Quick Hit: A wonderful re-working of a holiday classic that maintains all of the heavy moments of the literature in question while presenting it in an accessible format for children.
It’s been a while since I’ve opened with a geeky fact about myself (maybe not long enough for most readers). Here’s a good one: I love the Muppets. I’m not really sure when the fascination really began to take place; I know I was a Sesame Street kid, at least for a while, but I think I just have always been fascinated with puppetry in general. My favorite Goosebumps book as a child was Night of the Living Dummy (along with half of the reading population). I have a puppet or two, and I’m not a terrible ventriloquist (but by no means a good one). That may be why the Muppets always captivated me. I remember the first time I saw the original Muppet Movie and I saw Kermit ride a bicycle, or Kermit and Fozzie dance on stage. There’s just something perfect about that ability to suspend the disbelief that these characters with personalities and character traits are simply pieces of felt.
That’s why I think this may be my favorite Christmas movie. It is truly magical – A Christmas Carol is something that is terribly, terribly overdone – there are so many iterations it boggles the brain. But this is a good one, with Michael Caine in the starring role. Some actors may have played the role of Scrooge surrounded by Muppets for more comedy, but Caine played Scrooge exactly as written in the book, and it fits. The surroundings, the set pieces, and the puppetry are perfectly on par with some of the best you can see.
Are there scenes that are a bit shoe-horned to fit the characters available? Sure, but a lot of the choices are inspired. Sam the Eagle as Scrooge’s school teacher, Fozzie Bear as Fezziwig, and Kermit the Frog as Bob Cractchit is wonderful. The only complaint I have about any of the design of the puppets is the Ghost of Christmas Past. She’s just a little off, if only because she is depicted as so ethereal. But, the next two puppets completely make-up for it. The short-term memoried Ghost of Christmas present is probably my favorite – and not just because he has red hair and a red beard. “Come in, and know me better man!” "'You're a little absent-minded spirit.' 'No, I'm a large absent-minded spirit."
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come deserves a mention too, if only because it is pretty scary.
That’s one of the good things about this movie – it doesn’t pan away from some of the more uncomfortable moments in the film. We see graveyards, we see thieves, we see death. That’s a lot of heavy stuff for a kid’s film, especially one that isn’t animation. But director Brian Henson (the late Jim Henson’s son) walks that line perfectly, allowing the humor of the Muppets to carry the tension and emotion filled scenes. Rizzo (always a popular character) also mentions the violence in the film, but is reminded of the importance of sticking to the literature.
I also love the music. The Muppets and music go together like... well, the Muppets and music, and this one is no different. At times, you almost feel yourself longing for them to break into song once again, because the songs themselves are just that good. They make you learn the words quickly, and really make you feel like dancing.
This movie is great. I highly recommend it for the Christmas season, or if you just need a lift. It’s good enough that you don’t even have to watch it at the holidays. I'm giving it an "A".
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"