The Muppet Christmas Carol

“Hello! Welcome to The Muppet Christmas Carol! I am here to tell the story.”
“And I am here for the food.”

The Muppet Christmas Carol is, by a very wide margin, my favorite retelling of A Christmas Carol. I remember the first time I saw it. I was really little and I was in my aunt’s family room. She fastforwarded through “When Love is Gone.”

[Contains spoilers, as I assume everyone knows the basic Christmas Carol story]

As a child, I loved the movie for the Muppets and for Gonzo and Rizzo’s goofy asides. As an adult, I appreciate it much more for its sophisticated story telling and incorporation of Dickens’ narration. A massive amount of the dialogue in the movie is taken directly from Dickens. This would be unremarkable in a typical, ‘grown-up’ Christmas Carol, but this version is obviously geared toward children.

What’s more, by having Gonzo play Charles Dickens, they are able to introduce a great deal of Dickens’ most iconic prose. Not without commentary, of course: “Once again, I must ask you to remember that the Marleys were dead, and decaying in their graves.” / “Yuck!”) Rizzo joins Gonzo as co-narrator, sarcastically responding to Gonzo’s claims to be Dickens and continually talking about food.

While Gonzo, Rizzo, and their marvelously meta running commentary may be the film’s highlight, it’s far from being the only thing I love about this movie. Michael Caine is a phenomenal Scrooge. This is the first thing I ever saw him in, and he plays angry old man absurdly well. The pivot from grouchy miser to benevolent philanthropist is very, very hard to make believable and Caine does a great job. His Scrooge comes around to the true meaning of Christmas at just the right speed.

As in all Muppet movies, elements of the Muppets’ regular personas are incorporated into their characters. Miss Piggy (Emily Cratchit) is overly affectionate towards Kermit (Bob Cratchit), Sam the Eagle (young Scrooge’s teacher) has to be reminded that he is supposed to be English, not American, Fozzie (Mr. Fozziwig, hehe) is forgetful and unfunny, and Statler and Waldorf (the Marley brothers) heckle everyone, particularly Fozzie. It’s all very cute in a typical Muppet way.

The songs range from amazing (“It Feels Like Christmas”) to good (“One More Sleep ‘til Christmas”) to downright painful (“When Love is Gone”). “When Love is Gone” is actually not included on some DVDs and (I think) all Blu-Rays. If the number isn’t in your copy, count your blessings. It’s about ten minutes of the same line sung over and over. Horribly, horribly boring.

This movie is also a great way to introduce children to the story of A Christmas Carol, although I have to say the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come scared the crap out of me when I was little. Gonzo and Rizzo undercut some of it, but it might be a little much for very young kids.

In short, this is an awesome, hilarious, and adorable movie that is guaranteed to make you smile. If you haven’t seen it, you have most definitely been missing out and the situation should be rectified. Immediately.

Bits and Pieces:

This was the first Muppet movie made following the death of Jim Henson. The role of Rowlf the dog was greatly minimized because Rowlf was considered the Muppet closest to Henson’s real personality.

At the end of “One More Sleep ‘til Christmas,” Kermit sees a shooting star. Kermit sees a shooting star in almost every Muppet movie.

Pay attention to the names of the stores in the background for multiple in-jokes.

Favorite moments include: the bookkeepers, any time Gonzo and Rizzo are onscreen but particularly the fence jumping scene, the song “It Feels Like Christmas,” the background conversations from the opening scene, and the teeny tiny mice.

Quotes:

Melon: “I’m being stolen! Help me! Help me!”

Rizzo: “Light the lamp, not the rat, light the lamp, not the rat!”

Kermit/Bob Cratchit: “If you please Mr. Scrooge, it’s gotten colder, and the bookkeeping staff would like another shovel full of coal for the fire?”
Rat 1: “We can’t do the bookkeeping, all our pens have turned to inkcicles!”
Rat 2: “Our assets are frozen!”
Scrooge: “How would the bookkeeping staff like to be suddenly UNEMPLOYED!?
Rats: (sing) “HEAT WAVE! This is my island on the sun...”

Rizzo: “Boy, that’s scary stuff! Should we be worried about the kids in the audience?”
Gonzo/Mr. Dickens: “Nah, it’s all right. This is culture.”

