Animation is the proper way for a kid to first experience Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Live theater performances and the “classic” film renditions — 1951 with Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge, 1984’s exceptional George C. Scott TV movie Scrooge — can wait.
But a sure sign that Netflix has more money than it knows what to do with, and more money than common filmmaking sense, is “Scrooge: A Christmas Carol,” a new animated musical that gives the grim, motion-capture-animated Jim Carrey version of 2009 a run for its soulless money.
About the best thing one can say about it is it employed for the last time screenwriter and songwriter/lyricist Leslie Briscusse, who gave us the musical “Scrooge” in 1970, after he’d done musical “Dr. Doolittle” and the classic version of “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”
With couplets like “Jingle bells are jingly, Christmas kids tingling with delight,” nobody will remember him for this spin on Dickens.
The animation is colorful, clean and lifeless. The voice acting adequate — save for Olivia Colman‘s Ghost of Christmas Past, Jonathan Pryce‘s Jacob Marley and Trevor Dion Nicholas‘ efforts as Ghost of Christmas Present, each of whom excel and as we say in the states, “Get it.”
Luke Evans is Scrooge, and yes he does his own singing. But those songs…
The story has been badly bowdlerized over the decades, so much so that it’s hard to figure out what is still Dickens and what got lost in “Mickey’s Christmas Carol,” “Scrooged!” The Muppets and all the rest.
During my child-rearing years, I had the good sense to make “Muppet Christmas Carol” the kids’ baptism in Dickens. But there are several animated versions on Youtube including the properly gloomy and brisk 1971 Richard Williams British TV film that resonates best through the ages, and takes up less time as it does.
It’s spooky and somber and touching. It is a GHOST story, after all.
But just about any other rendition of Dickens’ classic novella that you can hunt down is going to be better than this treacly humbug from Netflix.
Cast: The voices of Luke Evans, Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Trevor Dion Nicholas and Jonathan Pryce.
Credits: Directed by Stephen Donnelly, scripted by Leslie Briscusse and Stephen Donnelly, songs by Leslie Briscusse, arranged by Jeremy Holland Smith, based on the novella by Charles Dickens. A Netflix release.
Running tine: 1:41