How do you take one of the greatest stories ever told and make it even better? By adding Muppets of course, and that’s exactly the type of thinking the brought The Muppet Christmas Carol into existence. Possibly my favourite Christmas film of all time (it’s a close tie between this and It’s A Wonderful Life), it’s an annual treat that warms the heart and raises the levels of Christmas excitement. I have a great deal of love for Jim Henson’s most famous characters anyway (The Muppets Take Manhattan wins every time), so the concept of them brining their unique brand of mayhem to Dickens’ most famous and beloved story is inspired. What is surprising though is that The Muppet Christmas Carol is a lot better than it deserves to be through an obvious respect to the source material. It’s the most restrained Muppet movie of the lot, with the usual anarchic chaos being stripped back to a point, in attempts to balance the comedy with the drama. The usual fourth wall breaking, self referencing and silly jokes are all there and the laughs are solid; but I still think that the main reason the film works so well and has become a classic in many peoples eyes, is the fact that it has the same beating heart as the original material, warmed up considerably by all of the usual Muppet charm and wit.
One of the films biggest selling points is the music which on its own deserves high praise. Written by Paul Williams of ‘Rainbow Connection’ fame, and composed by Miles Goodman; each song is as fantastic as the one before it (despite some dodgy singing from Michael Caine); from opening number ‘Scrooge’ to the films main theme, the uplifting and joyous ‘Thankful Heart’. There is one song missing from the film though, which was cut after its theatrical release for apparently being “too sad”, entitled ‘When Love Is Gone’; a beautiful little ballad that shamefully has never been cut back in, despite featuring on the soundtrack and proving popular amongst fans. It accompanies the films most tender scene as Scrooge must face the moment he lost his love and its absence accounts for the jarring edit in the films current state. It’s this wonderful music, the great Muppet gags and above all else its ability to remain true to its roots that makes The Muppet Christmas Carol such an enjoyable, memorable and simply lovely Christmas watch. Not only is it the best cinematic version of Dickens’ original story, but is one of the best festive films ever made.
Trivia Tidbit: This was the first major Muppet project after the death of creator Jim Henson. Henson had performed Kermit the Frog and the role was now being handed down to Steve Whitmire. According to Whitmire he was incredibly nervous about taking over such an iconic character. The night before he had to go record Kermit’s songs for the movie, he had a dream where he met Henson in a hotel lobby and told him how unsure he was. In the dream, Henson reassured Whitmire that the feeling would pass. After waking up, Whitmire was confident and able to do the part.
Image credit to http://www.nitehawkcinema.com