A Christmas Carol (2009) (Single Disc Edition)
- Street Date:
- November 16th, 2010
- Reviewed by:
- High-Def Digest staff
- Review Date: 1
- November 17th, 2010
- Movie Release Year:
- Disney/Buena Vista
- 96 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Rated PG
- Release Country
- United States
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of 'A Christmas Carol - 3D (2009) (4-Disc Combo Pack).'
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
I've never been the type to go crazy over every single Christmas movie that comes along. Don't get me wrong, I certainly enjoy a classic story like 'The Polar Express,' I just don’t care for holiday "comedy" releases starring the likes of Vince Vaughn.
As a child, I was never exposed to the entire tale of 'A Christmas Carol.' My parents felt its themes were too adult for a children's holiday story. I knew some of the classic characters, such as cruel old Ebenezer Scrooge, and good-hearted Tiny Tim, but that was about it. After watching this movie, I've come to realize that Charles Dickens' story can easily be reinvented with the same basic principals and produce a story catered to any age group.
As most know, 'A Christmas Carol' is the story of Ebenezer Scrooge (Jim Carrey), a tight-fisted business man who doesn't believe in charity of any kind. He feels that every man should be able to earn money for his family without the aid of others. Seven years after the death of his business partner, Mr. Marley (Gary Oldman), Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his former partner, and receives a warning that if he doesn't change his ways, a horrible afterlife awaits him. Scrooge is told that he will be visited by three spirits: the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future (all three portrayed by Jim Carrey). These ghosts have the task of showing Scrooge the error of his ways and how everything he does affects the people around him. In the process, Scrooge is forced to take a hard look at himself and the ways his actions hurt the people around him. The powers of joy and the holiday season end up saving Scrooge as he learns that there are things in life far more important than money.
What would a review of 'A Christmas Carol' be without discussing Jim Carrey's performances? I've personally enjoyed most of the work he has turned in over the course of his career, and Carrey really earned his paycheck for this movie, one in which he portrays a total of eight different characters! That’s a lot of different voices for one person to come up with! But the voice work was only half the battle, for Carrey also wore motion-capture suits and hundreds of little green dots all over his face to capture his exact facial expressions as he performed. Ultimately, what you see animated on screen is largely the performance that Carrey delivered on a soundstage during production.
It's also worth mentioning how absolutely amazing and realistic the animation looked. Having been impressed, but not thrilled by Robert Zemeckis' 'Polar Express,' I didn't know what to expect. He seems to have taken the concept of single actor voice work mixed with motion capture technology to a new level of realism here. Again, much of the credit for the success of this feature is likely owed to Jim Carrey's talents (after all, the man is practically a living cartoon!)
Overall, 'A Christmas Carol' is a solid Christmas movie and very nearly a great film, one that families should enjoy watching together this holiday season.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
'A Christmas Carol' arrives on Blu-ray with a demo worthy 1080p/MPEG-4 transfer. This baby is a treat for the eyes throughout, seeming to get better and better as you go along.
You can't help but admire the beautiful, meticulous animation style. The attention to detail is astounding. Close ups of Scrooge are some of the best I have seen in an animation film. You almost think you're watching a live-action film at times! Colors are extremely vibrant and responsive to different lighting conditions, and black levels remain inky throughout. Equally impressive is the look of the animated world. Each building is unique, right down to the wood finish on the houses; it really feels like going back in time and does a great job capturing the world of Dickens.
The only minor issue I noticed was few instances of banding in the brighter sequences, but aside from these fleeting instances, this is a demo worthy transfer.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
'A Christmas Carol' features a very good DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that is sure to add to your enjoyment of the movie.
I was a bit disappointed by the scope of the sound design. The producers could have gone a bit bigger with it, but the material they do give us is excellent. Dialogue is clear and mostly remains in the front speakers while surround effects are very discrete but work very well when used in outdoor scenes where a lot is going on. Bass levels are also spot on in some of the louder sequences, like in most of Scrooge's encounter with the Ghost of Christmas Future.
Again, I wish the design would have been a bit grander but I am still very pleased with this soundtrack.
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
'A Christmas Carol' is packaged in a 2 disc set that includes both the Blu-ray and DVD versions of the movie. The following are the special features that can be found with both versions of the movie.
- "Capturing Dickens: A Novel Retelling"(HD, 15 minutes)- This is an interesting look behind the scenes. We get a look at the process used to create this movie, specifically motion-capture. It's fascinating to see how responsive the motion-capture system is to movement and facial expressions. It was also interesting to learn that the production process was almost like that of a live-action film. The actors really got their hands dirty and acted out every scene. As expected, a great deal of this feature shows Jim Carrey at work on the set.
- "On Set With Sammi"(HD, 2 minutes) – A look at the day to day process as seen through the eyes of child actor Sammi Hanratty. We get a look at the process of putting the motion-capture suit on, having dots placed all over her face, and taking it all off at the end of the day.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 9 minutes) – A total of six deleted scenes are included. These are all in pretty rough form, each being only partially animated with the actors' heads from the motion-capture sessions spliced into the animation. Overall, none feature anything all that exciting, mostly just dialogue.
- "Discover Blu-ray 3D With Timon and Pumbaa" (HD, 4 minutes) – A look at Blu-ray 3D Technology with Timon and Pumbaa from 'The Lion King' as your guides. It shows what you need to watch 3D Blu-ray and gives a preview of upcoming titles.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
'A Christmas Carol' also features the following two features exclusive to Blu-ray.
- "Countdown to Christmas Interactive Calendar" (HD) – A fun countdown to Christmas addition. You may select the number from the screen and receive a gift for each day up to Christmas.
- "Behind the Carol: The Full Motion Capture Experience" – This was the crown jewel of the set for me. This is a full length, picture in picture experience that allows the viewer to compare the final animated product to the motion-capture performances by the actors. It was truly fascinating to watch how accurate the technology was in capturing everything from swooping hand gestures to tiny facial movements. You're also given the option to either watch the feature film on the big screen with the motion-capture in the pop-up window or the other way around. Finally, an optional director commentary with Robert Zemeckis is also available with this feature. I found the commentary interesting and engaging. Zemeckis covers topics from his vision for the film, to his thoughts on the new motion-capture technology. This is a superb feature that is a must watch for all fans of the movie!
'A Christmas Carol' is an excellent release from Disney and is sure to be a favorite this holiday season. Not only is this a very good movie, with some of the best animation I have ever seen, but it also features excellent video and audio, and a good helping of special features. Toss in a DVD copy of the film and this release comes highly recommended
- BD-50 Blu-ray Disc
- English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- French Dolby Digital 5.1
- Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
- Spanish, French
- Capturing A Christmas Carol
- Three Deleted Scenes
- On Set with Sammi
Exclusive HD Content
- BonusView: Behind the Carol - the full motion capture experience
- Countdown to Christmas Interactive Calendar
- Three More Deleted Scenes
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