Synopsis: Charles Dickens’ classic holiday story sparkles with humor and whimsy in the hands of the always hilarious Muppets! Michael Caine stars as penny-pinching Ebenezer Scrooge in a performance that’s anything but “bah humbug!”
Along on Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by ghosts who transport him to his past, present and future- and it’s not a pretty sight! But along the way he comes upon poor, kind, humble Bob Cratchit (Kermit the Frog) and his family, including Tiny Tim who teaches Scrooge the true meaning of Christmas.
Complete with original music and dazzling special effects, this heartfelt holiday movie is exceptional entertainment your family will enjoy for every Christmas to come.
eyelights: Charles Dickens’ original story. the casting for Ebenezer Scrooge. Gonzo is the storyteller. eyesores: The Muppets are side characters. the musical numbers. “Humbug”
‘The Muppets’ Christmas Carol’ is a 1992 motion picture featuring Jim Henson’s Muppets, but starring Michael Caine. It was the first Muppets film to be made after Henson’s death; it was apparently the next film that he wanted to make with his beloved Muppets after they were bought out by Walt Disney Pictures.
Henson’s son, Brian Henson, brought the project to fruition, both producing and directing it. It was one of Disney’s largest releases of the year, but it wasn’t as spectacular a success as everyone would have liked. However, it was profitable and it has since become a minor success on home video.
Personally, it’s one of the Muppets movies that I like to watch the least. For starters, it’s a musical. While past Muppets films had musical numbers, they were usually zany, nonsensical, whereas the ones here are middling fare that neither get your foot tapping, stick to the roof of your mind or make you laugh.
Secondly, it tries to combine whimsy with the sober morality tale that is Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’. Let’s be honest: The Muppet’s usual antics don’t fit in with Victorian era Britain – but especially in this context. While The Muppets are light and endearing, Ebenezer Scrooge most certainly is anything but.
The third problem is that Ebenezer Scrooge is the central figure. That’s typical of the original story, of course, but it leaves very little room for The Muppets themselves. Instead, we follow Michael Caine’s grumpy, scowly meany for the whole of nearly 90 minutes – with short appearances by The Muppets in various guises.
When the picture begins, it gives us hope: during the opening credits, each Muppet is introduced as an actor in the picture, with their part listed along with their name. I quite liked the possibilities: The Muppets all get top billing over Michael Caine, suggesting they are the main performers here – which sadly turns out to be entirely wrong.
And that’s another problem. I like Michael Caine to some degree, but I don’t much like his Scrooge. Perhaps we’ve all been spoiled by Alastair Sim’s interpretation, but Caine felt positively bland in comparison: he wasn’t mean enough, even if he went through the motions, and he went soft far too quickly.
Granted, this is a family-friendly film, and I’m not suggesting that he needed to be cruel, but he should have had more edge than he does here. Michael Caine is a very capable actor and I would have expected more of him. I immediately imagined Patrick Stewart doing it better (even though I haven’t seen his 1999 version).
The casting for Scrooge was otherwise quite good. In one of those rare moments of Hollywood lucidity, the casting director managed to get actors of various ages to Scrooge who actually resembled one another. So when Scrooge visits his past life, we can totally believe that we’re watching the one and same character.
Another great bit of casting is of Gonzo as Charles Dickens himself, as the storyteller who guides us through the early parts of the story. His banter with Rizzo is weak, but he has a good presence and it allowed Brian Henson to keep some of Dickens’ prose in the final script; this is what Gonzo/Dickens uses in his narration.
In this way, the filmmakers did a good job of keeping true to Dickens’ original tale. Just because it’s a Muppets movie doesn’t mean that they took tons of liberties with it. They didn’t. Of course, this is both a blessing and a curse because it’s a pretty good adaptation, but it also leaves very little room for that Muppet magic.
…the one you go see a Muppet movie for in the first place.
The production was also relatively nice. A lot of detail was put into recreating 19th century London, and it looked splendid, if clearly artificial. Unfortunately, problems arose when they used sets to recreate the outdoors, particularly the park in which young Scrooge is ditched by his fiancé – this one was astonishingly unconvincing.
But the picture’s look isn’t the greatest concern. In the end, although ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ makes Dickens’ classic accessible to younger audiences, it’s not nearly as satisfying for other viewers, who have seen better. It’s pretty much a redundancy: you either watch a Muppet movie, or you watch the Alastair Sim version of ‘A Christmas Carol’.
‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ is merely a watered down version of both.
Date of viewing: December 5, 2014