Charles Dickens' holiday classic has held up very well over two centuries and around 20 big-screen adaptations.

Charles Dickens' holiday classic has held up very well over two centuries and around 20 big-screen adaptations.

Writer-director Robert Zemeckis, the filmmaker behind the new 3-D animated A Christmas Carol, proves reliable enough to not get in the way of the source material and savvy enough to bring more of the darkness in Dickens' work into the 21st century.

With its truly terrifying specters and an offhand comment dismissing organized religion, at times this is as much a descendant of Zemeckis' Death Becomes Her as The Polar Express.

Jim Carrey does surprisingly weighty work playing Ebenezer Scrooge and the ghosts of various tenses that show him his full life arc, and Gary Oldman and Colin Firth take to their supporting roles well. They're rendered in the distinctive form of classic book illustrations, and if it shares a little of Polar Express' visual creepiness, all the better for a ghost story.

Nevertheless, warmth is still lacking from the style of Zemeckis' motion-capture animation, despite a story that's supposed to toast the cockles of an old miser's heart.