The Flickering Myth writing team count down to Christmas by discussing their favourite festive movies; next up is Matt Spencer-Skeen with The Muppet Christmas Carol….
The Muppets were not massively prominent throughout my childhood. As someone who was born in 1990 there were other characters that had more films released and had more screen time on television throughout this period than the Muppets. However some of my most favourite characters growing up were Muppets and it’s all down to this film.
I’ve had the pleasure of watching and re-watching this film every year since its release and am yet to watch it and not come away feeling a bit warm and fuzzy inside. The film opens with a dedication to Jim Henson and Richard Hunt, Muppets creator and voice of Scooter respectively, immediately letting us know that this is a new era for the Muppets without these 2 giants of the group.
The Muppet Christmas Carol is a musical take on the Dickens classic imbued with the humour of the Muppets. Unlike previous Muppet’s film’s they aren’t the main event, instead playing the supporting characters in a tale focussed upon the initially cruel, cold-hearted Scrooge (Michael Caine). It has many parts that, to me, make it the essential Christmas film. Narrated throughout by Charles Dickens (Gonzo the Great) with help from Rizzo the Rat, Michael Caine gives us a Scrooge that we can initially dislike with ease. His indignant attitude towards Christmas affirmed by his dismissal of charity workers (Bunsen and Beaker) collecting for the poor and his reluctance to give his Bookkeepers and Clerk Bob Cratchit (Kermit the Frog) the day off for Christmas.
It is this initial dislike that Caine creates as Scrooge, which makes his transformation throughout his visits by the 3 Spirits all the more emphatic. As we see aspects of Scrooge’s past, the feelings of those in the present and the event’s of the future, the audience can grow to understand Scrooge and feel sympathetic towards a character whose bitterness is disappearing with each Ghostly apparition.
I love the way the Muppet’s themselves are used in this film; Gonzo and Rizzo’s narration and commentary throughout are probably my favourite aspect of the whole film. They keep what is a dark and sad story, light hearted and upbeat. The songs, whilst not having the humour we saw in the most recent Muppet caper, help set the tone in each sequence of the film.
This film is one that does leave you warm-hearted after the transformation of Scrooge. Just the song that gets sung, ‘Thankful Heart’ is essential Christmas viewing for me and always gets me in a happier and more festive mood. I don’t think there’s another film where you could get the joy of both Michael Caine’s singing and his very best Grandpa dancing!