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Top 20: 'The Muppet Christmas Carol'

Anyone who dislikes the film is surely a Dick... ensian traditionalist.

By Conor HuftonPublished 6 years ago 3 min read
I've just noticed two rats on the picture despite there being only one in the film. That's the whole film ruined for me. 

The plot fully describes the title. I’ll need to maximise content elsewhere. Great.

The story is an affectionate rendering of the Charles Dicken’s novella, with many of the narrational passages being directly quoted by Gonzo. The fashion in which he and Rizzo intimately adress the audience while embroiling themselves in the story through a variety of creative methods is enjoyable and un-distracting. Wisely, the script provides in-character reasons for the two to either be absent or unfocused on in the story’s darker passages to avoid deflating emotional integrity.

This leads directly into one of the film’s major achievements: the ease at which they deliver genuinely touching and sombre scenes while maintaining the value of The Muppet’s typically eccentric and energetic comedy. Certain scenes like the performance of "When Love is Gone" that’s usually removed from DVD releases would be equally as fitting in a completely dramatic adaptation of the story. Scenes are treated with a sense of importance that they require, such as the prolonged and emotional departure of the Ghost of Christmas Present, the only comical one of the three spirits.

The potential future are filmed with a genuine sense of appropriate discomfort, thanks to darker colourisation and subtly sinister backing music (the scene with Old Joe), unfiltered and investing character despair (The Cratchit’s future Christmas).

Other moments like Scrooge’s inevitable redemption are creatively given more value by the reactions from Gonzo and Rizzo.

Michael Caine’s performance is effective and impressively understated. His persona is humanising, devoid of the insincere cartoon-like behaviour of other Scrooge actors, which is ironic given this is less serious than the retellings where they feature. His manner is more genuine when communicating with comically voiced pieces of cloth than most modern human’s real life interactions with each other.

The design of the film deserves praise. Every puppet, as can be expected of a Muppets Production, is immaculately designed. There’s the additional challenge of creating accurate detailed and varied period costumes. The designers fully succeeded. The designs for puppets created for the film is at times astounding. The effortful effects used for the ghost of Christmas past as well as the sound design create a spellbinding and suitably unsettling effect that strengthens the film’s identity. Similarly, the size, stilted movement, and stance and disproportionate appearance of the Ghost of Christmas Future perfectly translated his haunting qualities and the seriousness of his role. The casting of Muppets was surprisingly well thought out with each character being surprisingly well-suited to their Dickensian counterparts, Kermit playing Bob Cratchit, Robin playing Tiny Tim, etc.

The scenery is equally as enriching with buildings and general set designs carefully balancing bleakness with charm and whimsy. Several panning shots, like the immersive opening credits, proudly display the landscape.

The songs are entertainingly performed, with vibrant accompanying visuals, infectious tunes, and playfully written lyrics. From the excitingly filmed ensemble song excitingly introducing Scrooge to the comically haunting "Marley and Marley" to the uplifting "It Feels Like Christmas," every musical number is in some way important to plot and character progression.

One possible criticism is that arguably some of the jokes regarding character’s awareness that they’re part of a film are slightly devaluing to the absorbing storytelling. This is generally forgivable though since even some of these jokes are handled with restraint that allows them to ultimately function. As well as this, the negative effects of overbearing meta humour are totally eclipsed by the precisely timed and delivered humour that the film offers overall. At other times, it could be argued that certain scenes are longer than they’re required to be, while ultimately moving enough to be excusable the "Bless Us All" song can interrupt the film’s flow somewhat. The very final song does arguably force the film into slight over-sentimentality. It also loses some impact since it’s a reprise of an earlier song that’s omitted from several releases. This issue with the ending is only noticeable because of how well-handled the emotions were elsewhere in the film. The fact that there was only one possibly poorly handled emotional moment is impressive when it’s acknowledged this is a children’s comedy featuring puppets.

The Muppet Christmas Carol perfectly executes genuine emotion and humour into a well-acted, visually inventive, impeccably scored work. It satisfyingly communicates the positive Muppet energy while valuing the purpose of Dickens’ classic.


About the Creator

Conor Hufton

getting better at this writing thing (aka slowly learning the alphabet, learnt how to use pen). Spanning critical writing, fantasy, parody and sci-fi (ruining all of them in the process).

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