Merry Christmas!!

This one's a Must-see!

This one’s a Must-see!

Michael Caine as Scrooge with The Ghost of Christmas Present.

Michael Caine as Scrooge with The Ghost of Christmas Present.

Beautiful; a touching holiday must-see

Beautiful; a touching holiday must-see

The thought occurs to me that probably quite many of us were introduced to Charles DickensA Christmas Carol thanks to the Muppets. I’m sure many of us grew up with their version of the classic story and that includes myself, even though I only looked at bits of it at first because, being my very first puppet film, I honestly found the characters sort of odd and terrifying.

The Muppet Christmas Carol is one of my go-to movies for the holiday season. In fact, this year me and my brother started off  Christmas Eve by watching this whilst eating the chocolate santas somebody had left in stockings for us. A splendid way to start!

You all know the basics of the story. Ebenezer Scrooge, played here by Michael Caine, is a cranky, greedy and incredibly rich moneylender in 19th century London who hates nothing more than the Holiday season. He is ungenerous towards his employees, including his clerk Bob Cratchit, and refuses to join his nephew Fred (Steven Mackintosh) and family for any semblance of Christmas dinner. He is hated and feared, but one night it all changes when his dead business parners Jacob and Robert Marley (yes, we get two Marleys this time) appear as ghosts in his home, warning him of the upcoming arrival of three spirits: The Ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present, and The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. These spectres one by one take Scrooge on journeys through time and space, intending to show him what Christmas is really about, as well as why he needs to change his selfish ways.

Of course, what sets this version apart from others – aside from being well-made and accurately adapted, I mean – is that most of the supporting characters are indeed Muppets. Kermit the Frog plays Bob Cratchit, Miss Piggy obviously gets to play his wife, Robin the Frog is their fatally ill child Tiny Tim and Fozzie Bear appears as Fozziwig (heh). Then there’s Bunsen & Beaker, Rowlf, Animal, Sam the Eagle, The Swedish Chef, and Statler & Waldorf as the Marleys, which justifies the presence of two rather than one. There’s also Gonzo taking on the role of Charles Dickens as he narrates the story to us. Rizzo the Rat is just there for the food. Puppetry is performed by the likes of Frank Oz, Dave GoelzSteve Whitmire and other regulars at Jim Henson‘s production company and as always, the stuff is delightful to watch.

Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit sings "One More Sleep 'Til Christmas".

Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit sings “One More Sleep ‘Til Christmas”.

This is the first Muppet movie to be made after the death of Henson and it is lovingly dedicated to the memory of both him and Richard Hunt, a puppeteer who had performed a multitude of Henson’s creations. The direction is by Jim’s son Brian Henson and he pays tribute to his father well in how he creates what is most definitely one of the most funny, heartwarming, touching and scary movies of the franchise.

I like my Muppets best when they are put in settings that differ from their natural modern-day habitat, which is why, along with Muppet Treasure Island, this one’s amongst my favourite Muppet movies in general. There’s something extra charming about watching these lovable puppets in worlds made up by more advanced production design and costumes than what Muppet films usually aim for. Sure, it’s not as spectacular as, say, The Dark Crystal, but it’s definitely among the ones I rewatch the most.

The stuff that doesn’t work is the few moments of comedy that feel forced, some of which could have been cut out for the sake of more Michael Caine, and maybe the occasional outdated visual effect, although the rest of the film is so ripe with Christmas spirit and terrific puppetry that the flaws scarcely matter. Michael Caine, speaking of which, is brilliant in his portrayal of Scrooge and it’s in all honesty one of the best Scrooges I’ve seen on film. When he needs to be a cruel and intimidating grump he nails it and when he needs to go soft towards the end and learn about the true meaning of Christmas, Caine nails that aspect of Scrooge also. Even the scary parts of the movie are genuine, especially since most such moments omit Gonzo and Rizzo’s comical narrations entirely. Wise choice.

Equally great are the songs, my favourites being “Thankful Heart”, “Marley & Marley”, “It Feels Like Christmas”, “One More Sleep ‘Til Christmas” and… oh hell, they’re all fantastic, apart from perhaps that one love song sung by Scrooge’s love interest but that was cut from the film so it’s not really important.

MuppetChristmasCarol

Wiee.

The Muppet Christmas Carol is, in short, a great movie. The scenes with Tiny Tim will make you tear up just as much as the scenes with The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come will make you shiver, and the scenes with all of your favorite Muppets doing what they do best will make you laugh as much as the scenes of a redeemed Scrooge wishing everyone in town a happy Christmas will make your heart warm. It is a great adaptation of a great story and I am giving it 5/5.

With this, I once again wish you all the best and hope the lot of you had a brilliant Christmas or whatever ’tis your family celebrates! Cheers, folks!

5/5 whatever

MerrChristmas!!

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