Making the Grades
One year when our children were young, we decided to watch as many adaptations as we could find of the classic Dickens’ tale, A Christmas Carol. Not surprisingly, there were more than a few options. It seems that everyone from Alastair Sim to Bill Murray and Mickey Mouse to Miss Piggy wanted in on the action. Even the 2009 movie Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is based on three female apparitions who help straighten out the life of a wayward lover.
It shouldn’t be unexpected then to have yet another version of the story appearing on the big screen—this time in 3D. The technologically updated Disney’s A Christmas Carol combines the vocal talents of Jim Carrey with the motion capture capabilities of Producer Robert Zemeckis (who was also behind The Polar Express.)
Carrey voices several characters in the film including the miserly Scrooge and the three ghostly visitors that take him on a tour of his life. The rendezvous is initiated by Scrooge’s dead business partner Jacob Marley (voice by Gary Oldman) who is weighted down in the afterlife by the chains of greed he forged while on earth. Hoping to save Scrooge from the same horrible fate, he arranges for the spirits to call on his old friend.
Following Dickens’ novella fairly closely, the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future all make their way into Scrooge’s house and unveil to him things as they were, as they are and as they will be, unless he makes some drastic changes. During their journey, he and the Ghost of Christmas Present stop at the humble home of his employee Bob Cratchit (voice by Gary Oldman) and he gets a glimpse of real happiness. However his heart is broken by the memories of an affection he discarded when he is given a reunion with his youthful love Belle (voice by Robin Wright Penn).
Before the experience is over, the mingy penny-pincher also gets a grim peek into his impending end. It is a startling and bleak wake up call. The intense depictions of red-eyed horses chasing a man through the narrow streets of London and an ominous stopover at a desolate graveyard (where Scrooge falls into an open grave) are also startling for viewers, especially for young audience members more familiar with the cartoonish, watered down versions of this weighty tale. Other scenes of ghoulish characters that decay and disintegrate on screen and a macabre doorknocker up the scare factor of this film too, likely making it inappropriate for many children.
While this production offers some stunning visual animation and the usual lighthearted, happy ending, the overall tone of the film more accurately reflects the dire times in which the original story was written. Dickens’ own indictment of the upper class’s treatment of the poorer members of society is evident as well. Still, this story gives teens and adults a chance to reflect on their own seasonal inclinations—be they generous ones or more tightfisted.
Cast: Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright Penn, Cary Elwes, Fionnula Flanagan.
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Disney’s A Christmas Carol.
Published in Reader’s Digest in December 1989, The Second Greatest Christmas Story Ever Told recounts the dismal and dark circumstances that led to the penning of Charles Dickens’s well-known Christmas tale.
How does Scrooge’s experience open his eyes to the suffering around him? What actions does he take? How can knowledge change a person’s perspective?
What is your favorite character in this story? Why do you relate to this person?
Home Video Viewing Alternatives
Here are some ideas for home video titles that are related to Disney’s A Christmas Carol.
In another pair of films set in the Christmas season, The Family Man and It’s a Wonderful Life, two characters get a chance to see how different their lives would have been had they chosen a another path.
You can find Charles Dickens story (first published on December 19, 1843) at your local library.