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Disney's A Christmas Carol - Movie Review for Parents

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating
User Rating 2 Star Rating (3 Reviews)

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Disney's A Christmas Carol
Photo © Disney. All rights reserved.

Bottom line: Disney's A Christmas Carol takes the classic story, adds a few thrills and a lot of Jim Carrey comedy, and presents the whole thing in amazing 3D performance capture animation. Some scenes my be VERY frightening for kids under 8 years old.

MPAA Rating: PG, for scary sequences and images
Guide Age Recommendation: 8+
Genre: Christmas/Family/Fantasy
Runtime: Approx. 96 minutes
Starring: Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright Penn, Cary Elwes, Fionnula Flanagan
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Release date: November 6, 2009 in theaters/November 16, 2010 on DVD and Blu-ray

Disney's A Christmas Carol - Overview

Disney presents this new take on the famous Dickens tale A Christmas Carol using performance capture animation, and in theaters, remarkable 3D technology. Jim Carrey plays many roles, including that of Ebenezer Scrooge and all three of the Christmas spirits who come to visit him.

Since the passing of his business partner Jacob Marley, Scrooge has carried on in his miserly ways. He shows kindness and compassion to no one -- not even his faithful employee Bob Cratchit or his benevolent nephew Fred -- and he measures souls by the amount of gold they have amassed. Scrooge is especially bitter about the Christmas holiday and all of the senseless merrymaking that goes with it.

On one particular Christmas eve, Scrooge returns from a day at work and is terrified to see the chain-bound ghost of his old friend Marley. Marley warns Scrooge that he too will wear the chains he forged in life, if he doesn't change his ways, and he informs Scrooge that three spirits will visit him.

Exactly as Marley predicted, Scrooge is visited by three spirits -- the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. These three spirits take him on an eye-opening journey to Christmases past, present and future, showing Scrooge the impact of the holiday and of his own actions. Scrooge sees and understands much that terrifies and saddens him as he travels with the spirits, but by his journey's end, nothing troubles him so much as the thought that he may not have a chance to change his ways and make things right.

Disney's A Christmas Carol - Guide Review

Disney's A Christmas CarolPhoto © Disney. All rights reserved.

In many ways, Disney has outdone itself with this amazing performance capture film expertly presented in 3D. One requisite to liking the film though -- you kind of have to be a fan of Jim Carrey. The film would more appropriately be called "Disney and Jim Carrey's A Christmas Carol," as many of the characters Jim plays look, sound, and act like him. This fault was a bit distracting throughout the movie, but other elements redeem it, making Disney's A Christmas Carol great fun for families. That is, as long as the kids are old enough not to be terrified by the ghosts and frequent discussions about death.

The opening scenes in the movie are quite dark, and a lot of time is spent building up suspense around the visit from Marley. This ghostly interaction, and many others that come later, may be very frightening for children. Festive carols bring in some warmth and cheer, and funny moments -- some which blend in well with the rest of the movie and some which seem out of place -- are injected into the scary scenes to lighten the mood. The comedic elements, along with the thrills, are what set this version apart from other presentations of A Christmas Carol.

Despite a few flaws (example: some characters look incredibly realistic, but background characters, not so much), the movie is amazing in terms of animation and use of 3D technology. For those who appreciate the classic Dickens tale, Disney's A Christmas Carol gives and exciting, funny, and often beautiful interpretation that does not take away from or add too much to the story.

Disney's A Christmas Carol - Content Overview

*May contain spoilers.
  • Scary Scenes (High): The movie opens with a view of Marley lying dead and gruesome in his casket. Most of the other scary scenes involve ghosts. To kids, these expertly animated ghosts will look very real, and the funny moments may not be enough to dispel their fear. A few of the scenes will likely make kids jump straight out of their seats.

    When Marley visits Scrooge, we cower along with Scrooge as strange noises and happenings go on, unsettling him in his own home. Marley comes in loud and angry, screaming at Scrooge and moaning about his terrible fate. As Marley leaves, we see many other tortured spirits flying around lamenting. The Ghost of Christmas Present (I was suprised they included this scene) opens his robes to show two crouching, scary looking children whom he names as "Ignorance and Want." The large and ominous shadow Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come chases Scrooge all over town on a carriage pulled by ghostly black horses. After finally catching up with Scrooge and giving him a tragic look at the future, the apparition leads Scrooge to a graveyard, where Scrooge shrieks as he falls down into the fiery pit of his own grave.

  • Sad/Unsettling Scenes (High): The Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge the sad plight of the Cratchits and their ill son Tiny Tim. We later see the Cratchits mourning Tim's death in a heart-wrenching scene. Scrooge also sees people making fun of a friendless man who died alone. The man turns out to be Scrooge. He laments his fate and begs for the chance to change.
Disney's A Christmas CarolPhoto © Disney. All rights reserved.

  • Violence (Medium): In an effort to make their points clear, the spirits yell at Scrooge and knock him around a bit. For example, Marley uses his chains to fling Scrooge's chair around and slams him into the wall causing him to fall half way out the window. After each encounter with a spirit, Scrooge falls and endures some very harsh landings. Scrooge also likely gets some bumps and bruises from mishaps that occur while he is running away from one spirit.
  • Sex/Nudity (Low): Some women characters wear dresses that show cleavage.
  • Drugs and Alcohol (Low): People are shown holding drinks at holiday parties/dinners.
  • Language (Low): The words "Oh my God," "ass" and "hell" are used once.
  • Disrespectful/Imitative Behavior (Medium): Scrooge is mean and rude to others. He prizes money above all else and states that people who would rather die than go to a work house should just go ahead and die then. The spirits yell at and taunt Scrooge at times.

Disney's A Christmas Carol - On Blu-ray

In addition to the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, Disney's A Christmas Carol is also available in a 4-disc pack including the 3D version of the film (requires a 3D capable TV/player).

Special features include behind-the-scenes footage and making-of footage about the performance capture technology used to make the film and the creative process used to adapt Dickens' timeless story and create a fresh version of an old classic. The Blu-ray also includes a "Countdown to Christmas Interactive Calendar" (which is pretty useless, but made up for by the greatness of other features), deleted scenes, and more.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 2 out of 5
A Christmas Carol 2009, Member mimiduet

This movie scared the pants off of me and I'm 49 years old! Although the special effects are pretty amazing, I thought the overall darkness and very small clip of a happy ending (maybe 4-5 min of happiness) was not at all what I expected. I would not recommend this to children under 13, and if your child has an acitive imagination, I recommend it only to adults.

4 out of 5 people found this helpful.

See all 3 reviews

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