Carrying on with the Christmas film viewings and I have watched another that makes my annual list. The Muppet Christmas Carol tends to be a film that splits the audience. Some people absolutely love it and others class it as one of the worst films they have ever seen. Considering I own a giant cinema poster for the film that was from its release, it’s safe to say that I am definitely in the former and nothing gets me in the Christmas spirit more than singing along to the songs from the film. But more on that later! The Muppet Christmas Carol is an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol which follows the miserable bookkeeper, Ebenezer Scrooge, a man hellbent on misery especially during the Christmas season. On Christmas Eve night, he is visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Bob Marley who is bound in chains as punishment for how he treated people and subsequent Ghosts of his Past, Present and Future, who show him the kind of person he was, is and will be. By doing this, they allow Scrooge to evaluate his behaviour and turn it around before he is doomed to the same fate as Marley.
The Muppet Christmas Carol features all of your favourite Muppet characters with Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit, Gonzo as Dickens and Miss Piggy as Mrs Cratchit. Topping off the bill is Michael Caine as Scrooge and it works so well. Caine’s approach to filming was to treat his Muppet costars as if they were dramatic human actors and the result is a performance that feels completely sincere and moral, getting in touch with the message of the original story. Not only is this a fantastic adaptation of the Dickens material but it is done in a way that is fun and accessible for audiences of all ages.
Caine’s performance as Scrooge is actually among my favourites of his career. This may seem a bit odd considering the wide variety of “serious” films Caine has starred in over the decades but as stated before, his approach and the result is worthy to be up there. We really feel Scrooge’s emotional journey as he starts off as someone incapable of empathy and ends as someone who embraces their community. The turning point for his performance comes during his time with the Ghost of Christmas Present. This also happens to be my favourite segment in the film as it features the best song, “It Feels Like Christmas”, and is where the film begins to shift in tone from dark and gritty to uplifting and festive. Scrooge begins to truly see the ripple effect of his actions as we looks on at his nephew’s household as well as the Cratchit family where he becomes drawn by the youngest member, the sickly Tiny Tim.
Another highlight in this film is definitely the music and songs. I have already touched on this with “It Feels Like Christmas” but the opening number “Scrooge” really sets up the film fantastically as well. We follow behind Scrooge as he makes his way to work as everyday people sing about his miserable and selfish nature. Even before we see his face, we get a clear and well-rounded image of his character while watching lots of cute Muppets in adorable costumes harmonising in their signature way. The score composed by Miles Goodman is clearly inspired by Christmas Carol tunes, Victorian sounds and the uplifting Muppet music. The result is something that sounds timeless and fits well within the Muppet discography while maintaining a distinct and unique score. The same can be said about the songs written by Paul Williams. Using the text by Dickens for much of the lyrical inspiration, he really captures Dickens’ London while maintaining that Muppet feel.
There is no doubt that Jim Henson was a genius and this film marks the end of an era. Made in his memory, it is the perfect swansong to an illustrious career that was defined by bringing happiness and imagination to audiences of all ages. The Muppet Christmas Carol remains one of the best Muppet outputs of all time as well as a memorable and beautiful project of passion.
What do you think of The Muppet Christmas Carol? Let me know in the comments below!
The Muppet Christmas Carol is streaming on Disney+ so be sure to catch it as soon as you can.