The Muppet Christmas Carol, released in 1992, was my introduction to Charles Dickens’ classic work, as I’m sure it was for many children my age. And honestly, I can’t think of a better way to introduce kids to this timeless Christmas tale of redemption and love.
This movie features everything one would expect from the Jim Henson Company, and more. The film sparkles with wit, catchy music, and heartfelt messages.
The Muppet Christmas Carol marks the first time the Muppet team tried their collective hand at adapting classic literature, and they certainly add their distinctive flair to the old story. After all, what other version of A Christmas Carol features The Great Gonzo as Mr. Charles Dickens himself? Actually, as goofy as that premise sounds, casting Gonzo as the author of the tale is quite ingenious. It allows the Muppet to surreptitiously include snippets of Mr. Dickens’ delicious prose throughout the film: “Scrooge liked the cold. He was hard and sharp as a flint, secret and self-contained, as solitary as an oyster.” Even as a kid, I remember falling in love with such beautiful descriptions. Way to sneak culture in there, Muppets. Well played.
While it’s easy to talk about the Muppet characters in the film, I’d like to make a note about the human actors. After seeing Michael Caine’s performance here, Tim Curry’s turn in Muppet Treasure Island, and Jason Segel’s character in this year’s The Muppets, I can definitively say that I have nothing but respect and admiration for the human actors in Muppet movies. The ability to hold one’s own against an onslaught of charming felt creatures is not a feat to scoff at. Also, I really dig the fact that the actors treat their Muppet counterparts as they would human actors. To their credit, the actors take their roles seriously, and the audience easily forgets that the actors are addressing hand puppets.
On that note, I have to say that as I grow older and look back on this movie, Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge has increasingly become my favorite part of the film. He is simply flawless as the cold-hearted money-grubber, and is completely convincing as he undergoes a complete change of heart. There is a scene where he revisits a moment from his past—when his love, Belle, leaves him. She sings a heartbreaking song called “When Love is Gone,” and at one point in the song, Scrooge haltingly joins in (“It was almost love, it was almost always…”) before breaking down into tears. This scene is so effective that it never fails to make me misty-eyed.
That’s what I love about The Muppet Christmas Carol. It’s equal parts funny and genuinely touching. It balances jokes with heavy themes of lost love and death with surprising sophistication. So what’s the result when you have a felt frog Bob Cratchit, a blue furry Charles Dickens, and a spot-on Caine-as-Scrooge? A sublime take on a timeless Christmas tale that only the Muppets could achieve.