The Muppet Christmas Carol Review
Is there anyone on the planet who has a genuine burning hatred for The Muppets? It seems unfathomable that someone could be insulted by a group of puppets that are so charming, innocent and all-around fun to watch. Hating them would be like hating something as warm and harmless as Wallace and Gromit. However, you also wonder how The Muppets will manage to pull of their own adaptation of Charles Dickens' festive classic A Christmas Carol, written in 1843. The novel is known for its darker plot elements, yet the film successfully addresses these subjects whilst also remaining faithful to the beloved Muppet formula.
Everyone knows the story; Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine) is a selfish, world-weary crook who does not believe in the Christmas spirit. He is dismissive of his nephew, he does not have a charitable bone in his body, and he is incredibly cruel to his hardworking, underpaid employees, notably Bob Cratchit (Kermit the Frog, performed by puppeteer Steve Whitmire). When two charity workers inform Scrooge that homeless people would rather die than live in prisons and poorhouses, Scrooge bitterly responds with "If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population", a line delivered excellently by Caine. Despite Scrooge's utter contempt for everyone, he decides to let his employees have the day off on Christmas day, although they have to beg him to do so beforehand.
When Scrooge returns home, he is haunted by his former business partners, the deceased Marley brothers (the Waldorf and Statler Muppets, respectively), who inform him that he will be visited by three ghosts - one of the past, one of the present, and one of what is yet to come. These ghosts take Scrooge on a journey through significant moments in his life to attempt to alter the error of his ways. Otherwise, he will be punished in the afterlife, just like the Marley brothers were.
The Muppet Christmas Carol was dedicated to Jim Henson and Richard Hunt, two essential Muppet puppeteers who sadly passed away during the film's pre-production. Indeed, what a loving tribute it is, both to the late puppeteers and to Dickens' novel. The Muppets are always incredibly loveable and a pleasure to watch and, although they are evidently just puppets, the way they move and emote makes them feel so authentic and real. It requires a great amount of talent to virtually bring these puppets to life, and Jim Henson would almost certainly have been proud of the work his fellow puppeteers put into this project. You just want to reach through the screen and give these characters a warm hug, especially Bob Cratchit and his overwhelmingly adorable son named Tiny Tim.
Another reason why the film feels so timeless is because of the wholesome dialogue. The Muppet Christmas Carol came out during a time where pop culture jokes were very popular and used frequently in films, particularly in some of the animated Disney films that were being released. While a lot of those films are still great in their own right, it must have been refreshing at the time to see a family film containing witty jokes that will not become a tad outdated thirty years down the line. This is one of the many factors contributing to why The Muppets have endured for so long.
The people looking for the definitive film adaptation of A Christmas Carol will probably not find exactly what they are looking for here, but anyone who has seen anything associated with The Muppets will know what to expect with this one. The 2009 version of A Christmas Carol, in which Jim Carrey played Scrooge, had some brilliant moments but was ultimately too visually unpleasant for people to get into a festive mood. Dickens' novel was about creating a balance between the light and dark moments, and that is what The Muppet Christmas Carol achieved so well. It is amusing, lovely to look at and wonderfully heartfelt. This is the type of film that reminds you of what Christmas is all about.