Christmas Review: The Muppet Christmas Carol
A review by SLAMADAM!
Director: Brian Henson
Starring: Michael Caine, Steve Whitmore, Frank Oz, and David Goelz
Plot: The Muppets perform Charles Dicken’s Christmas Carol
The Christmas Carol is a perfect vehicle for the Muppets. The material has a large cast with plenty of spots for the very large Muppet cast to fill and get their screen time. It has a cultural connection to the holidays where the shared family demographic makes the Muppet gang a perfect crossover. There is plenty of space for song and dance, allowing the Muppets to do what they do best.
Another thing that has seemingly been constant between the Muppet movies was the feeling that they are self-aware constantly breaking the fourth wall. It is in my opinion that that was done in order to recapture the magic of the show that had a live/improv quality like SNL. With The Muppets Take Manhattan, they dropped that aspect in favor of a more fluid solid plotline. With the Christmas Carol, they have adjusted the routine ever so slightly. This time we get a narrator and his wise-cracking sidekick, played by Gonzo and Rizzo respectively. The two have an amazing give and take chemistry. They set each other up and knock each other down solidifying their best buddies relationship for the remaining Muppet years. This style was implemented because the filmmakers believed that Dickens’ prose should be included in the film, a medium without any real prose to speak of. Narration in cinema is usually a no-go, but by making the narrators active participants in the movie rather than a dissociated voice over.
When their Disney counterpart made their own Christmas Carol, they cast preexisting characters to the roles of the ghosts. Sure, it makes sense if you were going to fill all the roles with your giant backlog of characters, you might as well do all the roles, but beyond the Jim Henson Company’s amazing line up of preexisting characters, one of the things they were best at was creating new characters based on necessity for one-offs. While I have never read the actual book, what I do know about the book is that their creations are fairly accurate.
Michael Caine is cast as the protagonist and evil old miser, Ebeneezer Scrooge. There are no doubts about his ability being one of the more prolific actors working today. He deftly depicts the character arc from pitiful angry miser to a joy-filled and thankful gentlemen. Even when surrounded by felt puppets, he does no less to sell the performance, as many human co-stars tend to do.
The Muppet Christmas Carol brings a much needed light-hearted spirit to the holiday favorite without condescending to the material or the adult audience.
TEN out of TEN
Agreed – this is my all-time favorite Christmas film. Michael Caine is the perfect Scrooge and I love the songs.
This is my favorite Christmas movie ever, and a large part of that is the narration/breaking-the-fourth-wall thing you mentioned. It grounds the movie in the actual book, while still letting the Muppets do their thing. And, as a grad student doing Victorian lit, I appreciate all the references back to Charles Dickens! I heartily approve of the 10/10 rating.