By now, you may or may not have seen trailers, commercials, and/or posters for the new Disney movie version of A Christmas Carol, directed by Robert Zemeckis, starring Jim Carrey. I have three basic things to say about this, keeping in mind that the movie won't even be out until next month.
1. I have some issues with Jim Carrey that will wait for a future post, but for now I'll just try to view him purely as an actor. Carrey can be a pretty good actor when he's reigned in at least a little, as in The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and (yes) can be pretty funny when doing the wacky stuff, if that's your sort of thing. Too much Carrey, though, is simply too much, and here he's playing FOUR separate characters: Ebeneezer Scrooge and each of the three Ghosts. In other words, he'll be literally talking to himself in a variety of funny voices and accents (remember, the Ghost of Christmas Past is a wispy little thing and Christmas Present is a giant), and even in the brief trailer I saw that was quite grating. In addition, Scrooge is a part that can so easily go over the top, completely losing the subtle character touches that make his journey and eventual redemption both sympathetic and believable, and I am far from convinced that Carrey (or Zemeckis, really) is going to be able to resist the temptation to do him as more than a caricature.
That said, it has a supporting cast I can get behind. Cary Elwes and Robin Wright Penn will be reunited to squees from Princess Bride fans all over (boy howdy, including myself), and any movie with Bob Hoskins in it can't be all bad (... I'll pretend you didn't say anything about Super Mario Brothers, The Movie, which I'm reasonably sure I saw in the theatre when I was 11, so shut up). I am, though, a little baffled at the fact that Gary Oldman is playing Jacob Marley, Bob Cratchit, and... Tiny Tim.
2. A little more to the point: holy crap, did Zemeckis decide that his hollow-eyed demon children from The Polar Express were not quite "uncanny valley" enough? I mean, seriously, look at this:Now, I know that he's supposed to look scary and stuff, but he does for all the wrong reasons. Yes, a good way to pull back from the uncanny valley is to make your human characters somewhat disproportionate, more cartoony (think The Incredibles). But, BUT, you can't then give them photo-realistic skin texture without it becoming downright creepy. It either needs to be less realistic, or much more realistic. Because, damn.
3. Most importantly, though... A freakin' Christmas Carol? Seriously? I mean, yes, it's a great story, it's a classic, but come ON. I know that it's going to be in IMAX 3-D and all (which, see also point number 2 because, damn), but really. What, exactly, are they bringing to the table that we haven't already seen with Alastair Sim, Reginald Owen, Albert Finney, Mickey Mouse, Patrick Stewart, the Muppets, the Looney Tunes (twice!), the Jetsons, Bill Murray, Tim Curry, Simon Callow, "The Odd Couple," "Sanford and Son," "Family Ties," and every other sitcom ever, not to mention every theatre company in the world several times over. Hell, I've played Scrooge before, and that was in my early twenties!
Now, I'm not one to say that certain classics are sacrosanct and shouldn't be reinterpreted, or that it's always a bad idea to remake something that's already been done well, but the simple fact is that this story has been done till it's as dead as a doornail. What justifies yet another version of it? What new messages and insights are we going to gain from this? What makes this worth suffering through Jim Carrey's horrifically distorted constipation face in four-story-high 3-D? What are they offering, besides gimmicks and slapstick, that could possibly make this morality tale that we've all known by heart since we were children fresh again?
I guess we'll find out.