“The Muppet Christmas Carol” isn’t just the last great Muppet movie, it’s also one of the best adaptations of “A Christmas Carol” ever made.
Featuring a career-best performance by Michael Caine, fantastic songs, note-perfect use of the Muppet pantheon to populate this fictional Victorian London and an astonishingly faithful treatment of the original text, this is Christmas family entertainment of the highest quality.
The in-film narration by Gonzo and Rizzo is a delightful touch and allows the film to really bring the richness of Dickens’ novella to the screen, as well as giving a lovely nod to the wildly popular public readings of the story Dickens himself used to give.
It’s surprising how well the Muppet characters map seamlessly onto the supporting characters of ‘A Christmas Carol’ and even second tier characters like Sam the American Eagle are given choice cameos – there’s even room for an appearance by Lew Zealand.
The songs, written by Paul Williams who also had a hand in the Oscar-nominated “Rainbow Connection” are terrific: festive, well-crafted and instantly memorable. Like the best musicals, the songs blend seamlessly with the story and drive the narrative along rather than pausing the plot for a musical number.
What sets it apart, and gives it a universal appeal that even extends to those poor, lost souls who don’t like the Muppets, is the magnificence of Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge. I don’t think Caine has ever been as good as he is here, surprising and delighting in equal measure with a performance of genuine gravitas, sincere emotion and utter conviction in a sea of felt and string co-stars. He is the reason the whole film works as well and despite the welcome antics and zany humour of the Muppets and the gorgeously ramshackle production design, the film would be hollow and unremarkable without him.
It may not have set the box office alight on its original release, squeezed out by “Home Alone 2: Lost In New York” and Disney’s “Aladdin” but it is lovingly crafted family entertainment and a firm festive fixture in the Craggus household. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without “The Muppet Christmas Carol” – after all, there’s only one more sleep ‘til Christmas.