Ghost of Christmas Present: “It’s true wherever you find love, it feels like Christmas.”

Four out of four blue, furry Charles Dickens


Have a very Merry Christmas everybody!
---
sunbunny

12 comments:

Juliette said...

There are just no words for how much I love this movie. And I think it's the best adaptation of A Christmas Carol, which is a really saccharine story - only the Muppets make it work!

Mark Greig said...

A Christmas Carol is probably the most adapted book in history. As long as there has been cinema people have be adapting A Christmas Carol. There are hundreds of different versions. But this remains the best screen version with the best Scrooge in Sir Michael.

Patrick said...

The work of Henson & Co. has held a special place in my heart since I was a little boy watching re-runs of The Muppet Show. And I would have to agree that even with the added silliness that the Muppet gang brings to this movie, it is one of the best adaptations of A Christmas Carol that's been done. And it really does come down to Michael Caine's performance. Usually when watching the story, Scrooge's conversion feels almost like a comeuppance, like the ghosts were bullying him into changing. But more than anyone else, Caine made Scrooge into someone I wanted to see change for his own sake, not just so that Tiny Tim wouldn't die.

And "Light the lamp, not the rat!" is easily one of my favorite Muppet lines ever :)

ChrisB said...

Anything that makes me laugh out loud and makes me cry will hold a special place in my heart. This is another Christmas movie I had never seen and I absolutely loved it.

Michael Caine is phenomenal; the songs, for the most part, are fun to listen to; the story is well told and amazingly true to the original.

Agree with Patrick. "Light the lamp, not the rat!" had me howling. Easily the best line I've heard in a long time.

Only one more thing to say, "God bless us, everyone!"

celticmarc said...

You CAN'T go wrong with the Muppets.

I've learned, again, a new word today :

comeuppance |kəˈməpəns|
noun [usu. in sing. ] informal
a punishment or fate that someone deserves : he got his comeuppance.

I AM bilingual, but not using too many fancy words in my daily activities. Does "aforementioned" count ?

JK said...

I think I'd call this me SECOND favourite adaptation; it rates ever-so-slightly below Doctor Who's from a couple of years back in my books. (Though I suppose it could be argued that the DW version is enough of a departure that it's more based on A Christmas Carol, rather than a direct adaptation.)

Also, while I haven't seen Scrooged to this day, I'm told it's fairly brilliant.

That said, there are some fond childhood memories attached to this one. Thanks for making me think of them. :)

Josie Kafka said...

I am apparently the worst Christmas celebrant in the world; of all the reviews we've posted in the past week, I've seen only one (Labyrinth), and that connection to Christmas is...tenuous. :-)

I have, however, seen the Mickey Mouse Christmas Carol movie. Am I the only one in the entire world who has seen that? No one even seems to know what I'm talking about when I mention it.

sunbunny said...

I have! I don't know that it's technically considered a movie, as it's only 25 minutes, but I watch it every Christmas! Scrooge McDuck is Ebenezer Scrooge! Who could have seen that coming? :) I love Goofy as Marley. I laugh every time he falls down the stairs. Even now.

Josie Kafka said...

I'm not crazy! Hooray!

It's only 25 minutes? Wow--as a kid, I never noticed that. And as an adult, I have this weird conviction that I can't watch it, since the version my family had was on a Betamax tape. Therefore, all copies must be on Betamax. :-)

sunbunny said...

Would I make you feel old if I asked what Betamax was? It's on a Christmasy compilation DVD with that cartoon where Chip and Dale hide in Mickey's Christmas tree and drive Pluto crazy. Tee hee.

Josie Kafka said...

Yes, it will make me feel ancient. :-)

Betamax was like VHS--an alternate technology that didn't win the technological arms race. Remember when there were two major satellite radio station, XM and Sirius? One won out (Sirius?) and the other died. Betamax is the home videotape player that died. According to people who know more about these things than I do, that's a pity since the quality was better than VHS.

celticmarc said...

Smile on my face : Betamax vs VHS.....

I still have my 200 VHS cassettes BTW...watching and taping videos on mono sound.

And I remember when I could buy Grease in a video store on VHS for 100 $ plus.....