A Christmas Carol
By John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service
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.
Ebenezer Scrooge, voiced by Jim Carrey, in the animated movie "A Christmas Carol."
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
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
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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