Movie Review: The Muppet Christmas Carol starring Michael Caine, Dave Goelz & Steve Whitmire

Source: BFI

The Muppet Christmas Carol

Distributors: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution
Production Companies: Jim Henson Productions & Walt Disney Pictures
Director: Brian Henson
Producers: Brian Henson & Martin G. Baker
Scriptwriter: Jerry Juhl
Main Cast: Michael Caine, Dave Goelz & Steve Whitmire
Released: December 11 1992
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Certificate: U

Michael Caine stars in a rather faithful and mature Muppets’ adaptation of A Christmas Carol, which should not be left out of your festive film festivities. As Christmas Day draws closer and closer, there is no better time to sit down and watch as many Christmas films as possible. And a personal favourite of mine is none other than The Muppet Christmas Carol.

Synopsis

The Muppets retell the classic Charles Dickens’ tale A Christmas Carol. It’s Victorian London, and Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine) is a selfish, cold and ill-humoured man who is disliked by most who know him. On the night before Christmas, he is visited by a series of ghosts which attempt to show him the errors of his ways so he can change for the better in time for Christmas Day.

Analysis

The film sticks to the classic story pretty accurately, and doesn’t shy away from the bleaker parts of it. However, this is not done in a way that would seem gratuitous, as it’s handled with the utmost maturity. Some parts of the film may be a bit much for younger viewers, but the film offers many moments of comedy and wackiness as a helping hand through these parts. For example, though the days of the “future past” sequence is the peak of this gloominess, it is quickly remedied with a fun and uplifting musical sequence straight afterwards. The film balances this incredibly well, and it has clear respect for the subject matter that it’s handling; it knows when to tell a joke and when not to.

This is further seen through the usage of the actual Muppets in the film. The Muppet with the largest role is Gonzo The Great (Dave Goelz), who works as a great narrative framing device as he portrays Charles Dickens telling the story of A Christmas Carol to Rizzo The Rat (Steve Whitmire). They guide the viewer through the story, and are the source of many of the film’s comedic moments, which again soften the darker parts. Every other Muppet sticks solely to playing supporting roles in the film which, in a way, adds to the respect that film has for the story. Barring the Marley brothers, even the ghosts aren’t played by pre-existing Muppets, as the film goes out of its way to create ghosts which are true to the short novel. Also, the fact that they didn’t make the obvious decision and cast Kermit The Frog as

Scrooge, and instead go for an actual person, adds a lot of legitimacy to the movie. It makes you take Scrooge more seriously, him being cruel to a load of cute and adorable puppets highlights the character’s unpleasantness more than any other adaptation I’ve seen before.

Michael Caine, although clearly not his best performance, does an excellent job at playing Scrooge. What is to be respected about his performance is that he doesn’t just phone it in because he’s only in a kids movie with puppets. He treats it with authenticity and tries his best at doing his own interpretation of the character.

There’s a lot of fun to be had with him in the film, and it is particularly endearing to watch him singing along in the finale. Which brings me onto the music in the movie, which is one of the film’s biggest strengths. Songs like One More Sleep ’Til Christmas and Thankful Heart perfectly capture the magic of the festive season and will be stuck in your head long after the film has finished.

However I can’t help but think there are some points in the film which have opportunities for a musical sequence but are missed. Another aspect the movie excels in is the art design. The sets and props truly capture the atmosphere of Christmas time in Victorian in such a beautiful cartoonish way that complements the Muppets really well.

Summary

Though at times it can be gloomy and rather frightening at points for younger viewers, The Muppet Christmas Carol is still a warm and inviting homage to the classic Dickens tale. Its appeal isn’t just the gimmick of the Muppets’ doing an adaptation of A Christmas Carol, but by providing a legitimate version of the tale.

Notes

Target Audience: Ages 5+
Content: Elements of Threat
Recommendation?: Yes
Overall Rating: 7.5/10 – Good