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A Christmas Carol

Certificate: U

Voices of: Voices by Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth. (PG)

Release date: 2009

3 out of 5


Director Robert Zemeckis clearly loves performance-capture animation, which he used in The Polar Express and Beowulf (and also in a movie he produced, Mars Needs Moms). The technique involves real-life actors performing the roles wearing special sensor-filled body suits that capture movement and facial expressions, which is then translated into animated characters that look very realistic. In fact, they are so realistic that a) it’s often a bit scary and b) you wonder why he didn’t just make a live action movie instead.

This time around Zemeckis lets his computer animation whizz kids loose on Charles Dickens’ classic tale, which has already been made numerous times (including the cute Muppet version). But, hey, it’s never been as creepy as this, as Jim Carrey voices and ‘acts’ numerous roles, including Ebenezer Scrooge himself, while Gary Oldman gets to play Marley and Bob Crachit, too. The basic story remains the same – miser Scrooge is visited by three ghosts from the past, present and future to show him the error of his ways – but you’ll certainly have never seen it look quite as impressive as in moments such as the one when Scrooge is swept up, in his nightgown, over the wintry landscape of London (and in luscious 3D, no less, when it was released in cinemas).

It’s all very breathtaking to look at but somehow all the visual spectacle on screen detracts from a classic story and, truth be told, it’s all far more horrific than Dickens probably envisaged. Even 10 year olds made of strong stuff will hide their eyes during quite a few scenes, while the three ghosts and a scene where Scrooge plunges down into a deep hole will scare the c**p out of adults, too. A very good example for parents of why not to assume that just because something’s animated it means it’s okay for children to watch, this is maybe best reserved for ghoulish teens to watch when they’re studying the book in English Literature.

Is A Christmas Carol suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...

Despite its PG certificate, this will petrify younger kids. All three Christmas ghosts are grotesque, and the ghost of Jacob Marley will make viewers jump when he first appears. Parents should also note that:
Jacob’s jaw becomes unhinged which looks a bit nasty.
The Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge two feral, starving children which is upsetting.
The scenes featuring the Ghost Of Christmas Yet To Come are frightening.

If you like this, why not try: The Polar Express, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Scrooge, A Nightmare Before Christmas, Oliver Twist,