I have a confession to make here, so don’t judge me, this is actually the first Muppet movie that I ever saw and it is actually my favourite one. The Muppet Christmas Carol is one of the best Christmas movies ever and I will even argue to death that it is the best adaptation of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol (though many people will and do disagree with me).
This was the first Muppet movie to not have any involvement by Jim Henson and was the first to be distributed by Walt Disney Pictures (but they did not acquire the Muppets yet).
The Muppet Christmas Carol is, as I stated before, an adaptation of A Christmas Carol. It tells Charles Dicken’s (played by Gonzo in the film) timeless tale of redemption, just through fuzzy animals and monsters. Michael Caine plays Ebenezer Scrooge, a stingy moneylender who works his workers, including Bob Cratchit (Kermit the Frog) to the bone with barely any pay. Scrooge had a very hard life that made him completely shut off from the rest of the world, often with violent out lashes against people who are kind to him, and gets especially angry around Christmas. He is visited by his dead former-partners, Jacob and Robert Marley (played perfectly by Statler and Waldorf) who tell him that he is going to be visited by three spirits by the end of the night for his salvation. Scrooge sets off on his journey for redemption, reluctantly at first, with the help of these spirits in the hopes that he can turn his life around. He travels back in time to see how his stony exterior was formed through his schooling, relationships, and jobs via the Ghost of Christmas Pas; travels around London to see the joy that people have on Christmas despite their inherent lack of money, where he of course, sees Tiny Tim Cratchit (Robin the Frog) and his mother, (Ms. Piggy), who serve to warm his heart via the Ghost of Christmas Present (the most awesome of the three ghosts, by the way); and sees the possible future if he does not change via the ghost of Christmas Future.
The story does skip some plot points from the original story such as Scrooge’s sister dying and how that affects his outlook on life, but the main tenants of the story are still there and, despite the film being a comedy, have the requisite emotional effects. Gonzo even quotes the source material quite often in his narrations. It’s rather shocking how closely it does stay to the source material considering how dark the orignal story was. The film actually does not feel like the rest of the Muppet films because of the story. This was the first Muppet movie to not have an original story, and as such, there are no random celebrity cameos. The only human characters in the film are important to the story or are just in the background. Michael Caine plays his role completely spot on, though, with numerous intense emotions coming out from a usually reserved, yet stern portrayal of Scrooge.
As was stated before, the film is mostly a comedy. The Muppet meta-humour is present, but it is much more focused on making jokes about the book or being an omniscient narrator than it is about film (though there are a few in there, mostly commenting on whether or not they should be worried about the kids in the audience, but ultimately coming to the decision that it’s okay because it’s culture). The Muppet characters are very much themselves, they’re just playing a different character, but all of their quirks and mannerisms are still present. Fozzie still tells bad jokes, Statler and Waldorf still heckle, Mrs. Piggy still has anger issues, and Gonzo still chases chickens.
The score by Miles Goodman is rather awesome and sets the tone of the film exceptionally well, but the songs by John Williams (who also did the songs for the Muppet Movie) are what is really special. They’re catchy and are efficient for what they try to accomplish within the film. My personal favourite song in the film is the Ghost of Christmas Present’s song, “It Feels Like Christmas”. It’s bubbly, uplifting, and heart warming, and it will most definitely get stuck in your head. I will say that if you watch this movie on the most recent DVD release, watch the extended edition even though it’s full screen. The widescreen edition, for some reason, cuts out the most emotional song in the film, “When Love is Gone”, and it makes the song at the end of the film, “When Love is Found”, just not have quite the same meaningful effect.
The film has a very distinctive look to it. The costumes are very much influenced by the time period, but the background and buildings are what are so odd. The buildings have very odd angles to them that make them look more appropriate for Halloweentown and everything is accurately dirty and grimy for the time period, but the levels of all of this change depending on what ghost is present. The Ghost of Christmas Present has London looking relatively normal, albeit very bright, happy, and colourful, but when the Ghost of Christmas Past is on the scene, everything becomes rainy and gray (very much like normal London).
The Muppet Christmas Carol is a wonderful film with fantastic music and is surprisingly close to the source material. I highly suggest it to anyone, especially with the holiday seasons coming up shortly.