(PG for some scary sequences & images): Rushing to beat the December returns of the famed Dickens story, writer/director Robert Zemckis returns with performance-captured animation (actors' movements & expressions transferred from live-action to animation) after the unfortunate demise of his splendid, unappreciated "Polar Express," hoping to spruce up with an old story that can't lose & a cast of talented actors headed by Jim Carey in no less than seven character roles.
You know the story; happily, except for an extended chase through the backstreets of London (which takes forever & has little to add to the plot), Zemeckis follows it line by line, pleasurably, as Dickens had set it down. Doug Chaing's designs for 19th century London are dazzlingly displayed with an animation technique that permits spectacular details - from street level to high above, from tiny props to magnificent expanses, indoors & out, the way no camera could ever repeat.
But there are problems. With all the dizzying camera action - moving in, out & around & around - it's obvious the movie has been made with 3D in mind - and is undoubtedly eye-popping to behold that way. But in 2D, it suffers with dizzying chases by flaming-eyed black horses or flights to the moon, becoming just plain time-fillers. What's more, with the unique animation effect on faces, the characters suffer a kind of lifelessness, strangely inanimate. While Carey displays in voices his inimitable talent, for example, his Scrooge becomes, unintentionally, more grotesque than is necessary.
What remains is dazzling architectural wizardry that lacks the ability to become as human & touchingly moralizing as the original. (Grade: B-)