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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

A Christmas Carol

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Ebenezer Scrooge, voiced by Jim Carrey, in the animated movie "A Christmas Carol."
Acclaimed on its publication and so popular since that it has never gone out of print, Charles Dickens' classic 1843 novella "A Christmas Carol" also has provided the basis for innumerable stage and screen adaptations.

The latest, a lavish and well-crafted 3-D animated version from Disney, though free of objectionable content, does feature images and special effects likely to disturb sensitive youngsters.

As faithfully retold by writer-director Robert Zemeckis, this is the familiar story of miserly misanthrope Ebenezer Scrooge (voice of Jim Carrey), who notoriously regards Christmas as a "humbug."

After spending the eve of the holiday making his much-put-upon clerk Bob Cratchit (voice of Gary Oldman) miserable, and rebuffing the cheerful invitation of his nephew, Fred (voice of Colin Firth), to a celebratory family dinner, Scrooge retires to his dreary mansion for a supper of cheap gruel. But his routine is interrupted by the tortured specter of his late business partner, Jacob Marley (also voiced by Oldman).

Chained to heavy money chests symbolic of the greediness that marked his life, and condemned to wander in eternal restlessness, Marley—a grimly decaying animated corpse— warns Scrooge that he is headed for a similar doom, and that he will soon be visited by three spirits who will try to persuade him to change his ways.

These, of course, are the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come, all three voiced by Carrey.

The first, who appears as a flickering candle, returns Scrooge to the scene of his lonely childhood and his apprenticeship under fun-loving Mr. Fezziwig (voice of Bob Hoskins), during which he fell in love with gentle Belle (voice of Robin Wright Penn). As the sprite also forces Scrooge to recall, however, their romance was eventually ruined by his idolatrous love of money.

The Ghost of Christmas Present, a jolly, thriving figure, gives Scrooge a "heavenly perspective" on current events, revealing the straitened circumstances in which Cratchit's meager salary leaves his family, especially his sickly, crippled, but ever-chipper son Tiny Tim (Oldman's voice as well), and the pitying mockery with which Scrooge is discussed by Fred and his guests.

With the approach of midnight, the Ghost of Christmas Present suddenly turns corpselike and is replaced by the last apparition, a black-robed, silent skeleton. The vision he conjures sees Scrooge chased for his life by a runaway horse-drawn hearse and forced to experience his own unmourned death.

Such eerie elements, though present in the original, make this unsuitable viewing for the most impressionable. But heartier family members of almost any age will be delighted by a sweeping survey of Victorian London, from its coziest firesides to its gloomiest graveyards.

As for the central conversion story, its Christian context is unabashedly detailed in the lyrics of carolers, in the lingering view of the ornamental cross above a city church and in the upbeat piety of Tiny Tim, whose jaunty prayer, "God bless us, every one," serves as the final line of novella and script alike.

"A Christmas Carol" will be shown on both Imax and conventional screens.

The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-I—general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

*****
Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog When we suffer, we don’t just come to understand the pain of Christ’s cross more, we come to understand the depth of God’s love for us: that he would endure such pain for us—in our place. We have a God who endured death so we would never have to do so.

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