Disney's A Christmas Carol
By Sandie Angulo Chen,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
3-D adaptation of classic holiday tale may scare young kids.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie educates younger viewers (in a "scared straight" kind of way) on the importance of being kind and selfless, rather than greedy and selfish like Scrooge.
Dickens' classic tale is full of important, relevant messages: Even in economically difficult times, there is hope and happiness; money isn't the most necessary ingredient to live a happy, successful life; those lucky enough to have money should be generous toward those who are less fortunate; everyone should be kind and charitable, no matter how rich they are; and family and friendship are far more fulfilling than work.
Positive Role Models
Although Ebenezer Scrooge is clearly a negative role model at first, he redeems himself and becomes a positive one. By abandoning his greedy ways, he realizes the importance of generosity, selflessness, altruism, family, and the spirit of Christmas. Secondary characters like Scrooge's nephew Fred, Bob Cratchit, and Tiny Tim are all admirable for their exemplary loyalty, faith, and sincerity.
Violence & Scariness
Several frightening images of skeletons, corpses, and ghosts, from the very first scene of a dead Jacob Marley lying in a coffin to an open grave in scenes from Christmas future. The ghost of Marley -- along with the three spirits of Christmas, especially the Grim Reaper-esque Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (and his stampeding, red-eyed horses) -- can be disturbing, as can the hissing, threatening figures of Ignorance and Want. Some of the 3-D scenes are also intense and startling, and there are several sad scenes, particularly one in which a family mourns a young child.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A young Ebenezer dances and exchanges longing looks with a woman, and it's later clear that they were engaged.
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Some British slang like "bugger" and "blast." The words "hell" and "ass" are used, too, but not as curses. One character says "oh my God."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults make Christmas toasts with what is presumably wine.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that, unlike The Polar Express, this Robert Zemeckis adaptation of a classic holiday tale is too intense both visually and in content for families with very young children. At its heart, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is a ghost story, and not only are the many spirits very creepy at times, but the 3-D technology makes certain scenes -- as when the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come's red-eyed black stallions jump out at the audience -- all the scarier. And the realistic nature of the motion capture technology often makes the movie seem more like live action (and thus more intense) than animation. But on the other hand, the language is mild (British slang like "bugger" and "blast") and the drinking limited to Christmas toasts. And the messages are all quite positive, as Ebenezer Scrooge's (Jim Carrey) transformation is one of literature's ultimate stories of redemption and hope, even in the bleakest of times.
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Disney's A Christmas Carol
Based on 110 parent reviews
Terrifying and Disturbing
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Great movie BUT NOT FOR KIDS
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What's the Story?
Charles Dickens' 19th-century classic comes to life again in this 3-D adaptation, which faithfully follows the original tale. Seven Christmas Eves after the death of his business partner, Jacob Marley (voiced by Gary Oldman), miserly money lender Ebenezer Scrooge (Jim Carrey) spends the day complaining about the town's holiday cheer ("Bah, humbug!"), terrorizing his put-upon clerk Bob Cratchit (also Oldman), and refusing his nephew Fred's (Colin Firth) invitation to Christmas supper. That night, Scrooge is visited by Marley's ghost, who informs him that three spirits will appear to him to offer one last chance to change his life before it's too late. Scrooge is then summoned by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come (all played by Carrey), each of whom gives the crotchety old man a peek at defining moments in his life and possible future -- as well as the life of poor-but-happy Cratchit, whose crippled son Tiny Tim (Oldman again) is sickly but still filled with holiday cheer.
Is It Any Good?
Director Robert Zemeckis continues to perfect the motion-capture animation he revolutionized with The Polar Express, and the result is quite breathtaking in A CHRISTMAS CAROL. From the pimples on an adolescent's face to the coins on a corpse's eyes, the technology accounts for a remarkable degree of detail. The 3-D, in particular, is fantastic -- albeit occasionally frightening (a few shots may cause audiences to jump from their seats). With a rubber-faced actor like Carrey as the star, it's no wonder that the characters' expressions and gestures are so startlingly realistic. Of course, the downside to all of the realism is that the ghost scenes are actually quite frightening -- not Beowulf terrifying, but downright scary nonetheless. The spook factor is unfortunate for parents who will naturally assume that animation plus holiday classic equals cinematic fun for the whole family.
For those with harder-to-rattle clans, this is a touching and haunting adaptation of a story most of us know by heart in one form or the other. Carrey's genius at physical comedy is evident throughout the film in small moments like when Scrooge does a jig, sings along with carolers, or slides down a railing. While there aren't many huge laughs, there's enough levity to break through the otherwise somber nature of Scrooge's time-traveling, life-changing visits to Christmases past, present, and future. Oldman and Firth are, as always, fine supporting players, and Robin Wright Penn (a Beowulf alum) adds a wistful, feminine vulnerability to the only woman Scrooge ever loved. With the current economic doom and gloom, this is a well-timed holiday narrative about hope, redemption, and love.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the lessons that Scrooge learns. How does he change throughout the movie? What is the story trying to teach us about not just Christmas, but about human behavior in general?
How are the themes of A Christmas Carol still relevant more than 200 years after it was originally written? Kids: How can you act generously during the holidays and year round?
Do you think the 3-D technology enhances the movie, or would it have been as good/better without it?
- In theaters: November 6, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: November 16, 2010
- Cast: Colin Firth, Gary Oldman, Jim Carrey, Robin Wright
- Director: Robert Zemeckis
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Book Characters, Holidays, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: scary sequences and images
- Last updated: February 18, 2023
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