dir Jimmy T Murakami
scr Piet Kroon, Robert Llewellyn
voices Simon Callow, Kate Winslet, Nicolas Cage, Jane Horrocks, Michael Gambon, Rhys Ifans, Juliet Stephenson, Beth Winslet, Robert Llewellyn, Iain Jones, Colin McFarlane, Arthur Cox
release UK 7.Dec.01
Pathe 01/UK 1h21
Here's another Euro-produced animated film trying to rival the Hollywood machine. I don't think Disney or Dreamworks will be too terribly threatened by this one. It's a new version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, with all hand-drawn animation and a couple of pop songs (including a rather nice ballad sung by Kate Winslet). The filmmakers have done very little tinkering with the familiar story, besides adding two cutesy mice who follow the action (bad idea!). Callow plays Dickens in the live-action bookend scenes and voices Scrooge in the animated tale in between, with Winslet as his now-penniless former fiancee, Cage as the ghost of his partner Jacob Marley, Ifans as his troubled employee Bob Crachit, and Horrocks and Gambon as the ghosts of Christmas past and present, respectively.
The story is quite nicely told (mice notwithstanding), but the animation is just terrible. In front of lovely hand-painted backdrops, the one-dimensional drawings jerk and shudder their way through the tale without any detail whatsoever. And the voice cast are directed to lifeless performances that never draw on their personalities--this is especially a crime where Horrocks and Ifans are concerned! Callow and Winslet just about emerge with their dignity intact, while Cage is just ridiculous. The whole thing would be utterly unwatchable if Dickens' classic (and overtold?) tale weren't so stirring and relevant. Even so, it's continually undercut by the pointless addition of those two giggling, gesturing, squeaking mice. This storytelling device never works at all, and only serves to prove why the Europeans can't come close to competing with the Big Guys in the toon world. This is irritating, because the talent surely exists here to do things right (Help! I'm a Fish was a step in the right direction), but misguided projects like this don't help at all.
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