The Muppet Christmas CarolPerhaps if I were not raised on Jim Henson's classic Labyrinth, I'd find the idea of a film consisting mostly of Muppets slightly odd. As it is, the Muppet Christmas Carol was a staple of my childhood, and, recently having watched it again for the first time in five or six years, it's still one of my favourites.
Strongly based on Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, I'd wager that most people know the basic plot beforehand; old miser, horrible and unappreciative of everyone, is visited by three spirits and learns the error of his ways. God bless us, every one.
In this case, the miser is played by Michael Caine, second billing to the puppets. Caine gives a brilliant performance as Scrooge, managing to remain utterly serious and in character while ignoring the mutterings of Rizzo and Gonzo. Caine's face is brilliantly expressive of Scrooge's emotions, making the character really come alive.
Caine isn't the only human actor onscreen; Scrooge's nephew, Freddy and his wife, as well as some other background characters are played by human actors. The Ghost of Christmas Past, while CGI, is a humanoid Muppet, as is the Ghost of Christmas Present.
The main characters onscreen are Gonzo and Rizzo; much like in the Muppet's Treasure Island, they take the role of narrators. Well, Gonzo takes the role of narrator, while Rizzo complains, as per usual. However, unlike in Muppet Treasure Island, Gonzo literally takes the role of Charles Dickens, essentially stalking the main characters who seem completely oblivious to his existence. Except, of course, when it's funny (watch Who Framed Roger Rabbit for the laws on cartoon physics).
All the old favourites return; Kermit and Miss Piggy as Bob and Emily Cratchet, Animal, Fozzy bear, the Swedish chef, and pretty much every Muppet you can name. My personal favourites are Statler and Waldorf as Jacob and Robert Marley. The film is dedicated to their original puppeteers, who died before the film was created, lending a certain irony to casting them as ghosts.
The film is surprisingly loyal to the book, and it really makes me want to dig through dozens of boxes just to track down my copy; that's not exactly an easy feat. The music is brilliant, and all the songs are really singable. Some of them are extremely corny, but what do you expect from a Christmas film aimed at children? Considering how funny the rest of it is, I forgive them. The dialogue is eminently quotable, and the film is surprisingly deep. As a child, I remember being terrified by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, and crying at Tiny Tim's death, but years later, it's other scenes that strike me. The poignancy of Scrooge's childhood and failed relationship, and the subtle hints of why that happened for instance, or the sheer sorrow of having no one to mourn your death.
In summary, the Muppet's Christmas Carol is a really fun film to watch, especially at Christmas. It tends to be played at least once every year, and if you're in the right mood, it really makes Christmas feel like Christmas. Pretend to be a kid again.