Everyone has a favorite Christmas movie. For many it’s Christmas Vacation and it’s pretty much my favorite as well. (In addition to Home Alone) But that doesn’t mean that it’s the one movie I would recommend to someone looking to get into the Christmas spirit.
To me, the best Christmas movies remind me of my childhood and what it was like to wake up Christmas morning wide eyed and ready for a spectacular day with my family. And so my pick is:
MICKEY’S CHRISTMAS CAROL
No other Christmas cartoon captured my imagination like Mickey’s take on the Charles Dickens classic. It was the one movie I looked forward to each year and remains one of the only ones I don’t own. I think that adds to the experience though. Searching through TV schedules each year on a hunt for this wonderful movie has become a tradition.
Having said that, you can watch the entire thing on YouTube anytime you want.
A few weeks ago, I talked about the box office draw of Zemeckis’ A Christmas Carol starring Jim Carrey. I’m happy to report that it has grown some legs and still sits in the top 5 after 6 weeks. However, the film has only grossed 124 million. Add to that 118 million the film has made internationally you have a profitable film but you don’t have a runaway hit the studios were expecting. The movie definitely won’t be counted amongst the all time classics or even the biggest hits of 2009. Why?
I saw the movie last night and I think I can answer that question. The movie had no life, no surprises and definitely lacked laughs. Going in I figured with Jim Carrey on board, they would inject some humor into the story. Nope. False alarm. It’s pretty much a straight adaptation of the story which can be a good thing except we already know what’s going to happen.
I’m a big fan of the story and I always will be. I was literally sitting in the theater predicting lines of dialogue before they happened. It’s safe to say I’ve seen a few movies based on Dickens’ book. The filmmakers tried to change things up here and there with a couple different interpretations but not enough for me or anyone else in the theater to really care.
I honestly think A Christmas Carol depends on how much we love Bob Cratchit. It’s vital to Scrooge’s transformation that we care about Cratchit and Tiny Tim. I’m attached to Mickey and Kermit in the role because they had an impact in those movies. This new version of Cratchit isn’t given much to do and barely makes an appearance in the first hour or so. Truthfully, he’s actually pretty creepy looking so I was glad we didn’t see him often.
He looks like that creepy blond demon guy from End Of Days
The whole subplot with Tiny Tim is told but it almost seems glazed over to focus more on Scrooge. Once Scrooge learns the meaning of Christmas, he has a small scene with Cratchit and it’s not really a big moment at all. While I definitely loved how the movie looked in 3D, it lacked the Christmas magic you would expect. It was even a little scary at certain points. There’s no way I’m showing this movie to a little kid when I could put on Muppets or Disney instead.
I think that’s the true test of a Christmas film. If small children enjoy it you’ve succeeded. (Grown ups who act like children also count.) There were a number of children in the theater last night and I didn’t hear any of them laugh or react to the movie. Neither did I. Too bad really…
Yesterday, I was talking about James Cameron’s Avatar and the new technology behind it. He isn’t the only one pushing state-of-the-art technology. Robert Zemeckis has been rolling out performance capture films for a while now. Yet, none have really been that successful. (At least, not once you compare them to recent 3D animating films.) This weekend, he unleashed what should have been a smash hit. It certainly made money but no where near what the filmmakers were expecting. Let’s look at the facts:
Beloved story? Check.
Jim Carrey? Check.
Even with those pieces in place the film only managed to gross 31 million this weekend. Way below expectations. Compare that to the 68 million Pixar’s Up made in it’s opening weekend. Ice Age 3 only made 41 million but went on to become a gigantic world wide success. I don’t think A Christmas Carol will come close to those numbers. Are people just not getting it? (Makes you wonder about the current skepticism about Avatar doesn’t it?)
The Polar Express
This is Captain Back To The Future’s third attempt with performance capture. Tom Hanks and The Polar Express opened with 23 million. Beowulf didn’t do much better. Most of the complaints I’ve read stem from the ‘dead eyes’ look most of the characters have. I get the critisism but it’s still pretty groundbreaking animation. I think hyper-real animation has a while to go. People just seem to identify more with classic cartoons and exagerated characters. Personally, I’m a fan of every cartoon there is. I’ll be catching this movie eventually. It’s just hasn’t risen up my list of must-see films yet.
Still the performance captured films made money which is why Mr. Zemekis can continue with new projects. They just haven’t pulled in earth shattering numbers yet. I honestly thought A Christmas Carol had a shot at 50 million at least.
Can the technology behind the film really be blamed though? Perhaps it’s attachment to the older adaptations. Take Willy Wonka for example. The Tim Burton remake had all the elements that should have added up to a massive success. Yet everyone still holds the original closer to their hearts. When it comes to A Christmas Carol, Disney’s timeless version wins for me.
Every year in the history of Christmas or years on channel 8 at 8pm (Eastern Time) I watched this movie. It’s just not Christmas without it. Sadly, I haven’t watched it in a few years but thanks to the miracle of YouTube, it’s on my list right after The Sandlot. (Anyone who spots a DVD copy of Mickey’s Christmas Carol needs to notify me immediately by the way.)
It’s strange that many movies have tried to establish new Christmas traditions but haven’t. I wonder if the younger generations will look back at Jim Carrey’s Scrooge the same way I look at the duck whos name is also Scrooge.
(I’ve included part 1 to brighten everyone’s day. Sweet flick.)
Another absolute classic is A Muppet Christmas Carol. My sister and I make time to watch that old VHS once as year. So really there are already 2 mainstays in my yearly Dickens fix. Is there room for one more? I’m keeping an open mind.
Regardless of technology or nostalgia, I’m sure the new version is entertaining. Maybe it’s the release date. Would the film benefit from being released closer to Christmas? I think the theory behind it is to maximize on all the weeks leading up to the holidays. For the sake of NEW traditions, I hope the film has legs.
I can honestly remember a day when I watched this movie, rewound and then watched it again. I’m definitely up for another trip to Toon Town. This is a movie that can’t miss when it comes to traditions. A sequel with better technology and the ORIGINAL writers! I really hope this movie happens. It’d be amazing. I would be very happy about a Roger Rabbit sequel.
FUN FACT: While looking for a kick ass Roger Rabbit pic I came across the image above. It’s a book on cassette! Remember books on cassettes? I USED TO OWN THAT! I probably still do. (I’ll calm down eventually.)
One final thought on the topic of hyper-real animation… Take a look at this picture from a site called Pixeloo:
I don’t think the world is ready for that either…
UPDATE: In it’s second weekend of release, A Christmas Carol held strong losing only 26% of it’s opening weekend audience taking in 22.3 million. Looks like it does have some legs. Good.