Australian Council on Children and the Media

A Christmas Carol

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Short takes

Not recommended under 8, PG to 13 (Scary scenes, supernatural themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for A Christmas Carol
  • a review of A Christmas Carol completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 5 November 2009.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not recommended due to scary scenes and supernatural themes
Children 8-12 Parental guidance recommended due to scary scenes and supernatural themes
Children 13 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: A Christmas Carol
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes and scary scenes
Length 96 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

This is the classic tale by Charles Dickens about Ebenezer Scrooge (voice of Jim Carrey), a hardened, miserly old man who doesn’t want anything to do with Christmas. However, one Christmas Eve Scrooge is visited by three ghosts, the ghost of Christmas past, the ghost of Christmas present and the ghost of Christmas yet to come. This has a dramatic effect on Scrooge who becomes a changed man in one night.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

The supernatural

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • A father hits his child for staring
  • The ghost of Christmas past appears like a candle, his face as the flame. Scrooge, at one point, tries to extinguish the flame with a cylinder, but he’s skyrocketed up to the moon. He falls back to the Earth screaming, landing heavily on his bedroom floor.
  • The ghost of Christmas yet to come pushes Scrooge down a flight of steps.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under five, including the following:

  • Scrooge is a scary looking man, hunchbacked with a long, crooked nose and nasty expression.
  • Scrooge’s partner Marley, is shown dead in a coffin, with wrinkled skin and coins in his eyes.
  • Children are scared of Scrooge
  • Scrooge’s house is very dark and scary – atmospheric music
  • The door handle on Scrooge’s front door comes to life as a face with spiky, waving hair and screams at Scrooge, who falls over backwards in fright.
  • Scrooge climbs the stairs with only candlelight, creating shadows on the wall.
  • Marley’s ghost (voice of Gary Oldman) appears to Scrooge – he is larger than life, chained down with large cubes of ice which he throws into Scrooge’s bedroom before he himself appears. He looks very ugly, scary, toothless and proceeds to yell and scream at Scrooge. At one point his face cracks open and his tongue hangs out.
  • Scrooge looks out of his bedroom window and sees many tormented souls flying around.
  • The ghost of Christmas present is another larger than life character with a loud, eerie laugh.
  • Scrooge sees a hand/claw under the ghost’s skirt and when he opens the skirt sees two urchin children who change into menacing adults with knives who are then caged and bound.
  • The ghost of Christmas present falls down laughing and turns into a skeleton.
  • The ghost of Christmas yet to come is the scariest – he looks like the Grim Reaper and doesn’t speak at all, just points the way for Scrooge to follow.
  • Scrooge appears at his own funeral procession. Black stallions, with red eyes, and pulling the hearse, race toward Scrooge and chase after him. This is quite dramatic, particularly in 3D, as the horses’ hooves reach out into the audience. Trying to escape, Scrooge runs down side alleys full of unsavoury characters. The stallions try to stamp on him but he is saved by the long arm of the ghost of Christmas yet to come.
  • Scrooge sees his own gravestone and his grave in a pit, beneath which is a fiery furnace.
  • The ghost pushes him into the pit and he falls a long way before waking up in his own

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Some drinking at a Christmas party

Coarse language

There is some mildcoarse language in this movie, such as "bugger"

In a nutshell

A Christmas Carol contains amazing graphics which, combined with the 3D technology, make the animation appear very realistic and thus more intense. There are some lighter moments however to break the tension.

The main messages from this movie are to love your fellow man, not just at Christmas, but throughout the year and to be generous and kind spirited.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include

  • redemption.
  • generosity
  • kindness
  • charity
  • love

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as the consequences of living a mean spirited, selfish life.

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