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"A Christmas Carol" gets thrill ride movie treatment
By Jill Serjeant
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Take a classic Christmas tale, a dollop of Jim Carrey and a sprinkling of innovative movie technology.
Bake for 96 minutes, Hollywood style, and you've got the latest version of "A Christmas Carol", arriving in movie theaters around the world on Friday before nary a seasonal "Bah! Humbug!" has been heard.
Billed as a "multi-sensory thrill ride", Walt Disney's 3-D animated version of the 19th century Charles Dickens ghost story follows more than 20 previous movie and TV treatments, including those starring Barbie, Mickey Mouse and The Muppets.
But director Robert Zemeckis believes none of the previous incarnations have captured Dickens' original vision. This time around, the "Forrest Gump" Oscar winner thinks he has the mix.
"It has not been realized in the way it was actually imagined by Dickens as he wrote it. I thought this would be the perfect way to tell a classic story that everyone was familiar with and re-envision it in a new and exciting way," he said.
"I think it might be the greatest time-travel story written in the English language," he added.
Carrey, best known for playing multiple personalities in movies like "Me, Myself and Irene", provides the voice and image of the miser Ebenezer Scrooge -- at every age -- as well as the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come in what he called both a daunting challenge and an actor's dream.
"Every spirit is an aspect of Scrooge himself," Carrey said, explaining his casting. "I think Scrooge is a guy who was abandoned and unloved...and who has slowly been disappointed by life over and over again."
"Scrooge was also the first corporate scumbag," he added.
HORROR, HUMOR, HOLIDAY CHEER
The Zemeckis version of "A Christmas Carol" sticks closely to the well-known Dickens tale that sees Scrooge starting the holiday with contempt, then being visited by spirits who help him open his heart to undo years of ill-will toward his family, his faithful clerk Bob Cratchit and sickly Tiny Tim.
The movie uses the motion capture technology Zemeckis showed off in "The Polar Express" (2004) and in "Beowulf" (2007) that merges an actor's facial expressions and physical likeness with computer-generated, animated characters.
It allows Carrey, and fellow cast members Gary Oldman, Bob Hoskins and Robin Wright to bring several roles to life while giving Zemeckis the freedom to take the audience hurtling through time, space and snowy Victorian London skies while adding elements of horror and slapstick humor to the mix.
"We can do things in this new form of cinema that you couldn't do before," said producer Steve Starkey.
Scrooge has been played by actors ranging from the Britain's Alastair Sim in a 1951 black and white movie version to Bill Murray in the modern "Scrooged" (1988) and Michael Caine in "The Muppet Christmas Carol" in 1992.
Carrey said Scrooge was such an enduring character because "in some degree or another everyone has a little of him in themselves."
"I think Bob (Zemeckis) has created the best version so far of this story...I am extremely honored to be part of it."
(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)