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Western Animation / A Christmas Carol (2009)

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"What if you were given a second chance to get your life right? This holiday season, the ghosts of christmas past, present and future will give one man that chance."

A Christmas Carol is a 2009 Disney film adaptation of the Charles Dickens novella of the same name, one of many. Directed by Robert Zemeckis and made using Motion Capture, it stars Jim Carrey as Ebenezer Scrooge and all three of the Christmas spirits.

This film provides examples of:

  • Acrofatic: The Fezziwig in this adaptation is a portly little man who, just after being introduced, does a front handspring off his high stool and sticks the landing.
  • Actionized Adaptation: The film adds an action scene of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come chasing Scrooge with Jacob Marley's funeral wagon and shrinking him to the size of a rat, none of which was in the book. Scrooge is also physically flung around a lot by the ghosts and the effects of their visits, while in the book he's just spirited to places.
  • Actor Allusion:
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • In canon, Scrooge was said to be honest even before the ghosts changed him. In this film, he steals the gold coins that were covering the late Jacob Marley's eyes.
    • Unlike other incarnations, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come actively torments Scrooge in ways such as bursting out to knock him over, chasing him from atop a stagecoach pulled by stampeding horses, and shrinking him down to an extremely small size. (Given it's specifically presented as Scrooge's Living Shadow, it makes sense it would be cruel.)
  • Adaptation Expansion: In the novel, Ignorance and Want are only shown as feral, almost animalistic children. Here, both age up into adults as the Ghost of Christmas Present dies, with the former becoming a knife-wielding thief and then being imprisoned while the latter becomes a prostitute and is then trapped in a straitjacket. Both throw back a line Scrooge had said earlier in the film ("Are there no prisons?" for the boy, "Are there no workhouses?" for the girl), showing that they are the end result of this line of thinking.
  • Adapted Out:
    • The ghostly hearse on the staircase is in the junior novelization, trailer, and licensed game, but not the movie itself. The movie also removes Belle with her husband and children, though it was filmed and can be seen on the DVD bonus features.
    • The junior novelization removes Mrs. Dilber selling Scrooge's items after his death, transitioning from the hearse chase to the scene with Scrooge's body.
  • All There in the Manual: Tie-in media clarifies that the hearse that chases Scrooge in the future is Marley's funeral hearse.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese version uses "Present" by JUJU as its theme song.
  • And I Must Scream: We get a glimpse of not just Jacob Marley's fate in the afterlife, but everyone else who lived their life for Greed and died before they could change. For a moment, Scrooge sees thousands of ghosts floating around, all in chained and under some sort of elaborate torment ironic to their sins. One ghost sees a lady and her baby, living on the cold winter streets, and voices his desire to help them, implying that part of their damnation is the realization that they had the power to help others and didn't for selfish reasons.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: In the Ghost of Christmas Past's final vision, Belle asks Scrooge if he, a man who weighed everything by how much he would profit from it, would still choose a poor girl to love. His silence gives her his answer, causing her to leave for good.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Near the beginning of the film at the undertakers Scrooge briefly stops the undertaker's assistant from enclosing Marley's coffin. At first it seems Scrooge wants to say a final goodbye to his deceased friend and partner. But what does he do? He greedily snatches the two British fourpence coins from Marley's eyes much to the shock of both the boy and the undertaker.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Jacob Marley with Scrooge. Poor guy was so frustrated he dislocated his own jaw during one of his ghostly wailing fits.
    • The Ghost of Christmas Present may be a jolly figure, but do not bring up what the current bureaucracy of the Church of Christ is doing in Christ's name, like closing places once a week when the poor are so in need of help. He does not take such mentions well and considers them not of his church.
  • Body Horror: Marley is shown to be in a state of decay even as a spirit. At one point, during one of his ghostly wailing fits, his cheeks split open, and he dislocates his own jaw, forcing him to manually move it to talk. This is Truth in Television by the way, the jaw tissues are among the first to decay upon death, resulting in the unsettling "screaming corpse" effect, since there's nothing holding it closed anymore. That's the reason for why Marley wears a cloth around his head, that's how corpses were buried before embalming was common.
