The Muppet Christmas Carol

Michael Caine gives a fantastic and resonant performance in spite of his felt costars in this goofy kids version of the classic story.

This has to be stated from the outset. I’m not a fan of the muppets. They’ve just never worked for me. They’re too manic, too aggressive with their humor, and too reliant on puns for my taste. This movie has all of those issues, but the story overcomes my issues to be charming and enjoyable.

The film tells the classic Dickens story of Ebenezer Scrooge and Christmas visitation from three ghosts. The film introduces Dickens as the narrator played by a muppet with an annoying rat sidekick. These two offer narration as well as jokes and commentary on the story. The commentary only really serves to undermine the dramatic weight of the story. A deeply felt scene in which young Scrooge loses his love is spoiled by jokes from the rat. The drama and fear instilled by the ghost of Christmas future is undone by Dickens and the rat commenting on how scary he is. The muppets are always going for the joke which would be fine if the whole film were a comedy. It’s not. It’s real drama undone by puns and muppet slapstick.

Michael Caine plays Scrooge, and he could not be better. He is heartbreaking. He is funny. He is scary. His transformation rings true. He is so wonderfully mean to everyone at the start, and his gleams with delight as he issues forth his cruelty, but those same eyes are full of warmth, joy, and spirit by the end. He is fantastic. The fact that he’s acting opposite an army of attention seeking muppets trying to steal the spotlight makes his performance more impressive.

There are just too many muppets. Instead of Bob Cratchit being Scrooge’s only employee, in this film Scrooge has about twenty rats working for him. These rats talk constantly all trying to get the last joke in. It’s just noise. Scrooge had one business partner in the boom. In this he has two. Both competing to see who can deliver the worst joke. Throughout the film this is the case. Too many characters too many bad jokes.

Which is why it’s so fun to see a muppet character work. The ghost of Christmas present is a delight. Everything about him works. His jokes, his design, his movements all work brilliantly. He is a wonderful creation that is a true delight.

The production design is also fantastic. This movie looks amazing. The filmmaking is impeccable. The camera work and cinematography are excellent. The sets are stunning. They look like Dickens words come to life. It’s worth watching this film just to look at it. The design team did a phenomenal job.

The highlights in this movie are really high. Michael Caine is great. The production design is wonderful, and when the muppets work they really work. When I rewatch this I’ll probably watch the parts I love and skip the rest.

This one is about half a cup of tea for me. B

I

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