Robert Zemeckis’s motion-capture-animation version of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol had a fairly blah opening weekend at the North American box office, finishing first with an unexpectedly miserly total of $31 million in ticket sales. Industry insiders had figured the film to bring in up to $45 million.
Disney studio representatives predict that this latest adaptation of the Dickens classic will do well over time, like Zemeckis’s 2004 The Polar Express. My assessment is that the biggest element limiting the film’s appeal in the prerelease period was the annoyingly frenetic and superficial quality suggested by its promotional trailers and commercials.
Jim Carrey’s noisiness appears to be wearing quite thin, and a film that features him as not only the protagonist but also three other characters sounds like far too much of a no longer good thing. Carrey would do well to follow the path of the equally obnoxious Robin Williams and move on to more serious film roles, even if it kills his career. Yes, I’m aware that Carrey’s occasional serious performances have been pretty awful, but he’s dead either way, and it would be best to die with honor instead of ignominy.
Carrey is following in Williams’s footsteps in one way, however: the making of idiotic political pronouncements. Talking with the Chicago Tribune to promote A Christmas Carol a few days before the film’s release, Carrey released the following burst of political flatulence:
"I was thinking about it this morning, how this story ties into everything we’re going through," says Carrey, who, thanks to the technology, plays Scrooge as well as the three ghosts haunting him. "Every construct we’ve built in American life is falling apart. Why? Because of personal greed and ambition. Capitalism without regulation can’t protect us against personal greed.. . .
Making certain that many people reading the interview will resolutely avoid seeing the film, Carrey describes the protagonist as follows:
"Scrooge is the ultimate example of self-loathing," Carrey says, noting that, after playing the title character in Ron Howard‘s "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," he was merely "going to the source" in fleshing out Scrooge.
"Beware the unloved, I always say," Carrey continues. "They’re the ones that end up being the mean guys. It comes from that deep, spiritual acid reflux within them. With Scrooge it infects his whole being."
Whereas Dickens presented a reasonably nuanced view of the issues the story brings up, and did so with an appropriate narrative tone, Carrey makes the latest film version sound like a hamfisted socialist diatribe, hardly a strategy for drawing middle American families in great numbers.
Zemeckis, for his part, avoided making any big political claims about the film. That’s the wise course, and given the already annoying qualities suggested by the commercials and trailers for the film, the last thing his version of A Christmas Carol needs is for its star to blunder around the media with claims that this energetic fantasy is any kind of brief for socialism.
–S. T. Karnick