watched this last night on dvd to get in the xmas spirit. the dickens story is one of my favorite xmas stories (along with the grinch, which, when you think about it, is pretty much the same story). my favorite version has always been the george c scott version. the patrick stewart version was pretty good too, despite some cheesy fx. i've only seen parts of the alastair sim version.
anyway, i think this version is possibly the worst version ever. certainly the worst i've seen. there are a lot of problems. oh, where to begin.
i guess the best place to start is with the voicework, and in particular, jim carrey's scrooge. now, to his credit, at least he's not doing "schtick." he's doing an honest version of the character, not making it a joke, like, say, a robin williams or eddie murphy version could have been. but even playing it straight, his vocal approach to the character just doesn't work. it sounds phony and out of place, and doesn't carry the Punky Power or sincerity the character demands. i don't really blame carrey, i just think this was a bad casting choice. he's certainly no george c scott or patrick stewart.
to a lesser extent, this problem extends to the other characters as well. bob cratchit comes off like a mumbling buffoon, not at all helped by the physical character design either. scrooge's nephew is too loud and bombastic. the ghost of christmas past who's design is, to say the least, interesting (i could possibly warm up to this take on it) is often hard to understand because of how the voice is portrayed. really, none of the voicework stands out as particularly good, and the character designs as a whole don't hold up. the film as a whole also has a very bleak and depressing look to it. now, mid-19th century london was a fairly bleak place, so that's not necessarily wrong, but some of the film is just not enjoyable to look at.
another problem is the pacing. now, to the film's credit, it is very faithful to the original source material. perhaps too faithful, in that it doesn't really flesh out much of the story, particularly during the ghosts of xmas past and present. it seems they were afraid to add anything to the story, but dickens' original is a very short story and rather sparse in sections, and other films have expanded scrooge's story a bit, which fleshes his character out some more. this film doesn't do that, and so it comes off feeling rushed in these sections. at the same time, they do add one thing to the story: lots and lots of flying. oh, and a bit of "honey, i shrunk the scrooge" as well. no doubt these were added to keep the kiddies' attentions, but it's a DOUBLE EPIC FAIL - first, because the sequences feel tacked-on and lame and don't fit the tone of the narrative, and second because the rest of the film is not children's material at all, it ranges from very dark and dour to some rather creepy sequences (particularly with marley and the ghost of xmas yet to come) that would likely frighten very young children. it also betrays the filmmaker's lack of faith in the original material, that they felt they needed to add flying sequences and a bizarre mini-scrooge chase scene to keep the audience's interest. i think the staying power of this story is proof enough that those bells and whistles aren't needed. the story is strong enough to stand on its own without a bunch of overblown action scenes.
and that gets to perhaps the central issue, the one basic conceptual failure of this film, which is that it's completely unsuited for animation. it was simply a bad choice to try and make an animated film version of this story. first, by making it animated, they automatically invite the perception of this as a "children's film" when it's not that at all. dicken's story is for adults and for older children; it's not for the little kiddies. and while it's true that animation doesn't, and shouldn't, automatically imply that the film is for kids, that's still the way most of the public sees it. and i think the films producers knew that, which is why they tried to insert those "kid-friendly" sequences which do nothing but clash with the tone of the film completely. the other aspect that makes this story not suited to animation is that it's a very human story. and while the motion-capture is well improved over "the polar express" and the like, it still puts a major barrier between the audience and the characters, and makes it harder to connect to the characters, which is necessary to really get to the heart of the story and the emotion and meaning behind it. i just don't think there's a way for this story to work on film without real actors portraying scrooge and the cratchits and be able to hit the emotional beats to their fullest potential.
and that is why disney's a christmas carol fails.