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Singing A Christmas Carol's empty praises 

Robert Zemeckis' animated version of the classic tale is beautiful, but shallow.

Dickens' A Christmas Carol is so familiarly engrained that another telling must bring something new to the table. The 3D motion-capture version runs through the motions, except for one detail: It's visually beautiful. Even working in animation (this follows The Polar Express and Beowulf), director Robert Zemeckis' technical direction brings a sophistication to classic storytelling bettered only by Spielberg.

The opening credit flight over snow-covered London is jaw-dropping in its detail and movement. Throughout A Christmas Carol, Zemeckis' camera absorbs the 19th-century holiday glow as experienced by the frightened and frail Ebeneezer Scrooge (played with cranky spirit by Jim Carrey, channeling mannerisms of Alastair Sim in the 1951 version). What hinders this Christmas Carol is its insistence on replacing the story's darkest feelings with good-time theme park shocks. It's not an emotive enough Christmas movie because it's too scared of despair to make the return to light count.

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