Oh joy, you probably thought when you saw the posters go up, just what we need: ANOTHER bloody interpretation of A Christmas Carol. If there was ever a tale to make you say "Bah, humbug" then Dickens' festive novel must be a contender. Has any story ever been remade, reinterpreted or reimagined as often as this one?
And then you sit down and watch it and discover, well, yes, some admittedly odd animation (and more on that in a second) but an overall excellent adaptation that delivers the original Dickensian spirit in spades. Rather than update or "reimagine" (and seriously, don't even get me started on what Tim Burton appears to have done to Alice in Wonderland), Zemeckis does what anybody with sense would do: start with Dickens' novel and don't bugger about with it too much.
Yes, there are some flights of fancy (I don't remember Scrooge shrinking to the size of a mouse and being pursued by the Horses of Hell through the streets of London, for example) but for the most part this is wonderfully faithful telling that's stuffed full of speeches that appear, if memory serves, to have been taken straight from the source. There's no mollycoddling of modern children, no attempt to soften Scrooge or turn him into a comedy turn and no shirking from the story's moral. It might feature very modern techniques (and some excellent 3D work) but this is Dickens' story all the way.
Carrey is superbly cantankerous as the voice of Scrooge and completely unrecognisable as the voices of the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet To Come. You might not approve entirely of the accents (Past appears to be a simpering Irish candle, Present is... well, Billy Connolly meets Santa via Dublin and, apparently, Melbourne) but it's easy to overlook the geographical wandering when the film is so beautiful to watch.
As mentioned above, Zemeckis' insistence on using his actors' own images in the animation (a la Tom Hanks in Polar Express and pretty much everyone in Beowulf) doesn't always work. Firth, as Scrooge's cheery nephew Fred, is oddly squashed and crumpled but still fares better than Gary Oldman's Bob Cratchit who appears to be about 4' 7" and part-troll. But again, the positives outweigh the oddities by a considerable margin and Scrooge's transformation from money-grabbing curmudgeon to thoroughly decent, generous chap is still a moving and heartwarming delight. All in all, a very pleasant surprise.