The first Muppet feature since the passing of Jim Henson strikes all the right chords in a holiday chorus, but it is still suffering a ruinous, to some, edit. More on that later, but those happy characters meet a grouchy Michael Caine in a grand redo of Charles Dickens’ Christmas classic.
Charles Dickens (Gonzo the Great, just go with it) and his pal Rizzo the Rat tell us that Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine) is a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner. He has an intense hatred of Christmas as much as his disdain for spending his own money.
His long suffering clerk Bob Cratchit (Kermit the Frog) is freezing in Scrooge’s unheated offices, coal costs money, and has to beg to get Christmas day off.
The only highlight of the evening is the visit by Scrooge’s cheery nephew Fred (Steven Mackintosh) whose Christmas invitation is vehemently refused by the miser. Scrooge shuffles back to his cold, shabby lodgings and settles in for his evening.
His bitter boudoir is interrupted by the ghosts of his old business partners Jacob and Robert Marley (Statler and Waldorf, glad to be heckling again) who tells him of his poor prospects in the afterlife thanks to his grasping, greedy current life.
To offer the old geezer some chance at redemption three spirits will visit Scrooge. These ghosts will lead Scrooge on a tour of his miserable life from his youth, his courtship of Belle (Meredith Braun), his old Christmas loving boss Fozziwig (Fozzi the Bear), his current mistreatment of Cratchit and his family, including his crippled son Tiny Tim (Robin the Frog), and Scrooge’s bleak future unless he changes his ways.
Dickens’ tale of redemption has been made into numerous adaptations (hence me appropriating my plot description from another of my reviews) but this is the first time that the Muppets take on the material.
It was the first film produced after the death of Muppet master Jim Henson, much too young, and puppeteer Richard Hunt (the film bears a dedication to them). The movie has the spirit of both Dickens and Henson and is a fitting legacy to both.
To put you in the right mood it features festive songs by frequent Muppet collaborator Paul Williams (who I was a bit sad to see didn’t help out with the most recent movie).
One song is of particular ire of fans, “When Love is Gone” is… gone. Disney execs thought it slowed down the film and unceremoniously snipped it out. It may have stopped some audiences from being restless, but it also takes out a great emotional beat as well as a great tune. Other video releases have restored it but unfortunately the Blu-ray is lacking this sought after restoration.
This will be a large bone of contention to some fans, but it is what it is. Caine may not be the best singer but he does make a fine Scrooge (though my favorite is still George C. Scott) and the Muppets provide both emotional and comedic support. It’s in the Christmas rotation here at my house, both the movie and the soundtrack.
The Muppet Christmas Carol is presented in a lovely 1080p transfer (1.85:1). Special features include a new commentary with Kermit, Gonzo and Rizzo, the older commentary with director Brian Henson, if you pause the film and the Muppets will sing you Christmas carols, the 22 minute “Frogs, Pigs, and Humbug” making of, a 5 minute portrait of Gonzo’s career, a 3 minute look at Christmas around the world, and a 3 minute gag reel. You also get a DVD and digital copy.
It may be billed as a 20th anniversary edition but it feels lacking without that extended cut (maybe Disney can slap it in the new Star Wars movie). What is here is not new, well besides the gimmicky commentary, but it does feel like a nice celebration.
I would’ve rated it one more star if it had the extended cut. Buyers beware if that’s what you’re after, but others may want to put the Blu-ray on your Christmas list.
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