Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Very Disney Christmas: "The Muppet Christmas Carol"

"Leave comedy to the bears, Ebenezer."

Nest Up: How the Gonzo Stole Christmas!

      The Muppet Christmas Carol is the fourth theatrical Muppet movie in the soon to be series of eight and is an adaptation of the classic Charles Dickens novel A Christmas Carol. Directed by Brian Henson (Muppet Treasure Island) and written by Jerry Juhl (Muppets in Space) and, of course, follows Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine), a cheap, mean old man who overworks Bob Cratchit (Kermit the Frog), keeping him from his wife (Miss Piggy) and kids, including Tiny Tim (Robin the Frog), and just overall hates Christmas. But on Christmas Eve, he is visited by his old business partners (Waldorf and Statler) who tell him he will be visited by three spirits. As these spirits show Scrooge his past, present and yet to come, Scrooge himself begins to learn what Christmas truly means. All the while, Charles Dickens (The Great Gonzo) and Rizzo the Rat (Rizzo the Rat) follow Scrooge's journey on that fateful night.

Merry Christmas!
A Good Carol

      So we all saw this coming right. It just wouldn't be Christmas if we didn't look at least one version of A Christmas Carol. Now, fun fact, I did originally plan on reviewing the version with Jim Carrey, as this one isn't one Netflix. In any way, which was a bit strange. But, I couldn't get the Jim Carrey one in time, so I bought this one and now I can feel superior because I can hold this over your heads. But, really, I do love the Muppets so I figured that this would be a fine movie to have in my collection. And was I wrong? Well, honestly, yes and no. I remembered not liking this much as a kid, but I thought since I'm now a bigger Muppets fan and could understand more about Carol, I'd probably like this more. But, really, I didn't actually care for this movie. And I know exactly why. It's odd to saw, but this movie would have been better without the Muppets. As an adaptation of Carol, it's really great. Caine is an excellent Scrooge and maybe it's just because I'm older, but I really appreciated the Scrooge character and how great the story is. There are so many versions that we do forget that Carol is a classic for a good reason.

The Muppet Side

      The problem is, the story clashes with the fact that it's a Muppet movie. Instead of going all out and making this a full blown Muppet movie, this is more a straightforward Christmas Carol with Muppets as some of the characters. And it just doesn't really work. The Muppets are still funny, but not as funny as they usually are because the story has more serious moments than we usually see in a Muppet movie. They still try to fit jokes in, but it's pretty awkward. It feels like the Muppets are riffing on a Christmas Carol adaptation MST3K-style. We get a scene with Scrooge, then cut to a Muppet making a joke. Scrooge, Muppet joke, Scrooge, Muppet joke. It creates two tones that just don't mix very well. Which is a shame, because, like I said, the Carol side of this is really good. I watched the extended version of this and I was baffled to learn that the song Scrooge's lost love sings was cut from the theatrical print. Having Scrooge come in and start to sing was truly heartbreaking and cemented Caine's Scrooge as one of the all-time best. In fact, most of the songs are very good, but again, they just create this weird juxtaposition with the rest of the movie. If I did have one complaint about the Carol story, it was that we never saw Scrooge get too mean, but again, that is probably because this is a kids film. And once again, it just doesn't really work.

Nice try, though.
The Verdict

      The Muppet Christmas Carol tries to put it's own spin on the classic tale, but it largely just fall flat. The Christmas Carol part of the story is great, as Caine's makes for a terrific Scrooge. But the Muppet side is awkwardly shoehorned in. And while it is still funny, it create a contrast between the Muppet's humor and the Carol's somberness. It is a fine movie and I really didn't hate it. But really, they either should have had more of the Muppet humor that the Carol's seriousness, or they should have just left the Muppets out entirely. Overall, not one of my favorites. The Muppet Christmas Carol gets 4 stars out of 6. 

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