – are no different. That’s not to suggest that A Christmas Carol is mean-spirited (no pun intended), but rather that there needs to be dark in order for there to be light!
A Christmas Carol follows Ebenezer Scrooge, a businessman with thick pockets who turns a blind eye to the want and needs of others and is set during a time of such hardships. However, none of these things change by the end of the story, even when Scrooge does. He’s also shown the harsh truths of the past, the sobering reality of the present, and the dark possibilities of the future.
5. Faithful Adaptation
Up until now, we could have easily been talking about any version of A Christmas Carol, but the 2009 adaptation is incredibly faithful to the source material, capturing those dark undertones of its inky counterpart very well. While remaining faithful to a book doesn’t always work in a film’s favor, in this instance, it does.
You might know of another version that’s just as accurate, but it’s fair to say that this one definitely takes more than just a page out of Dickens’ book – it takes them all! With that said, it does also take some liberties, adding in scenes you won’t find in the novel (which work pretty well in the film nonetheless). However, the CG animation lends to these scenes pretty well.
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4. A Cautionary Tale of Good Will
A Christmas Carol was published in 1843, yet it’s a story that remains entirely relevant – perhaps now more than ever. While Ebenezer Scrooge is quite an extreme individual, in that his harsh and dismal outlook upon the happy season is hardly something even the most Grinch-like person can relate to, he’s actually the most appropriate lens to cast over this tale.
Having a character like Scrooge to guide us through A Christmas Carol is the best way to convey the story’s themes, as the lessons he learns along the way can be of equal value to the reader. The story also serves as a reminder that, while we cannot change the past, if we learn from it, we can change the future. Can you think of another Christmas movie with such a strong message?!
3. Robert Zemeckis
If you had no idea who directed Disney’s A Christmas Carol until now, if you were to hazard a guess that it’s from the same director as The Polar Express, you’d be right! The most obvious parallels are that both Christmas films are told through CG and motion capture performances, while they each have an A-list actor as the lead character – Tom Hanks and Jim Carrey.
Robert Zemeckis – the man behind the Back to the Future trilogy – directs A Christmas Carol with flair and charm, and doesn’t once forego the darker and creepier elements of the story. Now, all we need is for him to develop another classic Christmas tale into an all-animated feature, and he’ll have created yet another great movie trilogy!
2. Perfect Casting
While on the subject of the CG animation and motion-capture performances, we can’t not talk about Jim Carrey. Best known for roles of a more slapstick nature such as the Grinch (at least during the early part of his career), Ebenezer Scrooge should probably be considered one of his more serious roles – to some extent, at least.
His performance isn’t without some comedy and whimsy, of course, but his more intense scenes shouldn’t be overlooked. As for the animation, it allows Carrey to truly embody the character from a physical perspective – Scrooge’s features (as so told in the novel), from his hooked nose and pointed chin to his spider leg-like fingers, just wouldn’t have looked quite right in prosthetics.
1. Special Effects
Like The Polar Express, A Christmas Carol has taken much criticism over the years due to the ‘uncanny valley’ animation, but we think the choice to tell the story in this way helps to capture the book’s more whimsical moments. It also allows the film to be as ambitious as the book, whether it’s an ethereal specter or Scrooge flying through the night in his pajamas!
From start to finish, there’s some truly impressive animation and motion capture in A Christmas Carol. Some of the CG-assisted performances might feel a little surreal from time to time, though, and overall the visuals probably haven’t aged all that well (and likely weren’t perfect on its release), but none of these things change the fact that A Christmas Carol is a truly timeless tale.
What do you think of Disney’s A Christmas Carol?