The movie is helmed and tailored for the screen in temperate Dickensian flavor by wunderkind director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, Contact), whose fascination with high-concept, big-budget fables is as alive as his complex camerawork (the falling and sky-looping feather in Forrest Gump).
And so, true to his signature, A Christmas Carol begins with such a complex shot a smooth and controlled single-continuous shot over a grungy, vintage (and very much storybook-like) London. With the opening credits and Alan Silvestri's score anchored to the flying camera, it goes over and under chimneystacks, snow-covered building tops, slowing and sloping down to street level and passing through impossibly sparse hobnobbing of people, before finally resting on the signpost of Ebenezer Scrooge's office.
Zemeckis is excellently apt at creating these sequences. Now down to his third, consistent 3D-animated movie — the other two being the disagreeable Polar Express and the striking myth Beowulf — his skills at CG storytelling make him an old hand. Jim Carry (in motion capture) plays Ebenezer Scrooge, the penny-pinching old gaffer who will be visited by four spectres, turning him into a good-natured begetter right around Christmas time.
The three ghosts Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future Yet to Come (each distinct in its area of expertise) are played by Carrey and yes, Carrey being Carrey, there are bits of rubber-faced antics, especially when he turns up as the carousing spirit of Christmas Present (but not enough to make a mockery out of the movie).
The Ghost of Christmas Past flies through Scrooge's past analogous of a wisp of past memory, while the Ghost of Christmas Future is a cloaked — almost perpendicular — shadow, with long scaly fingers riding a doomsday chariot run by demonic shadow horses. The Ghost of Christmas Future also hosts the film's least interesting segment, as it chases Scrooge to visions of what's to come by scaling him to rodent-size and then leading him to his future grave. But by far, the scariest sequence is the one of Christmas Present, when it presents ignorance and want, and then withers to dust while laughing.
Carrey mastering the pitfalls of being a CGI-ed character performs a very tangible Scrooge, who travels from being abominable to being a pitiful, average Joe besieged by the idea of making substantial money. Zemeckis' adaptation pulls Scrooge's journey into a harrowing spectacle ingrained with the think aroma of the original novella (even the designs remind one of John Leech, who did the original 1843 edition illustrations), with its language and morals intact.
Zemeckis has crafted the definitive version of A Christmas Carol with a pot-load of good actors that keen-eyed spectators will be hard-pressed to identify or connect with in their animated form. The three identifiable actors in computer-formed characters are Gary Oldman, Bob Hoskins and Robin Wright Penn. I didn't stumble upon Colin Firth until I re-read the credits.
Running around 95 minutes, A Christmas Carol is written and directed by Robert Zemeckis, based on the novella by Charles Dickens. The movie is produced by Zemeckis, Steve Starkey and Jack Rapke; is cinematographed by Robert Presley, edited by Jeremiah O'Driscoll with the musical score of Alan Silvestri. The film stars, Jim Carrey, Cary Elwes, Colin Firth, Gary Oldman, Bob Hoskins, Fionnula Flanagan and Robin Wright Penn — who looks just as she did in Beowulf.