Words by Jack Fryer
On December 11th 1992, ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ was released in cinemas. I can’t believe this film is nine months older than me. Despite the film being twenty years old, it is often featured in the top of ‘Best Christmas Films Polls’.
It is because the film has a timeless feel to it and is loved by many generations. Everyone in my family loves the film and it is essential viewing at Christmas along with ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ and ‘Miracle on 34th Street.’
‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ plot is an affectionate Muppetization of the beloved Charles Dickens story ‘A Christmas Carol,’ but with The Great Gonzo playing Charles Dickens who along with Rizzo the Rat, (credited as himself), act as the narrators for the film and supplies witty commentary throughout.
The film’s plot is identical to the film and perfectly charts the redemption of Scrooge, played brilliant by Sir Michael Caine. Caine is perfect as Scrooge and shows menace and dread at the beginning of the film, while refraining from going over the top at the end.
The many changes to plot are welcome; the character of Fezziwig being changed to Fozziwig to incorporate Fozzy Bear into the film is a hilarious touch, with a young Scrooge working at ‘Fozziwig’s Rubber Chicken Factory,’ adding to the humour. While the hecklers Statler and Waldorf play Jacob Marley and his brother Robert Marley.
The film’s success lies with the great ‘Muppet Tradition’ of having humour for all ages. There is silly slapstick for children and references to the original story that adults may appreciate such as Scrooge walking past a shop called Micklewhite’s, a reference to Sir Michael Caine’s real name, Maurice Micklewhite. Caine even does a double take looking at the shop window.
Kermit and his nephew Robin are playing Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim respectively, is a fantastic move. There is also great sadness in the film; I always get tearful at the shot of Tiny Tim’s walking stick resting against an empty chair, this is the film’s power, it can effect on anyone.
There is also great tragedy behind the making of this film, it is the first film after the deaths of Jim Henson and Muppet puppeteer, Richard Hunt who was the voice of Statler and Scooter among other Muppet characters. The film was also dedicated to the memory of these two talents.
Jim Henson’s son Brian stepped in to direct the film, which would be his first feature length film. Brian Henson had only had experience as a puppeteer and as Second Unit Director r for other Muppet features. But the direction of the film is fantastic and Brian did his father proud by directing one of the best Christmas films of all time. Steve Whitmire also pays tribute to his late friend by perfectly taking over the voice of Kermit. It was as if Henson was there himself.
The Muppets Christmas Carol has currently been re-released in select cinemas for the 20th anniversary. See it in the cinema, wait till it comes on TV or just buy the DVD. See this film to warm your heart in a way no chestnut roasting on an open fire will. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. And God Bless us, everyone.