Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Muppets' Christmas Carol (1992) Review

"Hello! Welcome to the Muppet Christmas Carol.  I am here to tell the story."
"And I am here for the food."

I've only seen one version of A Christmas Carol (I know, I know...) but IMHO this adaptation is outstanding.  Sure, it's silly, but it's the Muppets for crying out loud! The overall feel of the story is lighthearted and funny, but the script is faithful to the novel and even pretty faithful to Dickens' original language.  The parts that might be scary (including the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, who my brother insists is made of trash bags) are toned down to be suitable for young children (and anyway, they'll be fine--it's culture) and the rest of the story is well-told.

Plus, there are lots and lots and lots of really good quotes, and that alone would make this a good movie.

Everybody knows the story of A Christmas Carol (at least I hope all of you do... *peers sternly at cyber-audience*) Miserly Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine, who is... adequate) lives his life being mean to everyone and does not change his ways until he is visited by five ghosts (various Muppets, who are awesome) who show him different Christmases from the past, present and future as well as people he knows/knew from the past, present and future (more various Muppets, who are also awesome) and encourage him to mend his ways.  This one thing you must remember, or nothing else will seem wondrous.  Why am I whispering, you ask? Don't ask such silly questions--it's for dramatic emphasis.

See? I can do stories in a nutshell sometimes.  Maybe you're wondering why you should take my word for it that this is the story.  Well, let me tell you that I know the story of ACC like the back of my hand. Want me to prove it? Okay, well, there's a little mole on my thumb, and a scar on the wrist from when I fell off my bike... Ahem.  I promised myself I wouldn't do rabbit trails.

Michael Caine plays Scrooge, as I said, adequately.  He's not awful, but he's not great either.  The best parts of Scrooge's personality come from the script, not the acting.
"Let us deal with the eviction notices for tomorrow, Mr. Cratchit."
"Uh, tomorrow's Christmas, sir."
"Very well. You may gift wrap them."

A lot of the good lines come, of course, from Charles Dickens' immortal words themselves. "He was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge: a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, clutching, covetous old sinner." The Great Gonzo plays a highly amusing Charles Dickens, with some of Gonzo's own wit and humor mixed in with authentic Dickensian quotes. It was the afternoon of Christmas Eve and Scrooge was conscious of a thousand odors, each one connected with a thousand thoughts and hopes and joys and cares long, long forgotten." (That remains one of my favorites.)  Joined by Rizzo the Rat, who is grateful to be a part of this, Charles Dickens tells the story of ACC while tagging along with the characters as they journey through the story.
Rizzo the Rat as Rizzo the Rat and the Great Gonzo as Charles Dickens

Rizzo the Rat: How do you know what Scrooge is doin'? We're down here and he's up there!
Gonzo: I told you, storytellers are omniscient; I know everything!
Rizzo the Rat: Hoity-toity, Mr. Godlike Smarty-Pants.
Gonzo: To conduct a proper search, Scrooge was forced to light the lamps.
[the lamps come on]
Rizzo the Rat: How DOES he do that?

Kermit the Frog plays an excellent Bob Cratchit, with just the right mix of humility (but not Uriah Heep's kind), optimism and general good humor.  His family consists of Mrs. Cratchit (who oddly enough seemed more martial-artsy than in the book) and his children Peter, Belinda and whatever-the-other-girl's-name-is and a slightly frightening Tiny Tim.  (Was anyone else just a wee bit creeped out by his froggy eyes? No, just me? Okay then.)
A random frog as Tiny Tim, Kermit as Bob Cratchit and Miss Piggy as Mrs. Cratchit

Kermit the Frog: If you please Mr. Scrooge, it's gotten colder, and the bookkeeping staff would like an extra shovel full of coal for the fire?
Rat #1: We can't do the bookkeeping, all our pens have turned to inkcicles!
Rat #2: Our assets are frozen!
Ebenezer Scrooge: How would the bookkeeping staff like to be suddenly... UNEMPLOYED?
Rats: HEAT WAVE. This is my island in the sun...

Waldorf and Statler make comical cameos as Jacob and Robert Marley--it's good to see them heckling again.  I was unaware that Jake Marley had a twin brother, but you learn something new every day, don't you?  Of course I could simply be imagining that there was only one Marley brother... I do sometimes doubt my senses because a little thing can effect them. A slight disorder of the stomach can make them cheat. You may be a bit of undigested beef, a blob of mustard, a crumb of cheese. Yes. There's more gravy than of grave about you.

Scrooge with Waldorf and Statler as the Marley brothers
Robert Marley: More gravy than of grave?
Jacob Marley: What a terrible pun. Where'd you get those jokes?
Robert Marley: Leave comedy to the bears, Miss Dashwood.

Speaking of bears, I thoroughly enjoyed Fozzy Bear's performance as Old Fozziwig.  "I love these annual Christmas parties. I love 'em so much, I think we'll do it twice a year!"

The flashbacks to Scrooge's childhood were well done, I thought, but of all the spirits, the Ghost of Christmas Past was actually the spookiest.  Her creepy voice and archaically-animated face were... well, a little scary.  But I did enjoy the portrayal of the Ghost of Christmas Present (and was I the only one who, as a child, thought that he was supposed to be the Ghost of Christmas Gifts?).

