Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Muppet Christmas Carol

I started writing this post, or something a lot like it, last year, but I deleted it entirely by March, as by then it was no longer topical. I suppose I’d better post this one now, lest it suffer the same fate. Christmas is over, but it’s still the holiday season, so let’s see if I can get this out before the new year.

I generally don’t like Christmas movies. (Some smartass usually makes some quip about Die Hard when this topic comes up, but we’re going to ignore that for the purposes of this piece.) I love Love Actually, actually, but the Christmas movie I treasure above all others is The Muppet Christmas Carol.

There’s no reason at all that it should work. It’s absurd on its face, yet somehow everything contributes to the whole. A friend sent me a link to a look behind the scenes and it confirms what I’ve always thought, that the movie works so well because Michael Caine plays it absolutely straight.

“I’m going to play this movie like I’m working with the Royal Shakespeare Company. I will never wink, I will never do anything Muppety. I am going to play Scrooge as if it is an utterly dramatic role and there are no puppets around me.”
It’s him, but it’s not just him. There many other decisions where the absolute best choice was made, and the whole thing fits together as tightly as pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

(It also doesn’t hurt that the story itself is one of the most enduring tales of the past two hundred years. The thing about a Christmas Carol is that, like anything that’s been around for a long time, we forget how powerful a work it is. I’m a sucker for a good story of redemption and maybe one day I’ll be featured in my own, and this is the archetype, the Ur-example that laid down the framework for all that would follow.)

The framing mechanism of Gonzo as Charles Dickens also works really well, and it wouldn’t work without Rizzo. Having them during the visit from final spirit was an inspired decision as well.

The casting of Statler and Waldorf as the Marleys was brilliant.

That cracks me up every time.
They include the aging over the course of the day of of the Ghost of Christmas Present, which is something a lot of adaptations omit, but which I think is a fundamental part of the character.

The music is brilliant.

Using new creations for the ghosts instead of going with established Muppets was absolutely the perfect call.

And, finally, the scene with Kermit as Bob Cratchet, explaining to his children the loss of their brother. It’s astounding how a thing stitched together of cloth and foam can radiate such sorrow and loss.

I picked a spot for Tim where he can see...It-It's a spot on the hill...and you can see the ducks on the river.
Tiny Tim...
Tiny Tim always loved...watching the ducks on the river.

It's all right, children. Life is made up of meetings and partings. That is the way of it. I am sure that we shall never forget Tiny Tim, or this first parting that there was among us.
Christ, that’s just heartbreaking.

And I'm sure you know the rest. Scrooge wakes up and learns it's not too late to change.

He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

1 comment:

  1. So glad this got a shout-out. MCC is one of my favorite Christmas movies, my favorite version of the Dickens tale hands down, and I'm always a little miffed when people dismiss it as "one of those lame latter-day Muppet movies from after Jim Henson's death." Unlike a great many movies that I either discovered in childhood, or watched perennially, I've revisited this one as an adult and it really does hold up. Even when I don't get around to it every Christmas, I'll have the soundtrack in my car. And the joyous, Falstaffian Ghost of Christmas Present remains one of my favorite "non-Muppet" Henson co. creations. So glad you posted this.