I love the ‘Christmas Carol’ story, and I have seen many adaptations over the years. This version can stand with any of them. It is great!
The awesome and amazing Michael Caine stars as Ebenezer Scrooge. He is absolutely fantastic in the role, despite the fact that he is mostly acting with muppets. There is no hint that he takes this performance lightly as one might be tempted to do. It is also very impressive to see how surly he can remain in the face of muppet ridiculousness. Apparently he told the director Brian Henson at the start he would play it as if he was working with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and it really worked. He is without doubt the star of this wonderful movie.
The use of the various muppets in the other roles is very appropriate. Kermit is the obvious choice for Bob Cratchit, Scrooge’s long-suffering clerk. He espouses the inherent kindness, courage and dignity of the character beautifully. Miss Piggy as Mrs Cratchit is appropriately forceful. The use of the hecklers Statler and Waldorf as the Marley brothers was hysterical. (“That was a terrible pun, leave comedy to the bears, Ebenezer!”) Gonzo as Charles Dickens narrates the story, assisted by Rizzo the rat, and the trouble they both get into along the way makes for extra laughs. I was rather impressed with Gonzo’s rope and grappling hook expertise. Fozzy as Fozziwig has a rubber chicken factory!
The muppets created for the three ghosts were very good. The ghost of Christmas Present is especially fun. The movie creators decided on a comic take of him being in the present by having him struggle to remember things he said a moment before. Short-term memory loss, clever.
The songs, composed by Paul Williams, were also very good. ‘It feels like Christmas’, ‘One more sleep’ and the rest are beautiful, catchy, and memorable. There is a street scene with actors dancing while the muppets all sing along. It’s a great scene, and it must have been difficult to coordinate the dancers with the muppet operators. Even Caine sings at the end, which I thought was quite brave of him, as he doesn’t have much of a singing voice. It doesn’t matter, because the happiness and sincerity of Scrooge’s reformation is what shines through.
Apparently this was Brian Henson’s directorial debut. It doesn’t show at all. He handles both the difficult technical aspects of this film and the telling of the story like an old pro.
If you want something for Christmas that you and your children can enjoy, watch ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol.’ It’s a fun and beautiful film.
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