  • Bowdlerise: The junior novelization changes Fred's wife guessing "an ass" in Yes and No to "a dog," which still gets the same response.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Bob Cratchit narrates the ending directly to the camera.
  • Chew-Out Fake-Out: As Scrooge passes the carolers on Christmas Day, he pretends to be his normal miserable self, cowing the carolers into mumbling the chorus quietly as he passes. He then belts out the chorus with gusto, as they resurge happily. He then gives them an extremely extravagant tip before gleefully continuing on his way.
  • Coins for the Dead: Scrooge's Establishing Character Moment comes when he takes the British fourpence coins that had been placed on his recently deceased partner's eyes, saying "tuppence is tuppence".
  • Creepy Child: Ignorance and Want. This adaptation makes them creepier than usual by adding a sequence where they morph into adults: a thug and a prostitute, respectively. They also get Present's line about prisons and workhouses.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Scrooge has his moments of sarcasm especially when he asked the two charity men are there no prisons and workhouses.
  • Death Glare: Scrooge does this twice in the film. After leaving the funeral parloer he gives one to a group of carolers who then cower at him. Scrooge does this again this time to Bob Cratchit seven years later after the latter stops working due to being cold and Scrooge stares at him with daggers in his eyes causing poor Bob to return frantically to his job.
  • Due to the Dead: The film begins with Jacob Marley's death and his corpse being prepared for burial with two British fourpence coins covering his eyes to keep them closed. Scrooge stole them from the body.
  • Eek, a Mouse!!: Mrs. Dilber and Old Joe are startled by a rat and chase it and Scrooge away.
  • Establishing Character Moment: After bearing witness to his old business partner's death, Scrooge practically shrinks back from the mortician's hand, held out in hope of gratuity. Scrooge then parts with two British fourpence coins, fighting his greed the whole way, before pocketing the coins off the dead Marley's eyes, because "tuppence is tuppence".
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Marley lying dead in his coffin foreshadows him haunting Scrooge seven years later.
    • The clock tower chiming before Scrooge and Bob Cratchit finish work foreshadows the clocks chiming for the three spirits.
    • Marley in chains infamously foreshadows the same fate awaits Scrooge unless he repents.
  • Ghost in the Machine: Scrooge and the three spirits are depicted this way, and all are played by Jim Carrey.
  • The Hyena: The Ghost of Christmas Present, continuing to laugh even as he turns into a skeleton and then crumbles to dust.
  • Hypocritical Humour: Scrooge confronts The Ghost of Christmas Present on why the latter seeks to close the bakers and other places the poor depend on for cooking their meals on Sundays. And that's coming from the very man who despises the less fortunate and would rather see them suffer than help them.
  • Incredible Shrinking Man: Scrooge is shrunk in the Future scene for a while.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: As usual for Zemeckis' motion capture movies, the main characters all resemble their actors, but Scrooge's nephew Fred in particular looks exactly like Colin Firth.
  • Jump Scare: The movie practically relies on these. An example is the scene where Scrooge sees Marley's face on the knocker, he reaches out to touch it...and Marley's eyes snap open and some of his teeth fly out!
  • Large Ham:
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Scrooge robs the late Jacob Marley out of two British fourpence coins and the Ghost of Christmas Future shows a future where a deceased Scrooge is robbed out of curtains and the clothes his corpse would be buried with.
  • Lean and Mean: The Scrooge is depicted as rail thin here. But as one would expect from a telling of the story, he drops the "Mean" part after his visit with the three ghosts.
  • Living Shadow: The Ghost of Christmas Future is Scrooge's shadow.
