The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
If you don’t know the story of “A Christmas Carol” either you’re from some very far away place or you’re sick with a memory afflicting illness. The Charles Dickens classic is the best Christmas story ever, a heart warming tale whose characters have become household names: Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit, the ghost of Jacob Marley, Ebenezer Scrooge himself. It’s a great tale I’ve seen in many versions. I saw a play in college with Josh and Anna, I had a cartoon version that scared the shit out of me when I was little, and I also had the version I know and love best, 1992’s The Muppet Christmas Carol.
It was in one of those squeaky white plastic VHS boxes that all Disney movies came in, do you remember those? I wasn’t even a particular fan of the Muppets, besides maybe a stuffed animal and seeing a few episodes of the Muppet Babies cartoon, but this movie was a great favorite of the childhood me. I liked the snow (something so rare and exotic to a child of Georgia, land of the 8-month summer), I liked Kermit the Frog, Michael Caine as Scrooge, and I probably even enjoyed the songs, even though as an elementary school hard-ass I probably wouldn’t have admitted it.
Watching the movie now I appreciate it as one of those childhood favorites that turned out to be actually good, and I find so much of it endearing. Being a fan of Hollywood studios and Cinecitta and those true “dream factory” type places, I really enjoyed that this movie was clearly a studio creation, with the streets of London and the outdoor scenes clearly recreated on a set. There’s something magical about that to me, and I’m always reminded of Federico Fellini on the set of Amarcord, who reportedly pulled a set designer aside and whispered that he didn’t want a nighttime scene on the ocean to look “too real.” He appreciated studio magic, and I agree that there is something special about a studio movie. The Muppet Christmas Carol has all that studio charm and detail, and it just feels right for this familiar Christmas tale.
Kermit as Bob Cratchit in a quiet, touching moment
I love the Muppets in this movie (especially Gonzo as the narrating Charles Dickens accompanied by Rizzo the Rat (as himself)), but it’s Michael Caine’s Scrooge who really makes the movie. I mean, it has to be this way; any production of a Christmas Carol in which Scrooge isn’t the star is doomed to failure. Michael Caine is perfect in the movie. Who in their right mind doesn’t like Michael Caine? He is awesome, and a really great Scrooge. The ghosts are also very good in this movie. The Christmas Past spirit is very creepy and cute at the same time, and the Spirit of Christmas Future is scary and silent. The best spirit, of course, is Christmas Present, so jolly and good. I enjoy his repeating “Come in! and know me better, man!” over and over, because it’s just one of those strange lines I like so much in the original story.
All in all, it’s a Christmas classic and a sweet triumph for Muppet and human-kind alike.