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The Muppet Christmas Carol

Posted by martinteller on August 23, 2015

I didn’t have any reason to be wary of this rendition of the classic Dickens tale… until the opening credits rolled and I saw “Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge”.  Hold the phone.  This is The Muppet Christmas Carol, right?  Why would I want the lead character, the most prominent character BY FAR, to be anything but a Muppet?  No offense to the esteemed Mr. Caine, but this is not what I signed up for.  I want a Muppet Christmas Carol, goddammit, not a Michael Caine plus incidental Muppets Christmas Carol.  Kermit the Frog should be Scrooge, not Bob Cratchit.  And Miss Piggy (my favorite) is barely present as Bob’s wife Emily.  Humbug!

Once this disappointment wore off, however, I quite enjoyed this.  Even more than the revered Alastair Sim version.  And really, the credit belongs to Caine.  His Scrooge is the most convincing I’ve seen.  In the early scenes, you can tell he had a solid belief in his way of doing things, he’s not just an evil bastard.  And his transformation feels right, more right than Sim’s at least.  The problem I’ve always had with this story is that the message shouldn’t be “don’t be a dick or you’ll die unloved” but that’s how it usually comes off.  This version doesn’t play it that way.  Scrooge is already sufficiently moved by the past and the present, the future is just the final nail in the coffin (so to speak).  I always thought the message of the story would be sweeter if Future came before Present… Scrooge’s transformation shouldn’t be about fear.  The way this rendition unfolds, it works as is.

I also enjoyed the clever device of Gonzo as Dickens, narrating from within the story.  It’s not only a new twist on an old tale, but it gives the movie the comedic elements one expects from a Muppet production.  It’s unfortunately a little short on jokes on the whole, because it’s not a scenario that easily lends itself to humor.  I wasn’t especially taken with the songs, either.  They were all fine, but none stick with me.  Also some of the special effects haven’t aged well, though I must say the production design is impressive.  I liked the German Expressionist touches of Christmas Future.

It’s not exactly what you expect from a Muppet movie, but it’s an effective telling of a familiar tale.  Rating: Good (77)

IMDb
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