It can be hard to decide on your favourite ever movie adaptation of A Christmas Carol - there's the lure of Alastair Sim, the lure of Albert Finney in a musical, and the lure of muppets, of course - but it's quite easy to identify the less impressive examples. The ones that feel more like a serving of lumpy gravy than a mix of the gravy and the grave, if you will. Excluding the most low-budget and independent movies, my own personal least favourite is Christmas Carol: The Movie, with the 2009 Jim Carrey vehicle sitting not too far above it. And now they can be joined by Scrooge: A Christmas Carol, a film that commits the crime of feeling even more lifeless than the spirits that visit the central character, despite the fact that it is, apparently, an animated remake/reworking of the 1970 Albert Finney movie (although that maybe explains the main problem with it, I have never been the biggest fan of that film either).
Luke Evans voices Scrooge. The ghost of Christmas past is voiced by Olivia Colman, a highlight, while Trevor Dion Nicholas voices Christmas present (and the third spectre says all that needs to be said without speaking aloud). Jonathan Pryce is Jacob Marley, James Cosmo is Mr. Fezziwig, Jessie Buckley is Isabel Fezziwig, and Johnny Flynn is Bob Cratchit.
I am not sure if I can do much more here, naming the main cast members seems to be the closest I can come to being nice about this film.
Directed by Stephen Donnelly, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Leslie Bricusse (who also provided the songs dotted throughout the narrative, or wrote them back when the 1970 movie was being crafted, and who sadly died just a couple of months before the film was released), this is a flat and dull retread of a story that viewers can watch in at least a dozen better movies. Easily. As much as I like many of the cast members, very few of them get to do anything that helps their performance stand out. The notable exception is Colman, who has a voice and manner that turns out to be a great match for her character.
The animation throughout is nice enough, it's clean and neat, but there's a lack of real artistry, and the same can be said of the songs, unfortunately. I dare anyone to get to the end of this and then relay one of the musical numbers back to me. Not exactly, just hum a rendition at me. I doubt anyone could manage it, even if you tried while the end credits were still rolling, because they are so unmemorable.
As disappointed as I was with the visuals and the songs, I was much more disappointed by the script. I can only assume that Donnelly wanted to present a film that felt like a mix of the fresh and the familiar, but he omits all the best phrases that fans of the story will be waiting for. Either use the animation to complement a beautifully traditional adaptation or use the bare bones of the tale to give viewers an enjoyably fresh new spin on it (love or hate Spirited, at least it tried the latter), but don't land smack bang in the middle. That just ends up pleasing nobody, although complete newcomers may find just enough here to enjoy.
Maybe I'll revisit this one day, and I might view it a bit more favourably, especially if it just stays available to stream while I'm full of hot chocolate and mince pies, lazily browsing for something that won't require me to overthink anything. That's a big maybe though.
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