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MGM Studios DVD presents
Christmas Carol: The Movie (2001)

Ghost #1: I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.
Scrooge: Long past?
Ghost #1: No, your past, Ebenezer Scrooge.

- Jane Horrocks, Simon Callow

Review By: David Krauss   
Published: November 03, 2003

Stars: Simon Callow, Kate Winslet, Nicolas Cage, Jane Horrocks, Rhys Ifans, Michael Gambon, Juliet Stevenson
Director: Jimmy T. Murakami

Manufacturer: Wamo
MPAA Rating: PG for momentary language
Run Time: 01h:17m:22s
Release Date: October 07, 2003
UPC: 027616896568
Genre: holiday

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Don't call me a Scrooge, but do kids really need yet another filmed adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol? I mean, they've already got Mickey's Christmas Carol and The Muppet Christmas Carol and Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol and An All Dogs Christmas Carol and Brer Rabbit's Christmas Carol—and those are just the ones currently available on DVD! Surely someone out there can think up an original yuletide yarn. I freely admit, Dickens' tale of a mean old miser who's reformed by three benevolent ghosts on Christmas Eve may well be the ultimate holiday story. But enough already!

Apparently, the producers of this current animated incarnation weren't aware of any previous versions, because they brazenly titled their effort Christmas Carol: The Movie (so people wouldn't confuse it with, say, Christmas Carol: The Book). Or maybe they honestly felt their film would be immediately regarded as the definitive cinematic interpretation of Dickens' classic (yeah, right) and thus merited a definitive title. Whatever the rationale, Christmas Carol: The Movie is nothing more than a run-of-the-mill rehash that wastes the vocal talent of such distinguished performers as Simon Callow, Kate Winslet, and Nicolas Cage. Believe it or not, the most interesting part of this DVD is the music video of the film's theme song, performed by, of all people, Winslet herself (but more on that below).

Nothing overtly offensive or idiotic drags down Christmas Carol: The Movie (apart from its title). Director Jimmy T. Murakami's film pays appropriate homage to the story and contains serviceable acting, but it's just plain tedious to watch, especially given the existence and accessibility of so many other, better versions. In fact, this rather literate presentation doesn't contain enough good-natured idiocy to endear it to younger viewers. Sure, the animators monkey a bit with the basic story to make it more kid-friendly, adding the requisite woodland creatures (in this case, a couple of squeaking mice) and forcing a years-later reunion between Scrooge (Callow) and his lost love Belle (Winslet). They even soften Scrooge's rough edges (and foreshadow his future transformation) by having him nurture and protect those annoying mice that roam freely throughout his office. After all, the film seems to say, Scrooge may treat humans like dirt, but anyone who shares his dinner with a field mouse (yuck!) can't be all bad.

Maybe if the animation sparkled, this Christmas tale might inspire more cheer. The lush, detailed backdrops resemble fine paintings, but the figures in the foreground are stilted and jerky, with generic and often vacant facial expressions. And although the drab color palette may accurately represent a bleak winter's night in Victorian London, it robs the film of the vivid hues that usually attract and engross its target audience.

Such flat animation, coupled with the film's far too sober story treatment, makes Christmas Carol: The Movie as clunky as the chains draped about Jacob Marley's neck. After only 15 minutes into the movie, my 7-year-old son began asking when it would be over. Fifteen minutes later, he was fast asleep on the couch.

Case closed.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: A fair amount of grain and the aforementioned anemic color palette hamper MGM's full-frame presentation of the film. (Both the opening and closing credit sequences, however, are offered in nonanamorphic widescreen.) The image, like the film itself, is rather flat and uninteresting. Although the source print remains clean throughout, the transfer lacks the vibrancy and visual pop that make animated movies such a pleasure to watch on DVD.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, French, Spanishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby stereo track provides rich, full sound, with good bass frequency that especially shines during the ghost sequences, while Julian Nott's original score comes through with nice presence and depth of tone. Dialogue is clear and no distortion exists.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
8 Other Trailer(s) featuring Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: SE, Hi5!, Hamilton Mattress, Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Kids, It's A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, Prancer, A Freezerburnt Christmas, Second Star to the Left
1 Alternate Endings
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. What If music video featuring Kate Winslet
Extras Review: Once you slog through Christmas Carol: The Movie, it's unlikely you'll care one whit about the film's production process. Nevertheless, a 12-minute behind-the-scenes featurette is included for the curious. Making Christmas Carol: The Movie includes all the standard cast and director interviews, with proper focus on the animators and the computer technology employed during production. Murakami discusses his efforts to keep the film authentic with regard to sets and costumes, while Callow and Winslet talk about the freedom actors enjoy in the animated realm—a welcome respite from the more regimented schedules of live action films. A good portion of the featurette is devoted to the evolution of Winslet's pop song and video (see below), although the actress promises she has no plans to launch a singing career. Wise decision.

If you were one of the few who actually wasted good money to see Christmas Carol: The Movie in theaters, you might remember that the film featured live action opening and closing sequences featuring Charles Dickens (also played by Simon Callow) arriving in 1867 Boston to tell a rapt audience the story of Ebenezer Scrooge. Well, in its attempt to market this DVD to kids, MGM undoubtedly felt such scenes would tax the short attention span of the film's juvenile audience, and deleted them. The two brief scenes are included as part of the special features package, and while they nicely bookend the film and gently segue into and out of the animation, they add little substance to the story. (The opening also introduces the mice that play a pivotal role in the story.) The sequences are presented in nonanamorphic widescreen and look quite good.

The real novelty on this DVD, though, is definitely Kate Winslet's music video of "What If," the Steve Mac-Wayne Hector tune sung over the closing credits. Maybe it's the song or maybe it's just seeing Winslet sing it, but I couldn't help but detect a strong similarity between "What If" and Titanic's equally bombastic anthem, "My Heart Will Go On." During the video, Winslet does her best impression of Celine Dion, but without any chest thumping, thank the lord. The actress possesses a surprisingly powerful, resonant voice, and her performance makes this undistinguished ballad a disc highlight.

The film's original theatrical trailer, four family trailers and four "Fun Holiday Previews" complete the extras package.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

Far too staid and stiff, Christmas Carol: The Movie fails to captivate both adults and children, as it sucks the humor and whimsy from Dickens' tale. By all means, skip this dull, disappointing animated film, and instead rent a far better Christmas Carol adaptation starring Albert Finney or The Muppets.


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