Disney's A Christmas Carol Movie Poster Image

Disney's A Christmas Carol

3-D adaptation of classic holiday tale may scare young kids.
Popular with kids
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 96 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

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.


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.


A young Ebenezer dances and exchanges longing looks with a woman, and it's later clear that they were engaged.


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."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Adults make Christmas toasts with what is presumably wine.

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.

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.

Families can talk 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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 6, 2009
DVD/Streaming release date: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

This review of Disney's A Christmas Carol was written by

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Adult Written bymomtoone November 9, 2009

Definitely not for under 15, not enjoyable for those who can withstand the mature presentation

I was really disappointed in the movie. I'm used to the many other versions of this tale that really balance the dramatic hauntings with the fun of scrooge's past and the very happy ending. The movie is 96 minutes long and mostly scary and sad. The opening of the movie is Marley's death...Marley is in a casket in what looks like a garage...Scrooge takes the gold coins off his eyes to pay for the burial. The entrance of Marley as a ghost really got scary...there's a part where Marley's fabric around his head loosens and his jaw almost falls off while trying to talk and his tongue hangs out-really REALLY scary...then he talks using his hands to move his jaw. The Ghost of Christmas Past is a flaming candle with a face and he talks really scary and breathy as a ghost is usually portrayed in adult media. The flashbacks were predominately showing sad stories of scrooge's past ex: young school flashback: he was sad & alone in the school because his friend's ditched him...older school flashback: his younger sister runs in to say that Dad has invited him home again and she makes a point to imply how their Dad is changed and not abusive anymore...shortly after the ghost makes a point to say that his sweet sister died after giving birth to his nephew. Short happy flashback to Fezziwig's ball, but soon is the longer argument between he and the young woman he was romantic with that ends in their break-up. Ghost of Christmas Present seems pleasant but at the end of the sequence he has 2 demon-looking kids under his robe come out and age into adults instantly...one (Ignorance) a guy with a knife and jail bars fall on him and the other (Want) a female prostitute who nastily dances behind scrooge...the ghost then has a dramatic painful death as you watch his entire body age and decompose all the way to dust. The last ghost is really creepy and there's a long chase scene where black horses with red-glowing eyes chase scrooge. There's a scene where scrooge is hanging on as not to fall further into his grave as the casket opens and flames below. The ending/happy sequence is short and doesn't show scrooge going to the home of Cratchet, only his nephew's dinner party. The scene with cratchet doesn't include cratchet's family, only he and scrooge at the office the day after Christmas. Anyhow, a very scary adaption to me. My husband and I were scared and the kids in the theatre were crying. Too scary. The whole message of goodwill, peace, and hope is lost with the majority of depressing/sad/scary overtones the movie portrays for character building. I say, two thumbs way, way down.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Adult Written byMovie Man November 15, 2009

Too Horrifying for Kids; Too Horrible for Adults

I am appalled; Jim Carrey, I hope you were tricked into doing this movie. I am an avid fan of Mr. Carrey's work, but this is just disastorous. It's too terrifying for children (I saw kids leave with their parents crying their eyes out) and too unfunny for adults (like myself), and still a bit creepy for some adults. PARENTS: This is incredibly scary for children and even some tweens. Beware. Also, why did they have to show those images? It's not aproppriate in a children's movie or a christmas movie, not to mention a children's CHRISTMAS movie! Well, thanks for reading - Movie Man
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Kid, 11 years old December 4, 2009

Miss-Rated, but good.

I am 11 years old and I saw this movie. I really enjoyed it, I thought the message was good, but there were some scenes where I had to cover my eyes. I like scary and violent, but this movie genuinely scared me. And if my seven year old sister were to see this movie, she would've been scared out of her wits. It is very miss-rated. It definitely should be PG-13. I also don't thing Scrooge is not a very good role model because he is always cranky and concerned about money and workhouses. I am so glad I did not see it in 3-D. If you are going to see this movie with your kids, you watch it first because some of the images are truly scary and disturbing.
What other families should know
Too much violence