The film received mixed reviews from American film critics, who praised its visuals and the performances of Carrey and Oldman but criticized its dark tone. It was a decent financial success, earning $325.3 million on a $175–200 million budget. The 3D film was produced through the process of motion capture, a technique Zemeckis previously used in his films The Polar Express (2004), and Beowulf (2007). A Christmas Carol began filming in February 2008 and was released on November 3, 2009, by Walt Disney Pictures. It received its world premiere in London, coinciding with the switching on of the annual Oxford Street and Regent Street Christmas lights, which in 2009 had a Dickens theme.
The film was released in Disney Digital 3-D and IMAX 3-D. It is also Disney's third film retelling of A Christmas Carol following 1983's Mickey's Christmas Carol and 1992's The Muppet Christmas Carol.
In 1843, on Christmas Eve, Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly old moneylender at a London counting house, does not share the merriment of Christmas. He declines his cheerful nephew Fred Holywell's invitation to a Christmas dinner party, and rejects two gentlemen's offer to collect money for charity. His loyal employee Bob Cratchit asks Scrooge to allow him to have a day off on Christmas Day to spend time with his family, to which Scrooge reluctantly agrees before leaving. In his house, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his deceased business partner Jacob Marley, who warns him to repent his wicked ways or he will be condemned in the afterlife like he was, carrying heavy chains forged from his own greediness. Jacob informs Scrooge that three spirits will visit to guide him out of his misery.
Scrooge is visited by the candle-like Ghost of Christmas Past, who takes him back in time to his early life. They visit Scrooge's boarding school and Scrooge sees his sister Fanie, who died after giving birth to Fred. Scrooge later begins a successful career in business and money lending as an employee under Fezziwig, and he becomes engaged to a woman named Belle. However, the Ghost shows Scrooge how Belle left him when he became obsessed with wealth. A devastated Scrooge extinguishes the spirit with its candle snuffer cap as he is rocketed back to the present.
Next, Scrooge meets the merry Ghost of Christmas Present, which shows him the joys and wonder of Christmas Day. Scrooge and the Ghost visit Bob's house, learning his family is content with their small dinner, Scrooge taking pity on Bob's ill son Tiny Tim. The Ghost abruptly ages, commenting that Tiny Tim will likely not survive until next Christmas. The Ghost warns Scrooge about the evils of "Ignorance" and "Want"; Big Ben begins tolling midnight as "Ignorance" and "Want" manifest themselves before Scrooge as two wretched children who grow into violent, insane individuals, leaving the spirit to fade away.
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come arrives, appearing as a silent, cloaked shadow, and takes Scrooge into the future. He witnesses a group of businessmen discussing the death of an unnamed man where they would only attend the funeral if lunch is provided; Scrooge is then chased across London by the Ghost and later discovers that his possessions are stolen and sold by his maid Mrs. Dilber, and encounters a family that is relieved he is dead, as they have more time to pay off their debt. The spirit transports Scrooge to Bob's residence, discovering that Tiny Tim has died. The Ghost the escorts him to a cemetery, where the Ghost points out his own grave, confirming Scrooge was the man who died. Realizing this, Scrooge promises to change his ways just as the Ghost forces him to fall into his empty coffin lying in a deep grave that sits above the fires of Hell.
Awakening in his own bedroom on Christmas Day, with love and joy in his heart, a gleeful Scrooge decides to surprise Bob's family with a turkey dinner, and ventures out with the charity workers and the citizens of London to spread happiness in the city, and later attends his nephew's annual Christmas dinner, where he is warmly welcomed. The following day, he gives Cratchit a raise and becomes like "a second father" to Tiny Tim, who escapes death. A changed man, Scrooge now treats everyone with kindness, generosity, and compassion; he now embodies the spirit of Christmas.Jim Carrey as:
Ebenezer Scrooge, a stingy, selfish old man, whose sheer miserly nature leads him to despise Christmas and all things which engender happiness.
Ghost of Christmas Past, the first of the three spirits that haunt Scrooge in order to prompt him to repent. He is depicted as an androgynous man with a flickering flame for a head and a body like a candle, with a soft and aloof Irish accent.
Ghost of Christmas Present, the second of the three spirits. He is depicted as a towering man with red hair, a full beard, and a green ermine robe. He is a jolly figure prone to hearty laughter, talking with a Northern English accent.
Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, the third of the three spirits. It is depicted as a shadowy Grim Reaper cast across the ground or a wall (usually in place of Scrooge's own shadow) and occasionally emerges into three dimensions to point at something or to chase Scrooge in a large, shadow-like horse-drawn hearse, pulled by stampeding horses. It is implied by some that the spirit might be Death himself, due to his face resembling a demonic skull with burning eyes.
Gary Oldman as:
Bob Cratchit, Scrooge's underpaid clerk.
Jacob Marley, The ghost of Scrooge's former colleague, bound in chains and damned to walk the earth in penance of a cold-hearted life.
Tiny Tim, Cratchit's youngest son. While Gary Oldman provided the motion capture, Tiny Tim's voice is provided by Ryan Ochoa.
Colin Firth as Fred Holywell, Scrooge's cheerful nephew and only living relative. Fred is the son of Scrooge's little sister Fan. Fan died during childbirth. Scrooge blames Fred for Fan's death.
