Recommended Viewing Situation:
Immediately after Christmas dinner, in a vain attempt to stave off the inevitable arguments.
Running Time in minutes: 85mins
Format: 35mm Film.
Director: Brian Henson.
Writer: Based on the novel by Charles Dickens, screenplay by Jerry Juhl.
Cinematographer: John Fenner
Awards: Won Fantafestival 1993 Best Direction, nominated for Grammy (Best Musical Album for Children)
A wacky but sincere take on Dickens’ Christmas classic, Muppet Christmas Carol deftly blends the trademark humour of the late Jim Henson’s creations with the heart-warming tale of A Christmas Carol. Set in a Victorian London populated with humans and Muppets, the film follows Michael Caine’s Scrooge as he is visited by three spirits on the eve of Christmas, intent on showing him the error of his ways, as observed by Charles Dickens (played by the Great Gonzo) and his rat companion Rizzo.
Directed by Brian Henson, Jim’s son, the film ticks all the usual boxes for Muppet lovers, featuring a wide variety of the Henson Company’s most notable characters, with Kermit and Miss Piggy taking slightly reduced roles as Mr and Mrs Cratchit. The real star of the show is Michael Caine, who dominates the film with an effective and understated turn as Scrooge. Equally at home as both the miserly Scrooge of the beginning and the redeemed, joyful man of the ending, Caine is a delight to watch, and the rightful centrepiece of the film, especially given the modern tendency to depict Scrooge as a foul, hideous old man (see Dickensian on the BBC). FX and set design must also take a bow here, as the emphasis on practical effects and built sets inherent in a Henson production mean that the London our characters inhabit looks and feels real, even if the dimensions have been amended slightly to fit the Muppet cast.
The film itself is a laudably good Christmas film, with excellent songs to join in with if you’re into singalongs. It does seem to function on two levels, with the Muppet’s antics providing most of the children’s entertainment alongside the Dickens narrative’s attempt to remind the adult audience about the true meaning of Christmas. Good visual gags abound, with my personal favourite occurring when a tracking shot following a series of busts of great authors ends with Gonzo (as Dickens), both a mildly absurd visual joke and a subtle nod to the author. In short, it should definitely be on your viewing list the Christmas. It’s certainly on mine.