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At the movies

Cinema reviews

Disney’s A Christmas Carol

DIRECTED BY: Robert Zemeckis
STARRING: Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Robin Wright Penn, Cary Elwes

Robert Zemeckis is still convinced that his motion-capture animation is the way of the future. And you have to admire his persistence. He’s been squirreled away for a while now perfecting the technique he first showcased in The Polar Express, and showed off again in the considerably less enchanting Beowulf. And the hard work has paid off.
Visually, A Christmas Carol is in a whole other universe – and if you can get to see it in 3D, even better. Most animators still don’t know how to use that to full effect, but Zemeckis incorporates it to give his movie the kind of welly it should.
And all round, it’s a better festive film than The Polar Express – mostly because the Dickens story is a timeless Christmas classic, but partly because I’m still freaked out when I think of those countless identical elves and their disturbing facial expressions – like secretly they fantasise about cutting off your head to use for a football in a 500-a-side game against their equally sneaky friends, the Oompa Loompas.
Not that there aren’t a few scary characters here, mind you. The appearance of Marley’s ghost, in particular, is a memorably chilling scene and, if your kids are easily spooked, you might want to check this out first before bringing them along.
The story remains basically unchanged – old Ebeneezer Scrooge rediscovers his soul after meeting with some unexpected visitors on Christmas Eve. Scrooge, young and old, is played by Jim Carrey. He also fills several other roles, lending his talents to the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and yet to come.
Gary Oldman is multi-tasking too, playing Marley, Bob Cratchit, and wretched little Tiny Tim. Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright Penn, Cary Elwes and Tom Hanks fill out a very fine cast along with Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd – a couple of ghosts from the past of Robert Zemeckis, with whom he made the Back To The Future movies.
Not all of the players are well served, though – because much of the time Zemeckis is less concerned with these famous characters than he is with concocting visual delights.
And so while Carrey shines as Scrooge and his ghosts – the flickering ghost of Christmas Past is especially delightful – and Oldman is an excellent Marley, the same actor hardly gets to utter a whimper as Tiny Tim, and some others are reduced to playing barely memorable bit parts.
The unfortunate result is that, while there is plenty of wow factor, and some genuine chills, Zemeckis never really gets to the heart of this beloved old tale – and so ultimately there isn’t as much festive cheer as there should be.

Jennifer’s Body

DIRECTED BY: Karyn Kusama
STARRING: Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Adam Brody, JK Simmons
CERT: 16

Writer Diablo Cody won an Oscar for her Juno screenplay, but somehow I can’t see the Academy giving her the nod for this sporadically entertaining but instantly forgettable yarn.
Jennifer Check (Fox) is the hot captain of the high school cheerleading team. The girls want to be her, the boys just want her. Somehow Jennifer is best friends with the nerdy and not very popular Anita (Seyfried) – or Needy, as she is known.
Anyway, Jennifer persuades Needy to go along to a show by up-and-coming emo band Low Shoulders, mostly on account of having the hots for lead singer Nikolai (Brody). Turns out Nikolai and his bandmates are in need of a virgin for a human sacrifice – a deal with the devil in exchange for wealth and fame.
Jennifer is the chosen one but, because she doesn’t exactly fit the bill, the satanic ritual goes a tad wrong and Jennifer ends up possessed by a flesh-eating demon.
She promptly sets about seducing the high school boys and, well, let’s just say having them for lunch. And the only one who can stop her now is Needy.
There’s the bones (har-har) of a decent script here, enough evidence to show that Juno wasn’t a one-off fluke for Cody. She has an ear for sharp dialogue and there are some good comic moments.
But director Karyn Kusama doesn’t do her writer any favours with some plodding, scattered direction, and she never really nails the intended mix of humour and horror. Perhaps she assumed that simply having a scantily-clad Megan Fox on board was enough to bring the drooling masses to the picturehouse.
Well, the boys didn’t oblige in big numbers in the States, but maybe we’re made of more red-blooded stock here.

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