Christian’s Christmas: The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

By Christian DiMartino

Alright, I’m sure those who are unaware are ready for a laugh. BUT… of all the adaptations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol… George C. Scott did one, Alistair Sim did one, Jim Carrey did one, Albert Finney did one (perhaps the most underrated), there have been a number of reiterations of the story, etc. Of all of the adaptations of A Christmas Carol, The Muppet Christmas Carol is the best. Or, it’s my favorite as well. This movie is like a warm blanket that I never want to take off.

I don’t know what it is, but The Muppet gang just really stuck the landing here. From the songs to the performances, to the choices made in terms of an adaptation of a story told countless times, The Muppet Christmas Carol is a movie musical that, to me, has mostly gone unsung. Again, those of us who love this movie love it. But the fact that it didn’t get a single Best Original Song Oscar nomination is just icky. Like, let’s take a minute to look at the competition.

Two songs from Aladdin were nominated, which makes sense. Two songs from The Bodyguard (guilty pleasure) were nominated, despite the fact that “I Will Always Love You,” the big hit from that movie, was ineligible. The last nomination went to something called The Mambo Kings. Seeing as I don’t know what the f**k that is, I think a change could’ve been made. Because from beginning to end, The Muppet Christmas Carol features a number of songs that… are actually really good. Like I saw Spirited last month (a movie I didn’t loathe), and hardly any of the music numbers worked; they not only slowed the movie down, but they dragged it out. The Muppet Christmas Carol is a little over 80 minutes, and it’s filled with songs that are legitimately great. So much so that one of them didn’t even make it to the theatrical cut.

There comes a musical number about midway through the movie called “When Love is Gone,” which is a song that Scrooge’s girlfriend sings to him as she expresses her heartache. Apparently this was a song that was featured on the VHS release, but not theatrically, because the studio sensed that children didn’t have the patience for it. It’s a Muppet-less number, and it’s also just a really sad, beautiful song. You can see why the cut was made, but also, watching it on Disney+ last night, I was annoyed that it wasn’t included. Disney+, fix your mistakes.

It’s a testament to the movie itself that I haven’t even typed the name Michael Caine yet. Because despite the great musical numbers, Caine is the key to making the movie work. He’s one of our best; a two time Oscar winner with a body of work that ranges from Hannah and Her Sisters, Alfie, Get Carter, The Cider House Rules, Batman Begins to Austin Powers in Goldmember (crowning achievement). Here he’s of course Ebenezer Scrooge, Kermit the Frog is Bob Cratchit, Miss Piggy is his wife (hilarious), Gonzo the Great serves as the narrator/ Charles Dickens, Fozzie Bear is… Fozziewig, and so on.

What’s funny about The Muppet Christmas Carol is that Michael Caine is surrounded by Muppets (he’s one of the few humans in the movie) and yet he plays this totally straight. He does it like he’s doing King Lear or something and it’s perfect. It’s funny, but it’s funny in a way that doesn’t take away from the seriousness of what he’s doing. He gets to be funny simply based on the fact that he’s playing this as seriously as he is, but also the casting of him as Ebenezer Scrooge is like a match made in heaven. Seriously, could we have done better?

From beginning to end, I find this to be a pretty pristine, immaculate adaptation. I know it sounds silly because it’s the friggin’ Muppets. But director Brian Henson really stuck the landing here. I love the look of this movie. I love the songs. And really just the choices as an adaptation work. Because each adaptation makes its own choices, and this one made the right ones. I love this movie. Seriously, I love everything about it. About 8 years ago I remember reading an article about how this movie deserved the Best Picture Oscar over Unforgiven. Which sounds insane and silly now that I’ve typed it, but good as that movie is, I wouldn’t have been mad at it. The Muppet Christmas Carol rips. I don’t revisit every Christmas movie every year, but this one I just about do. I simply can’t not watch it.


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