Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Scrooge-Like Perspective on 3D Movies

After stuffing ourselves with the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, my family has developed the tradition of dragging ourselves out of our food coma and heading to our local cinema to see the newest Christmas movie release. This has worked out well some years (The Polar Express was fantastic in IMAX) and not so well in other years (avoid Christmas with the Kranks at all costs). When Hollywood doesn't provide us with any halfway decent-looking options, we just stay home and watch Elf. (Instant classic. There's no denying it.)

This year we went to see Disney's A Christmas Carol in Disney Digital 3D. Yes, that is the full title. Trust me. When I called for showtimes, Fandango told me to "try again later" and hung up on me three times before I got the title right.
Before I give my take on the movie, I should probably come clean: I pretty much hate 3D movies. I didn't always hate them, but it's gotten to the point where 3D movies are being released almost every week and it's simply unnecessary. We saw trailers for four upcoming animated movies and three of them will be in 3D. WHY?! Is this the 1980s? 3D movie technology hasn't improved much since then and you're still relying on the quality of a cheap pair of used glasses to give you an effective movie-going experience. A good film will transport me to another world in two dimensions. Wearing glasses actually hinders the immersion effect.

So I knew we wouldn't be seeing Disney's A Christmas Carol in Disney Digital 3D in Disney Digital 3D. Fortunately, Disney released the movie shortly after Halloween, so it's not exactly the king of the cineplex anymore and it was easy to find a non-3D showtime.

Overall, the movie itself is definitely worth seeing. While he's no Michael Caine (The Muppet Christmas Carol is my vote for all-time best), Jim Carrey makes a pretty good Scrooge and the motion capture animation is both eye-catching and effective. Unfortunately, the 3D manages to disrupt my viewing of the movie even though I didn't see it in 3D. This is because rather than making a good movie and enhancing certain visual elements with 3D effects, director Robert Zemeckis goes out of his way to include cheap 3D tricks that are sometimes laughable and always unnecessary.

Does anyone remember the chapter in Dickens' immortal classic where Ebenezer Scrooge is being chased by a ghostly horse-drawn carriage, shrinks down to the size of a mouse and runs around the streets of London screaming? Me neither. In fact, it seems like Scrooge spends half the movie flying through the air. Now I'm all for artistic interpretation, but not when it's done solely so I can have 3D icicles flying in my face.

When a movie is crafted so specifically to be viewed in 3D that some scenes look ridiculous in 2D, that's a clear sign that you're serving the wrong master. Nevertheless, it is a decent Christmas movie and will get you in the holiday spirit, despite any three-dimensional shortcomings.

And at least Vince Vaughn isn't involved. After Fred Claus and Four Christmases, the biggest item on my Christmas wish list is a moratorium on his involvement in future Christmas flicks.


CatholicSoldier said...

I am a definite fan of Scrooged as one of the all-time great Christmas films.

Matt said...

Scrooged is definitely the best of the "modern" reinventions of A Christmas Carol. Bill Murray just doesn't make movies like that anymore...

Julie said...

The Muppet Christmas Carol is the definitive version for me; other versions leave me feeling disappointed. Sorry Chuck!

I haven't gone to anything 3D, but thank you for calling this trend out. New my foot. Every time I see some announcement about 3D I think, "really? Isn't it 2009? How is this the next big thing?"

Ginnie said...

I am so with you on the 3D thing...except for UP. I feel like they were wonderfully subtle with the 3D and didn't pull those theme park ride 'gotchas'. And Muppet Christmas Carol? Almost perfect. And only almost because of that dumb song I always fast forward through.

Matt said...

I agree, Ginnie. Another example is The Polar Express (by the same director as the Jim Carrey Christmas Carol, actually) It's a movie that was made for a 3D experience, but not overdone.

And I have to know: Which song do you fast forward through?

Julie said...

I bet it's the love song. My mom's copy of the DVD doesn't have that one on there.

Matt said...

According to Wikipedia, "When Love Is Gone" was cut from theatrical release, restored for the video release and cut from the widescreen DVD release. Jim Henson thought the song was too melodramatic and slowed down the pace of the movie.