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Christmas Carol - The Movie (November 7/03)

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is a story that's become so well-known over the years (the word Scrooge has become synonymous with grumpiness), that contemporary film adaptations really have their work cut out for them in overcoming the familiarity of this story. Though Christmas Carol - The Movie is packed with celebrity voices, there's an air of been-there-done-that inherent in the film - exacerbated by a flat animation style and sluggish pace.

Dickens' storyline - Ebenezer Scrooge receives a visit from three ghosts, prompting him to change his greedy ways - has been left intact, but the addition of two Disney-esque mice is puzzling (to say the least). This is a tale that has been proven to work quite well without cute little animals running around, though it's likely the animals were included to appeal to very small children. But such viewers will probably find themselves bored by the talky nature of the film, despite the presence of the adorable rodents.

Christmas Carol - The Movie isn't necessarily bad - Dickens' story still packs a punch, and it'd really take some work to screw it up - but there's really no reason for this version to even exist. And it seems as though the film was rushed, as evidenced by the shoddy animation found throughout. The movie's got the look of a cheesy Saturday morning cartoon, complete with choppy movements and dull backgrounds. The voice work helps a little - Simon Callow makes for a decent Scrooge, while folks like Kate Winslet, Nicolas Cage, and Rhys Ifans pop up in smaller roles - but not nearly enough to energize this lifeless production.

Though Christmas Carol newbies might enjoy this take on the Dickens classic, anyone who's seen a prior incarnation of this story will undoubtedly be disappointed by this. Stick with the Alastair Sim version (or even the Bill Murray/Richard Donner adaptation, Scrooged).

out of

About the DVD: Interestingly enough, this MGM DVD has been modified from its original British version. The film originally opened and closed with live action sequences featuring Charles Dickens (also played by Callow) presenting his story to an American audience. The scenes are included on the disc, fortunately. Unfortunately, the movie's only available in full-frame - yet another example of the studios insisting that family films shouldn't be letterboxed. Other extras include a short yet informative featurette on the making of the movie, a music video with Kate Winslet (no, really), and some bonus trailers.