Other than Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, Charles Dickens’ novella A Christmas Carol must be the most adapted piece of British fiction. Too many even, perhaps. So why bother with watching yet another screen version when there are so many of them around? Well, to be perfectly honest, Robert Zemeckis’ is one of the most faithful incarnations of this story, crippled only by its somewhat lacking 3D motion-capture animation technique that didn’t age very well over the past five years. Which doesn’t change the fact, the excellent cast and skilful storytelling help to squeeze some more magic out of tired subject.
Zemeckis’ usual collaborator Alan Silvestri was, of course, responsible for creating the score for this quite orthodox retelling of A Christmas Carol. On the first glance, this music seems like a typical Hollywood Christmas extravaganza and, truth be told, it’s very much the case. Which doesn’t mean one cannot enjoy it greatly. ‘A Christmas Carol Main Title’ opens with a powerful timpani solo that kicks off Silvestri’s excellent theme for this film. In between grand statements, several quotes from Christmas classics can be heard – ‘Joy to the World’ ‘Deck the Halls’ and ‘God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen’. It’s a perfect overture for this story and sets the tone nicely over floating shots of London circa 1843.
The tone established by Silvestri is generally massively orchestral but his A Christmas Carol features few lighter comical passages, as expected from a family blockbuster. ‘Scrooge Counts Money’ and ‘Old Joe and Mrs. Dilber’ are one of few such moments. On the other hand, the glissandi string, low growling brass and ghostly chorus of ‘ Marley’s Ghost Visits Scrooge’ help to balance out the silliness and bring some welcome Gothic flair to the table.
As Scrooge is visited by ‘The Ghost of Christmas Past’ we’re getting warmed up by more homely atmosphere and harmonies and a nice choral arrangement of Gounod/Bach version of ‘Ave Maria’. It’s one of the most beautiful highlights of this soundtrack album. Both next few tracks highlight Silvestri’s own terrific theme. ‘Let Us See Another Christmas’ features a more sombre and gentle variations while ‘Flight to Fezziwigs’ features the boisterous and triumphant statement completed with choir singing the lyrics of the song version.
‘Another Idol Has Replaced Me’, ‘The Clock Tower’ and ‘This Dark Chamber’ brings us back to more mysterious and ominous horror soundscape, featuring the theme for impending doom. The latter features a ghostly and chilling angelic chorus that creates a sense of wondrous danger. ‘Carriage Chase’ erupts into trademark Silvestri action scoring, with changing tempi and bravura brass writing. ‘None of Us Will Ever Forget’ features a mournful and quiet moment before composer unleashes full choir and orchestra in grand fashion with climactic ‘Who Was That Lying Dead?”. As Scrooge realises the terrible truth about his own future, the composers brings back fond memories of his Van Helsing and The Mummy Returns in all their bombast.
The main character wakes up from his terrible nightmare on Christmas Day morning and the mood brightens. ‘I’m Still Here’ bristles with joy of life and main theme indicates that Scrooge has indeed learned his lesson. ‘Ride On My Good Man’ pushes the festivities even further with yet another triumphant rendition of this tune. Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli was brought in to perform a song version in ‘God Bless You Everyone’. As good as this thematic idea can be within the context of narrative, the vocal performances pushes it a little too far into cheesy territory.
The album was first released as a digital only version by Walt Disney Records. Four years later, Intrada records pressed CD copies with the same content. The 47 minutes of Silvestri’s score is a perfect dose, featuring a well-balanced collection of all the highlights. Just as the film, music is not necessarily the most original or challenging. But excellent execution and traditional spirit can still attract listeners. All of that with the aid of remarkably strong theme from Hollywood veteran. One cannot go wrong with this.
A Christmas Carol is out now from Intrada/Disney