The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
The Muppet Christmas Carol was the first Muppet feature film to be made after the death of Jim Henson. The production maintains his standards and style throughout, although due to the plot, this is a somewhat dark Muppet film. It’s also the one most affectionate of the Muppets movie. The plot follows Charles Dickens's original 1843 novel quite closely with the added bonus of The Great Gonzo playing Dickens himself as an ever-present narrator. Michael Caine provides an excellent performance as Ebenezer Scrooge that wouldn’t be out of place in serious adaptation. Caine attacks his role with his acting prowess and does not end up playing second fiddle to The Muppets themselves. As ever with Muppet movies, neither Caine or any other member of the cast ever question the fact that the Muppets aren’t human.
In many respects, this is probably one of the most faithful film adaptation of the novel to date. Much of the dialogue is taken directly form the source text. With quotes such as "If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population”, there is potential to scare younger viewers, yet it works very well. The script, production design and humorous tone balance well with the classic tales more sinister elements. The film's score composed by Miles Goodman with songs written by Paul Williams facilitate the stories subtler themes, making them accessible to younger viewers. "Doomed, Scrooge, you're doomed for all time, your future is a horror story, written by your crimes”, sing the ghosts of the deceased Marley brothers (AKA Statler and Waldorf) in a catchy expositionary ditty. I must admit over the years this soundtrack has really grown on me and I now enjoy such standout tracks as It Feels Like Christmas and Thankful Heart.
The Muppet Christmas Carol does well in tackling this classic tale’s darker elements. It tempers the best aspects of Dickens cautionary narrative with The Muppets signature brand of humour. However, this approach doesn’t negate the drama. "Should we be worried about the kids in the audience?" ask Rizzo Rat. "Nah," says Gonzo. "This is culture." I actually think presenting literary classics in such a fashion makes them more accessible to the audience and may encourage some to tackle the original books. For those who are less interested in the narrative pedigree of this adaptation and who just wish to be entertained, then The Muppet Christmas Carol hits the mark. There is a cornucopia of sight gags, background shenanigans and subtle references, on top of the usual upfront, zany humour from The Muppets. So, if you wish for a different spin on this classic season tale, why not give it a try. You may be surprised by how good an adaptation it is.