Looking back on… The Muppet Christmas Carol

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Directed by: Brian Henson
Starring: Michael Caine, Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Jerry Nelson, Frank Oz, David Rudman
Written by Saul
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For all you people chastising remakes, spare a thought for poor old Charles Dickens. We may be being subjected to the second reboot of Spider-Man in a decade but Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, is endlessly remade in some form or another every festive season. Even Ross Kemp had a crack at it one year. But like a broken clock tells the right time twice a day, some of the remakes have been brilliant.

Everyone knows the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, here played by Michael Caine, but just incase you didn’t go to school, Scrooge is a crude and close-fisted money-lender who despises Christmas and anyone who wishes him a Merry Christmas. Yet one night his old business partners, Jacob and Robert Marley, haunt him from beyond the grave to warn him of the repercussions of living such a cruel and unfriendly existence. Cue three spirits to save Scrooge from an after life shackled in chains.

The Muppets and Dickens may not be a partnership that you would expect to work but the film manages to perfectly balance the macabre elements of the author’s novel, the Ghost of Christmas yet to come is petrifying but as Gonzo states “this is culture”, with the Muppets’ typical family friendly humour. As well, Dickens’ social commentary is also still evident in the form of Kermit the Frog’s Bob Cratchit and the plight of his struggling family. Tiny Tim perfectly exhibits the drastic effects Scrooge’s wealth has on the lowest and poorest in society.

The film gleams over the romantic elements of Dickens’ tale probably in an attempt to not lose the interest of the younger viewers. It’s an understandable rearrangement that does barely anything to the film’s emotional heft. Yet, sometimes director, Brian Henson, sheds so much from the source material for the sake of running time that Scrooge’s transformation into a good man feels annoyingly rushed with only brief time spent with the three Ghosts of Christmas.

Despite this small blemish, it does nothing to deflate the film’s endless amount of infectious fun. The Muppets have always been a delightful bunch able to spend time with and it’s no different here. Gonzo, or rather Charles Dickens, and Rizo the Rat have their brilliant back and forth that makes their relationship a joy to watch. Mrs Piggy doesn’t enjoy as much screen-time as her amphibian partner but when she is on the screen she is as magnetic as ever. While everyone else is running around having fun, Michael Caine plays Scrooge surprisingly straight. Apart from his awkward musical number at the end, Caine gives one of the better Scrooge performances but again, with less to work with his transformation feels neutered.  

The film’s brilliantly crafted soundtrack will aid the younger members of the audience to understand some of Dickens’ subtly, while also having a charming sing-a-long quality to them. Whether it’s the Marley’s catchy yet sombre musical number or Kermit’s endearing ‘One more Sleep ‘til Christmas’, they all serve a dual purpose that allows you to find a way into Dickens’ story while simultaneously showcasing The Muppets’ and Dickens’ message of compassion and love.    

You’d be wasting your time trying to figure out how a frog would successfully mate with a pig and it would be a fruitless endeavour to try work out why some of the Muppets are humans while there are actually humans. But that’s not the fun of The Muppets, they’re a group of colourful, fun-loving puppets that allows adults to find a bridge to their inner child. And this is exactly what this retelling of Dickens’ story manages to accomplish. The Muppets Christmas Carol proves to be an enchantingly told christmas fable of love and compassion that imbues what the festive.

Rating: 5 out of 5

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