The Muppet Christmas Carol – Ebenezer Scrooge is a mean, grumpy old miser who refuses to help the needy or even his own poorly paid employees, despite his wealth. With Christmas fast approaching and the winter harsh, Scrooge is as determined as ever not to part with his money to assist his fellow-man. On Christmas Eve, he is visited by 3 spirits, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future and embarks on a journey of self-discovery which may just prove that a person can change, just in time to save not just himself but everyone around him.

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) – Director: Brian Henson

Rating: U

Running Length: 85 mins

Starring: Michael Caine, Kermit the Frog, The Great Gonzo

Genre: Comedy, Drama

REVIEW: ‘THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL’

While ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens is well-known in Western culture and has been retold again and again in different mediums and with different well-known actors throughout the decades, it was an unusual choice for the Muppets to take it on. How would the movie decide to frame this classic tale to account for muppet hijinks?

The story unfolds around the anchor of fourth wall breaking narration by The Great Gonzo (playing Dickens) as assisted by Rizzo the Rat. This framing device allows the pair to bounce of each other brilliantly, adding extra bits of detail to drive the story along and whilst they are ever-present (sometimes going to comical lengths to ensure they keep up with the action) they never overstay their welcome. Crucially Michael Caine plays Scrooge entirely straight with very little comedy directed towards him. Therefore, his presence and gravitas carries the story so he still manages to be genuinely engaging regardless of what else is happening on-screen. Playing Scrooge straight allows the comedy around him, mainly from the titular muppets, to enjoy quick-witted and fun touches while still balancing effectively the seriousness of the story; indeed there are several moments with very little light relief which are long enough to give enough weight to them but not so long as to dampen the otherwise light-hearted nature of the movie.

The spirits: spooky, chain-clad Marley brothers (played of course by grumpy muppets Statler and Waldorf), haunting Ghost of Christmas Past, infectiously happy Ghost of Christmas Present and frightening Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come all give the movie depth and provide characters for Scrooge to bounce off and learn from in a natural and timely way. The movie is short at only 85 minutes and despite plenty being packed into it, enough time is given to each segment that nothing ever seems rushed and the story is told respectfully without being dull or sombre.

With laughs-a-plenty and an engaging story of redemption, ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ is a wonderful family movie which has a well-earned ‘Classic’ status and can be enjoyed from one Christmas to the next. God bless us, everyone!

CONTENT: IS ‘THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?

When speaking to an exceptionally chirpy character, Scrooge tells him “If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with “Merry Christmas” on his lips would be cooked with his own turkey and buried with a stake of holly leaves through his heart”.

When approached by two characters wishing to raise money for a charity, he says of the poor and homeless who do not want to go to prisons or poorhouses (places with terrible conditions) “If they’d rather die, they’d better do it and reduce the surplus population.”

After a happy, Christmassy song, a homeless bunny is shown shivering in the cold.

Scrooge goes to open his door but the door knocker transforms into Marley’s face who wails in a comically loud but scary fashion. Scrooge is startled but shakes it off with a ‘humbug’.

An unnerved Scrooge walks cautiously around his house. He sees a figure behind him and cries out in fear but the moment is over quickly as it is shown to just be a dressing gown. Later, when a bell rings, a white glow envelopes Scrooge’s living room and the ghosts of Jacob and Robert Marley appear, wrapped in chains and wailing. They laugh and joke most of the time, so even though Scrooge is scared there is a comic counterpoint. One says, “I remember when we evicted the entire orphanage. They had frostbitten teddy bears!”

Scrooge sees himself as a solitary and lonely child and we can see he is regretful at the life he led. Later, when he is older, there is a conversation between him and a young lady where she sadly laments that he still is unwilling to buy a house and have them live a life together. Sad music plays whilst he says, “I love you,” to which she replies, “You did, once.” The ‘present day’ Scrooge doesn’t want to see this scene and is visibly hurt and upset at having to relive it.

During the visit by the Ghost of Christmas Present, Scrooge visits Bob Cratchit’s house. He is warmed by the kindness of Tiny Tim but upset when it becomes clear that Tim is very sick. The Ghost says, “I see a vacant seat by the chimney and a crutch without an owner……I believe the child will die.” Scrooge is devastated.

When the Ghost of Christmas Present disappears Scrooge is left in a graveyard and is apprehensive. A sudden fog envelops him, scaring him. The Ghost Of Christmas Yet to Come appears suddenly which scares him further as this ghost is a huge, black, hooded figure. Gonzo and Rizzo flee saying they are ‘too scared’ and that they will return ‘for the finale’. The Ghost never speaks and only gestures, which makes it more intimidating.

When the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come takes Scrooge to Bob Cratchit’s house he is initially happy as he is expecting some relief from the misery. However, he see’s Mrs Cratchit (Miss Piggy) crying and the family downcast and upset. Bob arrives and talks about the spot of Tiny Tim’s grave, saying it has a nice view of the ducks which he would have liked. The empty seat and crutch mentioned earlier by the Ghost of Christmas Present are shown and Scrooge is crestfallen.

Lastly, Scrooge is taken back to the graveyard where the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. This is very spooky, cold, dark, and with foreboding music. It points to a gravestone. Scrooge approaches it but pleads with the Ghost to answer him if things can be changed. He is in tears and this is a very dramatic and tense scene.

CAN I SEE A CLIP?
VERDICT: IS ‘THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL’ FOR KIDS?

While Muppets movies can be a bit hit and miss, the fact that ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ sticks closely to the original text and that Michael Caine plays the role completely straight means that there is enough backbone for the gags and flair to flesh out satisfyingly. And the comedic elements mean that, for the most part, the age range that can watch this movie is wide enough for the whole family. Aside from the ‘Ghost Of Christmas Yet to Come’ section, any ‘scary’ parts are short and / or juxtaposed with lighter touches, so we would recommend this movie as suitable for all ages, but parental supervision for children up to ages 4-5.

  • Violence: 1/5 (some mild slapstick)
  • Emotional Distress: 2/5 (Scrooge is often very touched and distressed by what he sees. The Cratchit family are upset during the ‘future’ section)
  • Fear Factor: 2/5 (some of the Ghost parts can be scary although there is comic relief also, but the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come section has little to no such relief and lasts around 10 minutes).
  • Sexual Content: 0/5
  • Bad Language: 0/5
  • Dialogue: 1/5 (some emotionally touching or callous dialogue, as detailed above).
  • Other Notes: Deals with themes of charity, kindness, Christmas spirit, generosity, greed, avarice, the consequences of mean-spiritedness, the fact you can’t take material possessions with you, and enjoying each moment life brings)

Words by Laura Record and Mike Record

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