A Christmas Carol is probably one of the most told stories of all-time. Most people could probably repeat the tale in their sleep. Ebenezer Scrooge is a greedy, bitter man who hates Christmas until three spirits show him the error of his ways and show him where his current path will lead him. There have been big-screen adaptations and every beloved animated character has had their own spin on the story. While some play it straight (Mickey’s Christmas Carol, the Looney Tune version), others like to add a new twist to it (Scrooge), but, in my opinion, the best adaptation is The Muppet Christmas Carol, which faithfully tells the Dickens tale, while throwing in some modern humor to keep things from getting stale.
Gonzo plays Charles Dickens who narrates the story with the help of Rizzo the Rat who is there basically to give Gonzo someone to crack jokes with. When I was a kid, I thought these two were the funniest comedians on the planet, and they are still pretty amusing to watch. The whole film is great at being family friendly without getting stupid or going blue. More often than not, children’s films are either idiotic to remain inoffensive or they throw in some mature humor in order to keep the parents entertained. While, all your favorite Muppets are cast throughout (Kermit as Bob Cratchit, Miss Piggy as his wife, Fozzie is Fozziwig- Scrooge’s first boss), human actors are also featured, particularly Ebenezer himself (a perfectly cast Michael Caine) and his nephew Fred. Caine does great work with the character. I like how he is able to slowly change as he meets the spirits. You see his start to thaw as he’s cracking jokes with the Ghost of Christmas Present, instead of a total turn around once he sees his grave. There was tremendous restraint showed by the writers who didn’t do much to Muppet-up the classic. While there’s a few hints of the familiar characters (Fozziwig owning a rubber chicken factory), it’s very straight adaptation. The personalities are there, but they don’t take over. Also, not having anyone from the main troop of Muppets play the spirits is an interesting move that allows the story and the filmmakers’ creativity to shine.
Growing up with the VHS, I am very familiar with the song “When Love is Gone”, which was not included in the theatrical release. It is sung by Scrooge’s former finance as she ends their relationship (on Christmas Eve) and a heartbroken Caine sings along. This song is a total pace killer, especially for kids, however, when I watched the theatrical version on the DVD, the song’s absence was noticeable, with Rizzo and Scrooge’s tearful reaction to the fiancé’s departure felt unearned. While it’s not my favorite part of the movie, it’s definitely supposed to be there.
If you’ve somehow managed to miss this one, I would definitely recommend watching it this holiday season. It really is a stand out among Christmas Carol adaptation and Muppet movies. It was truly a bright spot for the franchise in the years after Jim Henson’s death. This is a must watch every year in my home.