Disney to release 3-D remake of 'A Christmas Carol' with Jim Carrey; a look at Scrooges past

What would the holidays be without introducing another version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol?

Well, for starters, it would be a relief. Dickens' 1843 novel has been revived and repackaged for movies and television more times than William Shatner. The story of Ebenezer Scrooge discovering the true meaning of Christmas — except to Christians, of course — has been Muppetized, (Bill) Murray-ized and cartooned with everyone from Mickey Mouse to Mr. Magoo.

It always turns out the same way. Just once I'd like to see the old coot stay cranky like the rest of us when we're fed up with holiday cheer.

No chance of that happening with A Christmas Carol (PG) since it comes from Disney, the studio that parents' pocketbooks built. For good measure, they hired the Grinch to play Scrooge, animated it with computer stunts 2.0, and now splash it onto screens in digital 3-D and IMAX because those tickets cost more.

That money miser Scrooge would approve.

This version has director Robert Zemeckis returning to the performance-capture animation he introduced in The Polar Express. Actors' movements were digitally traced so keyboard artists could "draw" over them, in order to make them appear lifelike. That makes sense.

Jim Carrey plays Scrooge. If there's an actor who doesn't need more animating, it's him. But the process also enables Carrey to play all three Christmas ghosts tormenting Scrooge on Christmas Eve. And it allows the former prisoner of Azkaban, Gary Oldman, to voice Tiny Tim. God help us, everyone.

Steve Persall, Times film critic

We lost count of all the versions of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol way back when the Muppets brought joy to the big screen in 1992. A few more Scrooges that stand out in the crowd:

Kelly Smith and Steve Spears, Times staff writers

WACKIEST

Scrooged, 1988

Bill Murray is "Frank Cross," a black-hearted TV executive producing an all-star version of A Christmas Carol. ("You've got a program featuring America's favorite old fart. Reading a book in front of a fireplace. Now, I have to kill all of you!") A great cast of actors and celebrities appear as themselves (Jamie Farr, Robert Goulet, Buddy Hackett, John Houseman). But Murray steals Christmas with lines that would make Dickens blush. ("The b---- hit me with a toaster.")

MOST OBSCURE

An American Christmas Carol, 1979

Henry Winkler as Scrooge. Would the Fonz approve? "Aaaaaay," we think so. As his Happy Days fame began to wane, Winkler began transitioning to movie roles. (Night Shift anyone?) But his take as "Benedict Slade" in a TV movie set during the Depression is often forgotten.

ICONIC

A Christmas Carol, 1984

George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge is the real deal. (Would you expect anything less from Gen. George S. Patton?) And so is the snow, filmed in Shrewsbury, England, in the dead of winter. The only thing that's not authentic is Scott's British accent. Maybe that's why some prefer Alastair Sim in the classic 1951 British film version. And there's nobody more qualified for a voyage to the past, present and future than Star Trek's Capt. Picard, a.k.a. Patrick Stewart, in a 1999 made-for-TV movie.

GROUNDBREAKING

Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol, 1962

Not entirely a joke like those other Mickey Mouse (and Flintstones and Bugs Bunny) cartoon versions. Starring the ridiculously nearsighted Mr. Magoo (voice of Jim Backus), it was the first animated holiday special for TV — even before Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in 1964 — and led to the Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo TV series. And the music? By Broadway veterans Bob Merrill and Jule Styne, who offered up a little ditty that instead was used in Funny Girl. They called it People.

MOST TWISTED

Blackadder's Christmas Carol, 1988

If all that schmaltzy holiday cheer makes you pour a little extra rum in the eggnog, you'll love this smart, sarcastic and sometimes mean British comedy. ("I'm afraid the only way you are likely to get a wet kiss at Christmas . . . is to make a pass at a water closet.") Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) is the Scrooge equivalent in this one-off episode of the Blackadder BBC series. Great cast: House's Hugh Laurie, Miranda Richardson, Jim Broadbent and Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid from the Harry Potter movies).

Disney to release 3-D remake of 'A Christmas Carol' with Jim Carrey; a look at Scrooges past 11/05/09 [Last modified: Thursday, November 5, 2009 12:02pm]

    

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