Ok, so this isn’t a new movie to me, it’s a childhood favorite. But I did just see again for the first time in years and am pleased by how well The Muppet Christmas Carol holds up (there are so, so many movies best left in undisturbed, nostalgia-filtered memory). And while I haven’t seen all that many versions of A Christmas Carol, I will still lay money that the Muppet version is the best. Here’s why.
1—Gonzo the Great is Charles Dickens
How often do you get to have the narrator interacting with the movie? And have it benefit the story? Now, I admit to being biased—Gonzo was always one of my two favorite Muppets (the other is Miss Piggy). But I still say the pipe-nosed weirdo is a fantastic Charles Dickens. And having Rizzo the Rat as his skeptical sidekick is delicious frosting on the fuzzy blue cake. There’s so many great little moments that there’s really no way to describe how much fun these two are without taking up the rest of the post. So I’ll just segue into my next point.
2—Great Little Moments
My favorite moment in the whole movie is when Sam the Eagle is lecturing young Scrooge about business and proudly declares “It’s the American way.” Only to have Gonzo Dickens whisper in Sam’s ear, and Sam correct to “It’s the British way,” then look around in confusion, because Gonzo is technically walking around in a memory and therefore is sort of a ghost himself in that scene.
The whole movie is filled with these little things. Like the bunny-boy caroler getting hit with wreath twice his size. Or Scrooge’s staff declaring a heatwave after Scrooge threatens to fire them for asking for more coal (seriously, you’ve got to see that scene). Or in the opening number, after the produce sing about Scrooge being sour, a bystander (the vendor? I don’t recall) commenting aside that even the vegetables don’t like Scrooge. Seriously, I could spend the rest of the post cataloguing these things. But I shan’t. I’ll just tell you go watch the move, after you get done reading the post, of course.
I will also state, without having seen every rendition of A Christmas Carol, that The Muppet Christmas Carol has the best ghosts. Starting with Statler and Waldorf as Marley and Marley, who hit the perfect balance of funny and terrifying. Then moving onto the Ghost of Christmas Past, a wispy child-doll looking thing that, for me, falls right into the uncanny valley. This version of the Ghost of Christmas Past creeps me the hell out, despite her kind nature. The Ghost of Christmas Present is a giant, absent-minded rustic Santa, and I love the hell out of him. And the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come…
The thing about this last ghost is that you don’t need to add a fiery pit to make it scary (I’m looking at you, Mickey’s Christmas Carol). That Ghost of the future doesn’t even need to be malicious to be frightening, it doesn’t need to actively menace Scrooge. The Ghost of Christmas yet to Come doesn’t even need to make a sound. Because we know Death when it’s near. Death is inevitable, inescapable, the original implacable man. And mortal Scrooge knows Death in his bones. He cannot deny his ultimate destiny.
But there’s a point to all this, revisiting the journey from childhood and following it into future death. Scrooge is characterized from the beginning of the movie by cold. Heck, most of the opening number is dedicated to it. It’s only realizing the ultimate cold of death that he finally is able to appreciate all the warmth shown him by the earlier ghosts, to realize he wants that warmth in his own life before it ends. And The Muppet Christmas Carol does a great job of showing this theme.
And speaking of the music, I love it all…almost all. “When Love is Gone” is a good song, don’t get me wrong, it’s just not my taste. In a movie that keeps up a lively pace, this one slow part was not welcomed by child-me. While I now realize that it’s partly a result of the Muppets history as a variety show, and can now appreciate how it underscores the turning point and tragedy in Scrooges life, I still can’t say I’m fond of it. What can I say, I have more bombastic tastes. The Overture of The Muppet Christmas Carol, big and dramatic and creepy, is much more my style.
But that said, this is still one of my all-time favorite movies. And now that the post is over, I suggest you go and watch it. Merry Christmas or whatever.