Robert Zemeckis, the writing-directing wizard who has thrilled and captivated audiences with rousing adventures (the Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit) and then shifted gears dramatically with Forrest Gump and Cast Away, has been bewitched by the siren call of motion-capture technology.
His remake of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol follows on the heels of The Polar Express and Beowulf and strives to bring real human three-dimensional aspects to the characters, ideally to move us beyond videogame-styled computer generated images. But Zemeckis and his crew have struggled to fully render soulful eyes complete with an intangible sense of movement behind the reflective surfaces.
Yet Zemeckis has achieved a victory of sorts. In Ebenezer Scrooge (Jim Carrey) he’s certainly found his inspiration, likely less in the face of the character and much more in the form of the devilishly animated Carrey himself. And while Scrooge comes to define the best of what motion capture has to offer, unfortunately the rest of the characters prove to be mere shadows in an already inky black background.
It is not just the eyes of Bob Cratchit (Gary Oldman) and Scrooge’s nephew Fred (Colin Firth) that appear dead, but also the faces and bodies. And by dead, I sadly mean that they come across as simple animated pictures, which sucks the life and spirit of the vocal performances — a shame considering the talent and passion of these two actors — and draws vital force from the moral re-education of Scrooge. Grade: C+