Critics Consensus

Critics Consensus: A Christmas Carol Dazzles But Disappoints

Plus, The Box is a mixed bag, The Fourth Kind is lost in space, and Goats is worth a look.

by | November 5, 2009 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got some modern-day Dickens (Disney’s A Christmas Carol, starring Jim Carrey and Gary Oldman); a button-pushing thriller (The Box, starring Cameron Diaz and James Marsden); vanishing Alaskans (The Fourth Kind, starring Milla Jovovich and Elias Koteas); and some psychic soldiers (The Men Who Stare at Goats, starring George Clooney and Jeff Bridges). What do the critics have to say?


Disney’s A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is one of literature’s most haunting morality tales — and one of the most adapted. Critics are largely split on two key aspects of Robert Zemeckis’ motion-capture version starring Jim Carrey: whether it honors the, ahem, spirit of Dickens’ classic, and whether the motion-capture technology is aesthetically appealing. No need to rehash the plot; if you’ve never heard the tale of mean ol’ Ebenezer Scrooge (Carrey) and his long-suffering employee Bob Cratchit (Gary Oldman), get thee to a library immediately. While some find Zemeckis’ live action/animation hybrid an echanting way of updating a seasonal classic, others feel the visuals bog down the classic tale with an overabundance of empty action.


The Box

Richard Kelly has only made three films, but he’s had a roller-coaster of a career. His debut was the cult-fave Donnie Darko, which was followed by the ambitious but roundly-panned Southland Tales. Now comes his latest mind twister The Box, which is splitting critics; some say it’s an intriguing head trip, while others say it’s preposterous and inconsistent. Cameron Diaz and James Marsden play a married couple presented with a mysterious proposition from a stranger: there’s a button in a box, and if they push it, they will receive a million dollars, but someone will die. Some pundits say The Box is tense, edgy, and original, while others deride its plot holes and lack of overall cohesion. (Check out Kelly’s Five Favorite Films here.)


The Fourth Kind

With its combination of a government conspiracy, extraterrestrial visitors, and the foreboding climes of Alaska, The Fourth Kind seemingly has all the elements in place for a gripping horror flick. Too bad the execution’s so clumsy, critics say. Milla Jovovich stars as a shrink whose patients all tell her similar tales of nighttime frights; could aliens be to blame? The pundits say The Fourth Kind has some decent shocks, but its gimmicky presentation — a split screen technique in which patients describe their experiences alongside pseudo-documentary footage of the events — doesn’t quite come off, and the performances are uneven.


The Men Who Stare at Goats

For the most part, the recent wave of Iraq war films has brought downbeat dramas, so the satirical aim of The Men Who Stare at Goats is certainly welcome. And critics say that the film, though scattershot, has moments of brilliant absurdist humor. Hinting that its story is not terribly far from the truth, Goats is the tale of a secret military program that involves the use of psychics who attempt to use their mind power to defeat the enemy. The pundits say the film is elevated by the deadpan comic presence of George Clooney, and if the film never fully comes together, many of its scenes are sharp and funny. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we run down Clooney’s best-reviewed films.)

Also opening this week in limited release:

