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

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