  • Mind Screwdriver: The tie-in novel and licensed game clarify that the hearse chasing Scrooge in the future is the same one that took Marley to his resting place and chased Scrooge on the stairs in his house.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • At one point, Marley yells so powerfully that he dislocates his jaw, then says the next line by moving his lower jaw with his hand (borders between disturbing and funny) before attempting to put it back and in the process folding his face up tightly to the point where he cannot speak (just plain funny).
    • One minute, Scrooge is being chased by demonic shadowy horses, the next he's crawling through a sewer pipe with a chipmunk voice. And then, back to the horses.
  • Motion Capture: This technique was how the movie was made.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: In the future segment, Scrooge looks absolutely distraught over seeing Bob’s anguished expression at the loss of Tiny Tim. For the first time in a long time, Scrooge is finally realizing how his actions can affect the most innocent people in the world.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The film opens with a shot of Marley’s body lying in a coffin like the 1977 tv film.
    • Gary Oldman's Marley, with his bluish tint, deathly calmness and raging howls of anguish somewhat recalls Frank Finlay's portrayal of the ghost in the 1984 film.
    • Scrooge scaring Mrs Dilber after his reformation was also done in Alastair Sim's Scrooge (1951).
    • A nod is also given to Mickey's Christmas Carol (another Disney incarnation of the tale) when Scrooge is hanging from a root above his own grave while a hellish light beams up from his coffin.
    • The way Scrooge falls into his grave is similar to how he fell in Scrooge (1970).
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailers make it look like a goofy, kiddy version of the story. The actual movie is surprisingly faithful to the novella — including/especially the dark bits.
  • The Oner:
    • The three-minute title scene, starting with Scrooge having recently left the morgue, flying all around London and then back down to the other side of the city, finishing with him approaching his workplace.
    • The entire "Ghost of Christmas Past" scene simply fades from time period to time period without any cuts.
  • Resized Vocals: After Scrooge is shrunk by the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, he gains a high squeaky voice, which adds another layer of humorous futility to his attempts to fire the vision of his housekeeper after witnessing her selling his stuff.
  • Robbing the Dead: In his Establishing Character Moment, Scrooge takes the two British fourpence coins off of Marley's eyes. Like in the book, Scrooge is shown as a future victim of this by the Ghost of Christmas Future.
  • Sand In My Eyes: When Scrooge gets emotional at the sight of his boyhood home, he dismisses the tear on his cheek as "Nothing. Something in my eye."
  • Shout-Out: During the opening credits, a few kids are having fun by clinging onto the backs of carriages and hitching a ride on them. Upon being redeemed, Scrooge himself does this too.
  • Shown Their Work: This film follows the descriptions of the characters better than other film versions:
    • Bob Cratchit is only about 5 foot 5 in the film making him accurate to the way Dickens described him in the book, as he was apparently short in height.
    • The ghost of Marley is very accurate to the Marley in the book including being green in colour and his hair and clothes moving on their own accord.
    • The Ghost of Christmas Past speaks in a low whisper like voice like the book where Dickens said the ghost had a low far away voice.
  • Sssssnake Talk: The Ghossssst of Chrisssstmasss Passsst - and not just the ssssibilants, but all the vowels. Considering how the Ghost was represented, its speech could be representative of the wisp of a candle flame...slowly guttering out.
  • Stealth Pun: Many of the songs played in the background are Christmas carols, making this adaptation the literal version.
  • Take That!: The movie alters a line of the Ghost of Christmas Present during the discussion about closing the Bake Shops every seventh day by introducing the identifier of "Men of the cloth", changing a criticism of Moral Guardians in general to a shot at clergy in particular.
  • Truer to the Text: Aside from the shrunken Scrooge chase scene, much of the movie is extremely faithful to the book, including a sequence almost always left out of adaptations where Scrooge asks the Ghost of Christmas Present about the bad things the Church does in God's name.
  • Younger Than They Look: According to the dates on his tombstone in the Christmas Yet to Come sequence, Scrooge is 57 years old. He looks as if he could be in his late 60s or 70s. Possibly Truth in Television for the time period, combined with his miserly lack of self-care.