The motion capture animation is top-notch and it's hard not to be impressed with what Robert Zemeckis has wrought, even if there's the occasional sense he's pandering to an audience that can't get through a 90 minute story without a few yuks and a chase.
Just when you give up on it, usually in the middle of its latest, extraneous, gyroscoping thrill-ride sequence, Zemeckis reminds you that he's capable of true visual dynamism, enhanced but not wholly dictated by the digital landscape he so clearly adores.
Zemeckis' movie may lack the emotional impact of the 1951 British version of A Christmas Carol, starring Alastair Sim as a truly transformed and happy Scrooge. Nevertheless, it's a visual treat that respects and artfully enhances its source.
Carrey's performance as the miserly misanthrope is lost amid effects more typically encountered in theme-park and video-game adventures. (P.S.: Is it just me, or does it also peeve you that the Mouse House claims proprietary rights on Dickens' title?)
Shockingly, the new film turns out to be very good, at times close to brilliant: a darkly detailed marvel of creative visualization that does well by Dickens and right by audiences -- when it's not trying to sell them a theme park ride.
The story that Dickens wrote in 1838 remains timeless, and if it's supercharged here with Scrooge swooping the London streets as freely as Superman, well, once you let ghosts into a movie, there's room for anything.
A Christmas Carol is, in its essence, a product reel, a showy, exuberant demonstration of the glories of motion capture, computer animation and 3D technology. On that level, it's a wow. On any emotional level, it's as cold as Marley's Ghost.
Shortchanging traditional animation by literalizing it while robbing actors of their full range of facial expressiveness, the performance-capture technique favored by director Robert Zemeckis looks more than ever like the emperor's new clothes.