"You're a little absent-minded, Spirit."
"No, I'm a LARGE absent-minded Spirit!"
I love it when actors I know make cameo appearances in movies with a lot of characters (one of the reasons I like P&P05) and Sam the Eagle's appearance as the Headmaster did not disappoint. "Mm, you will love business. It is the AMERICAN WAY! ... Oh... It is the BRITISH WAY! Work hard, lad, and one day, your life will be as solid as this very building! [the shelf collapses behind him] Huh. I've been meaning to fix that shelf."

The human characters, unfortunately, were less than perfect.  The animal-vegetable-mineral game played at Fred's house during Christmas Present (heh) is one of my favorite scenes in the book, yet it fell a little flat in this movie.
*insert squeal*
Okay, I just went to IMDB to look up the actor who played Fred because I thought he seemed a bit familiar... and lo and behold, it's John Harmon/Rokesmith/Handford from Our Mutual Friend! Well, I wasn't overly impressed with his performance in the guessing game scene (and his wife was nothing short of annoying) but he did do a pretty good job of portraying Fred's cheeriness (and staying out of the river).  The other human actors... as I said, Mrs. Nephew Fred was pretty cheesy and Belle (Scrooge's fiancee) wasn't much better.  I did have to giggle at Raymond Coulthard's portrayal of Young Scrooge (they did a rather good job of matching Young Scrooge and Old Scrooge, looks-wise) because I had seen bits and clips of him as Frank Churchill in the brown-haired Emma.

I can't finish this review without a little mention of the music in this movie--"It Feels Like Christmas" is definitely my favorite.  "It is the season of the heart, a special time of caring, the ways of love made clear..."

(Oh, and take a look at Fagin at 0:37! More Dickens cameos!)

The ending was sweet and funny (especially Miss Piggy---er, Mrs. Cratchit's threatening to flatten Scrooge on the sidewalk) and all in all, I highly recommend this movie as a good family film for Christmas or any other time of year.  Sure, a Dickens purist might object to the use of Muppets in a classic tale such as this, but I think Charles Dickens would have enjoyed it.  Don't you?

Jacob Marley: That was the review?
Robert Marley: It was dumb!
Jacob Marley: It was obvious!
Robert Marley: It was pointless!
Jacob Marley: It was... short!
Jacob Marley, Robert Marley: I LOVED it!


Diana said...

A Muppet Christmas Carol is my favourite adaptation of this Dickens tale, too! Maybe it's because it's the version I watched the most growing up. Maybe it's because Muppets make everything a little bit better. In any case, I *love* it! I'm glad others just as enthusiastic about it. :)

Miss Dashwood said...

Thanks so much for your comment! I agree, the Muppets do tend to make everything a little bit better. Which other versions of ACC have you seen?

Anne-girl said...

You haz awsomeness.

Alexandra said...

Yay!!! Really enjoyed this post. And how many quotes you fit deserve a round of applause. (round of applause)!!!

No, no, no...don't tell us your hand, tell us the story!!! :-P

Ok, so my favorite Michael Caine as Scrooge part is the "When Love is Gone" number. First off, I don't care at all for her voice, but I love the song...and Michael Caine is the only Scrooge who acted like he was REALLY SORRY that he turned his back on the woman he loved, instead of the others who were just like, oh, bummer, slip up there! Anyway. That was his Shining Scrooge Moment for me. :-)

Light the lamp, not the rat...light the lamp, not the rat...

And I love Fozziwig to biiiitty bits.

The Ghost of Christmas Future honestly cracked me up...he was the least scariest version of the Ghost in all the versions I've seen (he's almost friendly, you know???)

And Sam's line is probably one of my favorites...I LOVED seeing it in your review!

SCREECH! You are sooo right, he IS John Harmon!!!!! Hahahahha!!! Of course I only just saw OMF for the first time a few weeks ago, so I wouldn't have known...but it is! How funny! There's two Dickens under his belt...

"I am about to raise your salary!"
"And I am about to knock you right off the pavement!"

LOVE the review. This is probably in the top three of my favorite Christmas films. Definitely.

BTW...have you seen Muppet Treasure Island? Love that one, too...

Dave & Paula Tansey said...

Michael Caine only adequate? I really hope I misunderstood that. I thought he was awesome as Scrooge! I'm soooooooooooo excited to learn that you love this movie. I am seriously thinking we may have to add a new tradition to "Cookie Bake" :)

-Aunt Paula

Miss Dashwood said...

Aunt Paula,
All right, all right, maybe he was more than adequate--his performance did grow on me. ;) I just didn't really like his portrayal of Scrooge's mean side. He didn't seem... Scroogish enough, if that makes any sense. But of course I've only seen the movie once, and first impressions can't always be trusted---SO, yes, we should totally watch this at cookies this year.
Thanks for commenting! You made my day!

Hayden said...

"And anyway, they'll be fine- it's culture" hahah! Miss Dashwood, you make me laugh. A lot. Thank you :)

And now I totally have to watch this movie (I haven't seen it in years and years and years). I can't believe Mr...ummm....Harmon/Rokesmith/Handford is in it! Too funny!

Kira said...

I love this movie!
I thought Michael Caine was great! Also, I loved Belle, and her song makes me cry, so I'm afraid I can't agree with you there. :)

Your review was excellent though, highly entertaining! :D

Rissi said...

My dad and I occasionally watch this one - the story in general is not my favorite though but this version tends to make it a little more fun... or perhaps just sillier. =)