You’d think making a Muppets movie about Christmas would be an easy sell. Already head shoulders above Christmas movies because, well, you have Kermit the Frog and Animal and such, who make everything better. Not so much, it turns out, as Disney were tentative about The Muppet Christmas Carol, at least for a while.
“Muppet movies were an old-fashioned comedy formula of two jokes a page, but this allowed me to actually create a world that was darker and more in sync with stuff I had done. That scared Disney,” director Brian Henson told Entertainment Weekly.
“Jeffrey Katzenberg was enormously respectful to work with at Disney, but the notes would always come back, ‘Could be a lot funnier,’ whenever they read the script. Then when we tested the movie, that was basically Jeffrey’s first note was, ‘Could be a lot funnier. I didn’t hear a lot of laugh-out-loud moments in the movie,’ and I said, ‘Well, it’s not really that kind of comedy.'”
The Muppet Christmas Carol is certainly a funny film, but it’s not quite as ludicrous as previous family movies featuring the troupe. Part of that is simply keeping with the source material, a haunting, gothic tale by Charles Dickens that involves ghosts set in Victorian England.
Sure, we still have Gizmo and Rizzo and lots of jokes, but the foundation of the story is a miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, being visited by ghosts who teach him that his greed is not doing anybody any good. He visits his own grave!
Rather than resist these elements, the kids movie rightly includes them, demonstrating the darkness and providing warm reprieve afterwards. Michael Caine does great job selling the heartbreak, and when it’s all tied together, you truly feel a sense of relief.
That said, we can easily imagine getting a look at ‘Marley and Marley’, sung by Statler and Waldorf in chains for purgatory, and wondering if things couldn’t be lightened up any. Thankfully that didn’t happen, and Henson created an all-time classic.