Bob Hoskins as:
Mr. Fezziwig, the proprietor of a warehouse business for whom Scrooge worked as a young apprentice.
Old Joe, a fence who buys the belongings of the deceased Scrooge from Mrs. Dilber.
Steve Valentine as Funerary Undertaker/Topper
Daryl Sabara as Undertaker's Apprentice/Tattered Caroler #1/Beggar Boy #1/Peter Cratchit/Well-Dressed Caroler #1
Sage Ryan as Tattered Caroler #2
Amber Gainey Meade as Tattered Caroler #3/ Well-Dressed Caroler #2
Ryan Ochoa as Tattered Caroler #4/Beggar Boy #2/Young Cratchit Boy/Ignorance Boy/Young Boy with Sleigh
Bobbi Page as Tattered Caroler #5/ Well-Dressed Caroler #3
Ron Bottitta as Tattered Caroler #6/ Well-Dressed Caroler #4
Sammi Hanratty as Beggar Boy #3/Young Cratchit Girl/Want Girl
Julian Holloway as Fat Cook/Portly Gentleman #2/Business Man #3
Cary Elwes as Portly Gentleman #1/Dick Wilkins/Mad Fiddler/Guest #2/Business Man #1
Robin Wright as Fan/Belle
Jacquie Barnbrook as Mrs. Fezziwig/Fred's sister-in-law/Well-Dressed Caroler #5
Lesley Manville as Mrs. Cratchit
Molly C. Quinn as Belinda Cratchit
Fay Masterson as Martha Cratchit/Guest #1/Caroline
Leslie Zemeckis as Janet Holywell, Fred's wife
Paul Blackthorne as Guest #3/Business Man #2
Michael Hyland as Guest #4
Kerry Hoyt as Adult Ignorance
Julene Renee-Preciado as Adult Want
Fionnula Flanagan as Mrs. Dilber
Robert Zemeckis has stated previously that A Christmas Carol is one of his favorite stories dealing with time travel. Carrey has described the film as "a classical version of A Christmas Carol [...] There are a lot of vocal things, a lot of physical things, I have to do. Not to mention doing the accents properly, the English, Irish accents [...] I want it to fly in the UK. I want it to be good and I want them to go, 'Yeah, that's for real.' We were very true to the book. It's beautiful. It's an incredible film." Also, the Scrooge puppet seen in The Polar Express, which was also directed by Robert Zemeckis served as the basis for Ebenezer Scrooge in this movie.
A Christmas Carol premiered in London on November 3, 2009, and was theatrically released on November 6, 2009, in the United States by Walt Disney Pictures.
Disney released the film on November 16, 2010 in a single-disc DVD, two-disc 2D Blu-ray/DVD combo and in a four-disc combo pack that includes a Blu-ray 3D, a Blu-ray 2D, a DVD and a digital copy. This marked the first time that a film was available in Blu-ray 3D the same day as a standard Blu-ray 2D, as well as Disney's first in the Blu-ray 3D market. The DVD contains deleted scenes and two featurettes called "On Set with Sammi" and "Capturing A Christmas Carol". The Blu-ray 2D also has a "Digital Advent Calendar" and the featurette "Behind the Carol: The Full Motion Capture Experience". The Blu-ray 3D has an exclusive 3D game called "Mr. Scrooge's Wild Ride".
The film opened at #1 in 3,683 theaters, grossing $30,051,075 its opening weekend, with an average of $8,159 per theater. The film has come to gross an estimated $137,481,366 in the United States and Canada and $181,000,000 in other territories, for a worldwide total of $318,481,366. In the UK, A Christmas Carol topped the box office on two separate occasions; the first was when it opened, the second was 5 weeks later when it leapfrogged box office chart toppers 2012, The Twilight Saga: New Moon and Paranormal Activity despite family competition from Nativity!, another Christmas-themed movie.
The film received mixed reviews from American film critics. In his review, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four stars (out of four), calling it "an exhilarating visual experience". Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film an A, applauding the film as "a marvelous and touching yuletide toy of a movie". Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News gave the film 3/5 stars and stated the film "is well-crafted but artless, detailed but lacking soul." Mary Elizabeth Williams of Salon.com gave the film a mixed review claiming the movie "is a triumph of something — but it's certainly not the Christmas spirit." Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal wrote in his review that the film's "tone is joyless, despite an extended passage of bizarre laughter, several dazzling flights of digital fancy, a succession of striking images and Jim Carrey's voicing of Scrooge plus half a dozen other roles." The Daily Telegraph reviewer Tim Robey wrote, "How much is gained by the half-real visual style for this story is open to question – the early scenes are laborious and never quite alive, and the explosion of jollity at the end lacks the virtue of being funny." Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian also criticized the technology: "The hi-tech sheen is impressive but in an unexciting way. I wanted to see real human faces convey real human emotions." Time Out London praised the film for sticking to Dickens' original dialogue but also questioned the technology by saying, "To an extent, this 'Christmas Carol' is a case of style – and stylisation – overwhelming substance."
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 54% of 186 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 5.9 out of 10. The site's consensus is: "Robert Zemeckis' 3-D animated take on the Dickens classic tries hard, but its dazzling special effects distract from an array of fine performances from Jim Carrey and Gary Oldman." Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from film critics, has a rating score of 55 based on 32 reviews.