“Old Henson was dead as a doornail. This must be distinctly understood or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.”
I might have just committed blasphemy in multiple ways with that mixing of the first two sentences from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843) and the fact that Jim Henson had passed away before The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) was created. However, I find it only appropriate considering that was the first Muppet movie made after Jim Henson’s death in 1990. It was the first movie in which the infamous Kermit the Frog was voiced by someone other than Jim. A fact that still slows my mind.
It is with this in mind that I recount the Muppets’ version of the classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly old money-lender with a certain disdain for the Christmas Spirit.
Narrated by the unflappable Gonzo the Great, with the help of Rizzo the Rat, the tale begins in the hub-bub of 19th century London, where, amongst a mixed choir of people and Muppets, we are introduced to old E. Scrooge. This version of Scrooge is played by the living legend Michael Caine. Caine’s Scrooge is as grumpy and unlikeable as George C. Scott’s 1984 television version, but here you don’t think that Scrooge would do well in North Africa.(Sidenote: George Carlin was at one point considered for the role of Scrooge. That would have been different).
The musical continues with the introduction of the Muppet mainstay, Kermit the Frog. This is the first feature length film in which Jim Henson has not performed the voice of Kermit. Henson is replaced (though there is no replacing him) by Steve Whitmire. While geeks like me may get caught up in the change, the reality is that the spirit of Jim Henson still flows through the character.
The plot of “A Christmas Carol” stays fairly true to the Dickens’ work, thanks to the addition of Gonzo as the narrator. Brian Henson (Jim’s son), a director, made the decision to use Gonzo as the narrator to pay homage to the brilliance of Dickens’ descriptions and phrasings. The other option, according to the bonus features on the DVD, were to use Gonzo as the Ghost of Christmases yet to come. His nose would have stuck out from the hooded cloak. I’m glad they went with the narrator idea. Good job folks.
While the story is unfolded before us, the audience is given the classic mix of heart-felt family values, silly physical comedy, and witty (and often adult content) dialogue that is expected from the Muppets. Also we are treated to the fact that Michael Caine can’t sing, which is hilarious to me.
I give this movie 4 out of 5.
I leave you with this tid-bit:
‘Robert Marley’ is a character added to the Muppets version along with Jacob Marley. This is to accommodate Statler and Waldorff (the old guys on the balcony). Robert Marley….Bob Marley. Bob Marley surrounded by ‘wailing’ cash boxes. Oh, I get it.