Tag Cloud

YouTube Pirates Television Academy Marvel HBO Max Fox Searchlight Rocketman reviews Crunchyroll CBS All Access Spectrum Originals space Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt BAFTA psychological thriller slashers Cannes Tumblr Oscars Toys dceu binge DC streaming service serial killer Awards Countdown ABC Disney Premiere Dates cinemax Mindy Kaling Comedy Central Shondaland FX laika independent Lifetime romance Rock sequel mission: impossible Peacock 2018 Netflix Food Network IFC Films Reality fast and furious Esquire foreign Disney Channel mockumentary cancelled TV series animated unscripted social media 2016 worst Family TV Land Calendar dark Stephen King talk show RT21 CMT satire book Disney+ Disney Plus NBC natural history universal monsters Cartoon Network cats Marvel Television finale screenings Hallmark Starz spinoff concert TNT theme song classics witnail The Academy toronto APB documentary Captain marvel ESPN Amazon Prime Video Thanksgiving TruTV child's play Mary Tyler Moore Lifetime Christmas movies politics nature miniseries Animation films facebook cars BBC America spanish language DGA fresh screen actors guild richard e. Grant Britbox what to watch Apple TV Plus boxoffice Mary poppins documentaries spider-man criterion justice league Star Wars crime Emmy Nominations LGBTQ cancelled Discovery Channel CNN 4/20 Marvel Studios Polls and Games historical drama Mystery New York Comic Con comic SDCC golden globes breaking bad renewed TV shows American Society of Cinematographers BET Musical Superheroe President teaser Turner asian-american 2019 movie Photos Women's History Month Extras Chilling Adventures of Sabrina australia toy story 2017 cooking football The Walking Dead zombies VOD Winter TV travel Disney Plus Apple TV+ war Star Trek ABC Family TBS TCA Awards Columbia Pictures sports Sci-Fi elevated horror WarnerMedia dc Nickelodeon Heroines hollywood comedies Shudder batman Tubi Teen sitcom stoner rotten 45 best National Geographic Character Guide directors zero dark thirty Film Festival video on demand Best and Worst Emmys composers children's TV SundanceTV Amazon cartoon spanish south america japanese italian First Look OneApp Endgame Opinion Pixar robots Kids & Family Lionsgate black transformers Valentine's Day scary movies Binge Guide boxing 007 Winners Nominations indie Grammys Sony Pictures disaster worst movies Set visit deadpool a nightmare on elm street Country Fall TV revenge El Rey NYCC Sneak Peek Classic Film Sundance Now Comics on TV SXSW Certified Fresh E! obituary GIFs james bond Masterpiece OWN free movies Summer Showtime Spike halloween Action mutant Sundance TV spain E3 The Purge TCM PBS BBC One game show YouTube Red emmy awards Pop TV Christmas San Diego Comic-Con TV renewals adaptation hispanic Black History Month History Ovation game of thrones cancelled television Holidays Podcast crossover adventure video rt archives MTV ID MSNBC political drama Rocky indiana jones Walt Disney Pictures spy thriller die hard Sundance A&E Amazon Studios Disney streaming service Trailer Apple TCA Winter 2020 chucky canceled YA hist streaming true crime Western YouTube Premium Schedule A24 nfl Trophy Talk USA Creative Arts Emmys X-Men First Reviews Watching Series TV festivals comic books crime thriller Fox News crime drama science fiction biography zombie stand-up comedy festival period drama Biopics Hallmark Christmas movies Video Games MCU Dark Horse Comics harry potter Warner Bros. Rom-Com stop motion Drama AMC Arrowverse TCA name the review Chernobyl Hulu Black Mirror USA Network green book GoT Logo Universal FX on Hulu Election movies Comedy Horror doctor who Anna Paquin jamie lee curtis Pride Month news dragons reboot Alien singing competition Martial Arts DirecTV Academy Awards 2020 Avengers tv talk Epix Turner Classic Movies HBO Go halloween tv Year in Review Ghostbusters Infographic television docudrama Nat Geo vampires BBC scorecard DC Comics Lucasfilm Television Critics Association blaxploitation Quiz Mudbound Music rotten movies we love Marathons superhero Paramount thriller CW Seed 21st Century Fox The Witch casting PlayStation twilight The CW BET Awards sag awards TIFF Cosplay VICE Pop 72 Emmy Awards anime blockbuster Paramount Network diversity ratings Fantasy The Arrangement canceled TV shows nbcuniversal Writers Guild of America Tomatazos Funimation TCA 2017 24 frames based on movie critics french Baby Yoda Ellie Kemper medical drama comiccon Freeform Song of Ice and Fire Super Bowl Tarantino Trivia DC Universe Superheroes christmas movies ghosts Syfy psycho archives quibi remakes IFC romantic comedy Brie Larson GLAAD aliens discovery anthology Holiday Box Office FXX Travel Channel Vudu LGBT versus parents cops police drama Interview TLC RT History HBO Reality Competition kids technology dramedy Red Carpet cults strong female leads series FOX CBS WGN Acorn TV Elton John supernatural latino Crackle 20th Century Fox all-time comics franchise award winner dogs cancelled TV shows sequels PaleyFest 71st Emmy Awards Comic Book Amazon Prime 99% Adult Swim Awards Tour See It Skip It Spring TV Film Pet Sematary venice ITV Mary Poppins Returns Musicals Bravo Netflix Christmas movies Hear Us Out joker 2015 werewolf VH1