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Festive fear; a christmas carol (pg) HHHH.

NOT thought much about Christmas yet? Then this film will really put you in the festive mood.

There have been more than 20 adaptations of Dickens' classic novel on TV and at the cinema, but this has to be one of the best looking.

It's visually stunning, especially when viewed in 3D on the huge screen at Birmingham's IMAX cinema.

It's directed by Robert Zemeckis, obviously a big fan of Christmas as he was also the man behind The Polar Express, which will return later this month to IMAX for the fifth year running.

Zemeckis uses the same motion-capture technology here, though more advanced. The attention to detail is fantastic, as we can see every wrinkle and pore on people's faces. The eyes are much more life-like now, too.

As in the Tom Hanks train guard in Polar Express, the characters in A Christmas Carol look a lot like the actors voicing them. Though obviously Jim Carrey has aged considerably to play miserable, tight-fisted Ebenenezer Scrooge.

They get their money's worth out of Carrey, as he also voices Scrooge at four different stages of his life, plus the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. Quite why he decided to make the over-the-top jovial Ghost of Christmas Present - who looks like Brian Blessed - speak with a bizarre Scousecum-Glaswegian accent (which apparently is meant to be Yorkshire!) is beyond me, though.

For Scrooge's voice, he mainly channels Alastair Sim from the 1951 film and, more recently, grumpy old man Victor Meldrew.

He's joined by Gary Oldman as his put-upon clerk Bob Cratchit (plus Marley and Tiny Tim), Colin Firth as his nephew Fred, Bob Hoskins as Fezziwig and Robin Wright Penn as his teenage sweetheart Belle. The film is full of lovely visual touches - there's a particularly good use of shadows, as well as swooping scenes which work very well in 3D. Quite scary and dark in places when the Ghost of Christmas Past appears, there's a laugh or two to be had as well.

Zemeckis has embellished on the novel, inventing a section where Scrooge is made tiny and pursued by a terrifying ghostly horse-driven hearse, but it's such an exciting action scene that we can forgive his artistic licence. And the bit when Scrooge uses the very modern phrase "I'm having a wobbly".

When Scrooge finally comes to see the error of his ways and decides to enjoy life and Christmas, his newfound joy is infectious.

If you don't leave the cinema with a warm glow in your heart, thoroughly looking forward to all the festivities, then bah humbug to you!
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Nov 8, 2009
Words:432
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