Editor’s note: This piece originally published December 14, 2011.
Some of you may be mumbling about Muppets fatigue after the publicity onslaught that preceded their big-screen comeback, The Muppets. But now is not the time to shun our felt-covered friends. They star in one of the better Christmas movies around, The Muppet Christmas Carol. Numerous adaptations of Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella “A Christmas Carol” exist, some better than others. But let’s face it — Dickens can be dull. The Muppets’ movie version, released in 1992 by Disney, presents the story of Ebenezer Scrooge with such joy and sweetness, it easily trounces the competition. Our favorite characters bring the story alive with a wink here and an original song there, maintaining a balance of lightness and sincerity. There’s no stodginess here, just a good story.
The Muppet Christmas Carol is required viewing in the Carlson household each year. Here are five reasons why it should be in yours as well:
1. Muppets: Sure, there are humans sprinkled about, notably Michael Caine as Scrooge. But the Muppets are the stars. Gonzo, as Dickens, and Rizzo the Rat serve as narrators, as others take on classic roles such as Bob Cratchit (Kermit the Frog), Mrs. Cratchit (Miss Piggy) and Tiny Tim (Robin the Frog). Concerning the latter, there’s something about seeing a small green puppet hobbling on a crutch that will make you feel more for a fictional character than any human actor ever did. Thanks to the strength of their puppeteers, you’ll (mostly) forget you’re watching Muppets. The story, lovingly told, takes over.
2. Music: The original soundtrack is adorable, whether it is mice or vegetables singing about Scrooge or the man himself joining in for the heartfelt finale. For years, the OST was out of print and sold for high prices on eBay. The Jim Henson Company released an edition in 2005 during its Kermit’s 50th Anniversary push with the same track listing as the original. Check out the opening number, “Scrooge”:
“When Love is Gone,” a break-up song Belle sings to a young Scrooge, in particular is
It was pulled from the film’s theatrical release by Disney, with studio heads thinking it wouldn’t appeal to children, but the song was back when the VHS hit stores. It was cut again for the 2002 DVD, but was back in the 2005 full-screen DVD. The song is an integral and moving part of the story and compliments the finale, “When Love is Found.” Cutting it from the film ruins the narrative flow, a topic Daniel wrote about several years ago. Here’s hoping the Muppet resurgence brings about yet another DVD release, this time with the song intact in widescreen.
3. Michael Caine: Here we have Caine still in a career lull. He had a few hits in the 1980s, but in 1992 he was still several years away from roles that would bring about his resurgence, such as 1999’s The Cider House Rules. And Caine gives the role of Scrooge his all, glaring and condemning the poor masses with flair, crumbling with the realization he has wasted most of his life with believability. That’s key when working with Muppets — acting like they’re real. Caine does it beautifully. Many actors have tackled the Scrooge role, notably Alastair Sim, George C. Scott and Patrick Stewart. But Caine’s is the one you want to root for.
4. Merriment: Director Brian Henson stays true to the story, making a few tweaks such as providing two Marleys, Jacob and Robert, so Statler and Waldorf get to play along. But the very presence of Muppets, much less the specific gags included, adds a level of comedy to the proceedings absent in all other adaptations. The bits — Fozzie Bear’s character named Fozziwig, not Fezziwig, etc. — don’t detract from the film’s reverence for the subject matter. On the contrary, combined with the music, the laughter helps make “A Christmas Carol” more accessible and enjoyable. The Muppet Christmas Carol paints a picture of Christmas anyone can get behind: “It is the season of the heart, a special time of caring, the way of love made clear. It is the season of the spirit — the message if we hear it is make it last all year.”
5. More Muppets: Seriously, they’re cute. Not even a Scrooge can resist:
Sarah Carlson has an original copy of “The Muppet Christmas Carol” OST. You are jealous.