I’m not a huge one for Christmas traditions, but I can guarantee that somewhere between December 10th and 25th, I’ll watch Muppet Christmas Carol at least once. For somebody who tends to avoid musicals, I sure as hell love, and sing along to, this one. My favourite Christmas film by a mile.
This is a pure Christmas classic. Now fourteen years old, it more than holds up too, though that may be due to the puppetry involved. I genuinely have no idea how many times I’ve seen it now, but it’s a yearly tradition in the Nutter house to sit down and make some time to revisit this. We try to ensure it’s a family watch, but even when separated due to my split-time Christmases these days, it’s still watched and almost live texted to one another. Even my Dad willingly watches it and laughs and he’s the least likely to like this film I can think of.
Whatever gave Jim Henson’s company the idea to retell the Charles Dickens with our favourite Muppets was genius. Considering it was also the first thing after Henson’s death, it feels a great way to remember him. The lines, the jokes and the little touches work every time. Considering how often I have seen it, the intricate details never fail to impress and I usually come away having seen or heard something I’d previously missed. On this latest re-watch, it was Sam Eagle’s Headmaster and his final quip. That and trying to work out what Rizzo was eating in one of the early scenes (a tiny cucumber?!).
It’s a largely faithful retelling but quirky too, putting a very Muppets stamp on it. Gonzo acts as our narrator, Mr Dickens, and Rizzo is the comedy sidekick. Even with the humour and the unique touches, it has enough heart to have you grinning like a fool but also tearing up in some parts. How Michael Caine kept a straight face during filming remains a mystery, with the random things happening around him. He’s good fun in this, convincing as a hardball and with one of my favourite film introductions. It builds up the big reveal, we have a song describing his character, Scrooge, and shots of him and his coat whooshing around on his way to the office, but the reveal comes at the end of the song and with a fantastic ‘Humbug’. For someone often likeable as a cheeky chappy, Caine does the tight-fisted businessman pretty well. Yet is just as believable when he has his epiphany later on.
Onto the songs. I mentioned above that musicals aren’t really my thing. Yet here I am doing a second post in a row about them (after my look back on The Nightmare Before Christmas). The songs are not entirely original but have the Muppets twist you come to expect. They’re witty, appropriate and sum up how Christmas should be. My favourite is probably the opener, ‘Scrooge’ with all of the great bits it involves, including the line ‘Even the vegetables don’t like him’. The little details and amount of characters involved are all showcased here. Like the penguins, the cute mice and our aforementioned singing vegetables. Some of the songs are a little on the nose, but whose heart doesn’t break for Tiny Tim despite this.
If I were to choose a favourite sequence, it’s a toss-up between when we’re with the ghost of Christmas past at Scrooge’s school with the headmaster (‘Tomorrow you become a man of…business!’) or the dinner scenes at Bob Crachet’s. There are so many quotable or memorable moments though. To name but a few, you have to love the book-keeping mice, or the cute singing rabbit. Then there’s the scenes at Fozziwig’s Christmas bash and the Marleys. Oh and who couldn’t love Crachet’s ‘One more sleep ’til Christmas’ and the shooting star.
Appropriate for all ages, it’s a classic for the whole family and you finish it feeling happier. I’ve certainly got a festive feeling now.