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Kids Watch: Disney's 'A Christmas Carol'

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Rhianwen Benner: The timeless tale gets a Jim Carrey revamp.

THE LOWDOWN
Charles Dickens' classic "A Christmas Carol" gets remade for the umpteenth time, this time in breathtaking 3D animation that breathes new life into the tried-and-true tale.

disneys a christmas carol movie

WHY YOU'LL LOVE IT
"A Christmas Carol" really gets you into the spirit of Christmas. Its messages of life being about more than just financial success and of caring for those less fortunate are particularly meaningful in these tough economic times.

Though Scrooge (played by Jim Carrey) is a greedy curmudgeon early on, a compelling case for kind values is made -- such as generosity, loyalty, and selflessness -- and he has a change of heart. We're shown the consequences of Scrooge's love of money: He's an alienated old man with an empty life, with no family or friends of his own. In that sense, "A Christmas Carol" might serve as a very effective warning for kids, teaching that relationships are more important than wealth. The movie definitely has a call to charitable action, and your kids might just want to answer it.

The animation and 3D effects of the movie are amazingly realistic. So real, in fact, you might think it's snowing in the theater, or that you're actually tearing around England with some ghost buddies. This is probably the pinnacle of 3D animation so far, and makes for an extremely enjoyable movie experience.

WHY YOU'LL HATE IT
The 3D animation is incredible, which makes the film's opening shot -- a close-up of a dead person's face -- all the more terrifying. Needless to say, that shot sets the film's dark and creepy tone. Scenes with decaying corpses, charging horses with red beady eyes, and tormented spirits writhing in pain are more than a little disturbing. And if it's disturbing to an adult viewer, your little ones will likely be scared stiff.

The ultimate point of "A Christmas Carol" is family, charity, and selflessness. But younger viewers might miss those messages after 90 minutes of graphic images and jumpy scares, not to mention the foreshadowed deaths of Tiny Tim and Scrooge himself. While we see the consequences of Scrooge's indifference to the poor, it can still be upsetting for kids to hear that the poor "should hurry up and die." Bad guys in kids' movies are often evil robots or monsters, but seeing a recognizable human face so unkind to the impoverished is upsetting on a whole other level.

After all the images of bloody corpses, decaying bodies, and tormented spirits -- not to mention the themes of death, sadness, and greed -- I couldn't help but wonder: Does this film need to be this dark? Couldn't they have gotten the message across without sneaking so much gore into a PG film? Parents going in expecting a whimsical and comedic morality play for the kiddies will be not-so-pleasantly surprised.

And finally, while your main concern will probably be the haunting images, there is a scene featuring a visibly drunken fiddle player at a party. Your kids may not notice after all the ghastly images, though.

THE BOTTOM LINE
As adults, we've seen this story presented in countless ways and therefore have the benefit of knowing its twists and turns. For kids under nine, this might be their introduction to the classic tale, and it will probably scare the living daylights out of them. They should stick to the Muppets' version.


next: In Desperate Move, Bankrupt Mom Robs 4 Banks
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