THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL, 1992
Cast: Michael Caine, Dave Goelz, Donald Austen, David Alan Barclay, Robbie Barnett, Meredith Braun, Fergus Brazier
Three ghosts visit Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve and work to show him the error of his ways.
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“There goes Mr. Humbug, there goes Mr. Grim. If they gave a prize for being mean, the winner would be him.”
Such is the way ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ begins. Sung by a variety of Muppets and perfectly setting the tone for the rest of the film. Though there are a few songs in this movie, it is hardly to be considered a musical. However, the songs that are in this film will have you humming the tunes long after you watch the movie.
Over the years the Muppets have taken on a number of classic stories. Ranging from the classic ‘Treasure Island’ to more modern ‘the Wizard of Oz.’ Each of those films are film are filled with the charm and exuberance only the Jim Henson company could exhume. This film is no exception. It once again displays both the humor and wit that accompanies a Muppet movie, and moves it into holiday classic territory.
Michael Cain stars as Ebenezer Scrooge, a role he was born to play. Though Scrooge is a reprehensible character, even going so far as claiming that the homeless should either be put in prisons or die, he is fascinating to behold. You believe everything he says, but even though he says these terrible things and performs these terrible deeds, you can still see hope of redemption in his eyes. This is all due to the performance of Caine. His subtle nuances of character and slight trembling of lip fully displays both the power and frailty of Ebenezer Scrooge. Considering he was working alongside Muppets for ninety percent of the movie, it makes this feat all the more remarkable.
While this movie is very much ‘A Christmas Carol’ in all aspects, what set’s this variation of ‘A Christmas Carol’ from others, is the clever use of Gonzo as Charles Dickens. Gonzo guides us, as Dickens did, through the story, frequently breaking the fourth wall an addressing the audience directly. While some may think this could slow down the narrative in a movie, in this instance, it is greatly enhanced. Along with his trusty friend and side-kick, Rizzo the Rat, Gonzo and Rizzo provide wonderful and often hilarious insights into 19th century London and Scrooge’s train of thought.
Though it is hard to imagine that anyone over the age of twelve does not know at least the basics of ‘A Christmas Carol’, to those who are foggy, I will give a brief synopsis of the film.
The movie begins with Scrooge at his business with his worked, Bob Cratchit, played wonderfully by Kermit the Frog. Scrooge and is partner, long deceased, Jacob Marley, run a shrewd, no-nonsense loan business called Scrooge and Marley. Their business is fairly lucrative, and it is his success in business that has lead Ebenezer Scrooge down a life of greed. So much so that he has isolated any family and lost the woman he loved. His life is a sad story, and it has turned his heart black with contempt for Christmas and all holidays that make him close shop.
Ebenezer shuns all that wish him good tidings, and provokes fear in those that pass him. He lives alone; his only warmth provided by the feel of the cold money he holds so dear to his heart. However, it is on this night all things will change. It is this night that Scrooge will be visited by three ghosts and three visions. One ghost is from his past, one from the future, and one from his grim future that awaits a man with a heart as black as ink; all trying to change a man whose heart has turned to stone.
Like I said, it is a classic story and that is just a brief synopsis. What cannot be understated is the acting in this movie. Michael Caine is brilliant as the cold-hearted protagonist. Kermit the Frog provides warmth to Bob Cratchit, and Gonzo and Rizzo provide hilarious insight. It is something to behold to see Fozzie Bear as old Fozziewig and Ms. Piggy as Emily Cratchit. It is the blend of great comedic timing, and the fantastically constructed world that truly sucks us into this movie.
The Muppet have always been known for their sense of quirky humor. This movie plays along with that while still providing the depth ‘ A Christmas Carol’ has to offer. It is perfect for the family, or anyone who loves a good movie while being wholesomely entertained.