Monday, 10 December 2012

The Muppet Christmas Carol

The first film to be produced following the death of The Muppets creator Jim Henson, The Muppet Christmas Carol was well received upon its release in time for Christmas 1992 and has grown in stature ever since. The film is a fairly faithful retelling of Charles Dickens’ famous novel albeit with Muppets in most of the roles. The central character of Scrooge though is played incredibly straight by Michael Caine. I have a vague recollection of seeing certain scenes but don’t think I ever saw the film as a child. I had been warned that it is impossible to hate the film but if anyone was going to then it would be me. Around this time of year every year my girlfriend will inevitably yell the words “You’re running Christmas for me!” as I moan about decorations, cards, crap TV or buying presents. I am the archetypal Grinch like character, a man who cares nothing for Christmas and even less for Christmas movies. (See my Die Hard rant). It was always unlikely then that The Muppet Christmas Carol would strike a chord with me and as it turns out I didn’t really enjoy it. It is not without its positives though.

What became obvious in the opening few scenes was the sheer number of Muppet characters. I was in awe at the diversity or shapes, sizes, colours and species. The character design is top notch and the puppetry is as you’d expect, excellent. I was impressed with the way that new Muppets were introduced for the set characters of the source text and the CGI in particular used to help animate the Ghost of Christmas Past still looks great. I could watch Muppet characters dance around all day if they were doing interesting or funny things. Here though they weren’t.

One of the problems with the film from an adult perspective is that the tale is so well known, there are no surprises or unexpected plot twists. Obviously this isn’t expected when going in to film but it makes the plot quite dull and unexciting. From a children’s point of view though I think the film would be a nice way to introduce the classic tale. It is well told using a great narrator in Gonzo who plays Charles Dickens himself. The narration in fact was one of the highlights. I enjoyed Gonzo and Rizzo’s messing about. Another problem with the film is that I only laughed once. There was very little comedy, especially compared to this years The Muppets movie which was one of my comedic highlights of 2012. Given the well known story and lack of comedy I became quite bored with the film.

A strong point was Michael Caine’s performance. The veteran actor plays the role perfectly straight which is remarkable given the circumstances. It’s quite incredible to watch him talking to a puppet mouse as though it is an ordinary actor with which he is exchanging ordinary dialogue. His performance in general though is very good and he manages to over act the part enough so that it will appeal to young children but not go too far so that it ends up looking like a CBeebies show. The voice acting for the Muppet characters is also very good. The songs range from fine to annoying and there are none that stand out to me as was the case with the more recent movie. It was quite fun to see a singing cart of vegetables though. Overall The Muppet Christmas Carol would probably be a fun movie if you were a child or perhaps had some affinity for it from childhood. It may also be enjoyed more by people who are less Scrooge like themselves. For me though it was a bit forgettable and dull although a triumph from a technical standpoint.



  1. Hard to believe it's been 20 years since this came out! I'm a big Muppet fan and enjoyed this version very much. I'm with you that I love how Caine plays it straight around all the puppets; he brings respectability to the role. I can't imagine any other actor who'd be better in the role. I don't know how much more humorous the movie could be without being campy and cringe inducing.

    1. Michael Caine was excellent and I enjoyed the puppetry. I just got quite bored.