Robert Zemeckis’s A Christmas Carol opens today to a chorus of negative reviews and a rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes. A particularly harsh assessment comes from Joe Morgenstern in The Wall Street Journal:
To put it bluntly, if Scroogely, Disney’s 3-D animated version of “A Christmas Carol” is a calamity. The pace is predominantly glacial–that alone would be enough to cook the goose of this premature holiday turkey–and the tone is joyless, despite an extended passage of bizarre laughter, several dazzling flights of digital fancy, a succession of striking images and Jim Carrey’s voicing of Scrooge plus half a dozen other roles. “Why so coldhearted?” Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, asks the old skinflint. The same question could be asked of Robert Zemeckis, who adapted and directed the film, and of the company that financed it. Why was simple pleasure frozen out of the production? Why does the beloved story feel embalmed by technology? And why are its characters as insubstantial as the snowflakes that seem to be falling on the audience?
And that’s just the first paragraph of his review. I watched this short clip from the film, and it is sufficiently inept enough to prevent me from wanting to see any more. What did it for me is the scene at about 1:15 in which a ghost floats rapidly towards Scrooge and knocks him backwards. Scrooge then does a backroll and pops up off the floor in a way that is so comically devoid of the laws of physics and inappropriate to the physical movement of a realistic human that all dramatic impact is instantly drained from the scene. This film may technically qualify as animation, but good animation it isn’t.
Zemeckis’s desecration of this holiday classic comes at a reported cost of $180 million, and box office projections range between $35 to $45 million this weekend.