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A Christmas Carol 

Too much comical mayhem makes Scrooge cartoonish

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Santa's bringing you a mixed bag with this latest iteration of Charles Dickens' popular fable of a miserly old man redeemed at the holidays. The motion-capture animation on Jim Carrey as Scrooge is very life-like (this is a deliciously creepy old man), but all the other characters look like rubber dolls. It's grand that director Robert Zemeckis kept much of Dickens' florid prose and the story's darkness, but that doesn't need to be mitigated by appended scenes that seemed ripped from "Tom and Jerry's A Christmas Carol." The enduring tale is about the fight for the last scrap of a man's humanity -- from the inside out -- and thus should never involve tacked-on-for-the-kiddies crap like Scrooge being miniaturized, being shot into outer space on a candle snuffer, or riding an icicle across rooftops. In 3-D! (The most affecting parts of this film simply reminded me of the far superior 1951 black-and-white adaptation, which packed an emotional wallop with "only" actors.) More than anything, Zemeckis, having harnessed all this fabulous digital technology, can't help being "magical," when, in essence, A Christmas Carol is a long, dark night of the soul, not a herky-jerky, gag-filled carnival ride.

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