As a self-proclaimed muppet, it would have constituted as a sin not to review this film in my twelve-day countdown. Having grown up on “Sesame Street” and its colourful, fuzzy characters, this rendition of the Charles Dickens classic really strikes the deep-rooted home feels. Michael Caine is our grumpy Ebenezer Scrooge, huffing and puffing at any jolliness the streets of London have to offer. Two narrators give us a real account of how Christmas night would change its meaning for ever – Great Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat. All of this gooey goodness is directed by experienced puppeteer Brian Henson and adapted by franchise veteran Jerry Juhl.
Unlike “Scrooged”, which I reviewed back on Sunday, “A Muppet Christmas Carol” does not attempt to modernise the timeline. We find ourselves in nineteenth century England, thrown in a blizzard of shoppers, children and tired commuters. Everyone’s rushing home to the burning fireplace, where a glimpse of magic awaits them for a single eve of blissful holiday. Ebenezer dismisses their merrymaking as unnecessary frivolities, but when perished business partner Marley makes an unexpected visit from the dead, this old fart is forced to listen. Three spirits will come, voices of reason and compassion, to show Scrooge why kindness and love need prevail over his cruelty. From then on, a classic Dickens tale unravels through the past, present and future. We embark on a thill-filled ride across two households and an old school, to look for Ebenezer’s last traces of humanity.
Kermit the Frog plays trustee bookkeeper Bob Cratchit and Miss Piggy is his loyal wife. Their family suffers enough by the hand of Scrooge and his minimal pay, but as destiny has it worse would come. Tiny Tim, the Cratchits’ little boy suffers from illness and shan’t make it much longer. This is one of the turning points both character and audience-wise, as the theme of hopelessness and loss are explored. Even though the muppets are a comedic bunch, Henson successfully emphasises those grim motifs without taking away from the children’s experience.
Michael Caine is a reputable actor, whose portfolio extends far and wide with timeless pieces such as Nolan’s “Batman” trilogy, Cuarón’s “Children of Men” and Barber’s “Harry Brown”. He has been characters we’ve loved, loathed, feared and admired. This versatility is welcome in a colourful man such as Scrooge, whose transition between the past and future is a bumpy road of emotional change. Caine excels in the challenge of fitting those shoes by creating a version of Ebenezer that stands out from the rest. In a classic sense, he will always be one of the few faces Dickens is associated with in this tale.
This happens to be the only film in my countdown which features puppeteering, so for that reason I definitely recommend adding it to your Christmas list. It brings a touch of diversity in an otherwise same-y collection of festive entertainment, plus, the kids enjoy a break from animation. Well, folks, I’d recommend scooting comfortably on the sofa with a plate of cookies and milk, wrapping up in a warm blanket and enjoying the ride.
Stay awesome! Only ten days ’till Christmas to go!