Twitter Plot Summary: It’s a Christmas Carol, but with Muppets and Michael Caine, innit bruv?
There are so many movie adaptations of A Christmas Carol that it might be difficult to choose one in particular that is worthy of your attention. Look no further, film fans – despite what you might think about puppet performances, The Muppet Christmas Carol should be the version of the story that you give first dibs each festive season.
The story is almost completely the same as the novel – that is, Ebenezer Scrooge is a miserly old businessman who, on Christmas Eve, is visited by three spirits who help him reflect on his past, present and future so he can avoid the fate that befell his now dead business partner Jacob Marley. Except here it’s Jacob and Robert Marley, as they are portrayed by longtime Muppet moaners Statler and Waldorf. As we journey through Scrooge’s life, the mistakes he has made and so on, we meet a number of Muppet characters as the people Scrooge has met. Kermit is Bob Cratchit, Miss Piggy Mrs Cratchit, Fozzie Bear is Scrooge’s former employer Mr Fozziewig, and the list goes on.
Not only are there all the usual fourth wall-breaking jokes that The Muppets are known for, but there are also the expected high quality of storytelling chops that the Muppet films do so well. While it is deferential to the original story there’s also plenty of time left for some heartfelt and often joyous songs dotted throughout.
The main point here is that we have Gonzo The Great acting as our omnipotent narrator Charles Dickens, accompanied by Rizzo The Rat, both of whom are occasionally visible to the people within the story but more often than not are merely non-tangible witnesses to events.
At its centre is a towering performance from Michael Caine as Scrooge, all the more imposing as he plays it entirely straight and, quite rightly, as if the Muppets are human performers. It is this level of dedication to the role and the world, the suspension of his own disbelief, that allows the audience to also believe in this world and to not think of Kermit as a frog or Gonzo as a… whatever he actually is. They are just characters in the story, it’s irrelevant if they are live performers or puppets.
It is therefore, perhaps arguably, the best adaptation of Dickens’ festive tale to ever hit screens. This is a film with charm, joy, humour, excellent performances from all involved (yes, that does also include the Muppets) and just the right balance of chills to balance between the original text and the sensibilities of its intended young audience.
The only point of contention is if you watch the version that does not contain the song “When Love Is Gone”. This was apparently cut for pacing reasons, but then the film suffers without it as it demonstrates the emotional about-turn that Scrooge experiences. The film’s final song, “The Love We Found” is fine without the earlier song, but it’s even better with it included. Apart from this admittedly minor point it’s a joy to watch and for me a viewing has become an annual Christmas tradition.