A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 290 – The Muppet Christmas Carol

The Muppet Christmas Carol – December 15th, 2010

Tonight being our second night of Christmas movies we had to take a look at our list and see what we should watch. Normally we have a couple hundred movies to pick from, but the Christmas list really does narrow it all down. Andy pointed out that we have two versions of A Christmas Carol and we have three nights’ worth of Muppet Christmas material to watch, so perhaps we should space it all out and do one early on? And thus, we got two turtledoves with one stone by watching this.

The DVD we have for this movie has two versions listed: One is the theatrical release and is in widescreen. The other is an extended edition (four more minutes long) but is in pan and scan (shudder). Given the rules of the project, we put on the extended version and oh, oh I hate pan and scan. It’s so horrible, what it does to a good movie. Muppets are cut out of every scene and there are some particularly noticeable moments where there’s half a face that should be completely in the shot. Also, there’s so much in some of the wider shots, I hate seeing it in pan and scan and knowing that there’s more just off screen that of course took a lot of work to bring to life. It’s just plain frustrating. And what was the trade-off? What did we lose inches of screen through the whole movie for? An extended musical number.

The songs here are a mixed bag for me. There are a couple I love, like “Marley and Marley” with Statler and Waldorf, and a couple I can’t stand, like the interminable song about love, sung by Belle. I’d blocked that last one out but when it started it all came rushing back and I suggested we put the 43 minute long Blackadder’s Christmas Carol into the VCR and maybe the song would be over by the time we’d finished watching. Andy started snoring. This is in no way a comment on the actress playing Belle. It’s just a long song about love that meanders and doesn’t really do a whole lot. It slows everything down. But I tend to feel that way whenever there’s a lovey-dovey song in a Muppet movie. The lively numbers are the best, incorporating a lot of Muppets for group scenes or a couple of well-loved characters for solos. The romance? Especially when done by a human actor or two instead of Muppets? That’s not what makes a Muppet production for me.

What does make it a Muppet production, however, is the sheer mass of Muppets involved. This is obviously an adaptation of the classic Dickens story. Michael Caine plays Scrooge, and does an excellent job with it, though my love for him isn’t quite enough to make his Scrooge eclipse my favorite (which we’ll be watching soon enough). There aren’t many other humans, really. There’s Belle, and some incidental characters in the background, and there’s Fred, Scrooge’s nephew (played by Stephen Mackintosh, which I keep forgetting and then remembering again) and his wife, Clara. And other than that, the major roles are all Muppets. Bob Cratchit is played by Kermit, Tiny Tim is played by Robin. Mrs. Cratchit is Piggy (obviously), and a host of other Muppets round out the cast, from the rats as other bookkeepers in Scrooge’s employ to Bunsen and Beaker as the two philanthropists who try and get Scrooge to donate to the poor. But then there’s Gonzo, who plays the part of narrator (along with Rizzo).

Now, this movie was made not too long after Jim Henson’s death. I cannot blame anyone involved for keeping Kermit a smaller role in this one and putting Gonzo front and center. Gonzo’s a great character, a fan favorite, and really, where would he go in this story otherwise? I suppose he could have played Scrooge, but that puts him even more center. Kermit, on the other hand, is perfect for Cratchit. He’s a sympathetic character from start to finish, with a kind heart and good intentions. So I’m really quite pleased by who played whom in the story, and as I love Gonzo, I’m thrilled that he and Rizzo got some great lines and moments while telling the story from a spot in between the movie and the audience.

While this isn’t my favorite adaptation of the story, and it does have its flaws, there’s a lot to love about this movie. It’s got some fantastic puppetry and casting, and I think it was a good choice as a feature film for the Henson Company following the loss of their founder. Something familiar that they could make their own, and they did make it their own, from a vegetable in the beginning protesting being stolen to Animal playing the drums during Fozziewig’s Christmas party. I think in the future I’ll stick to the theatrical cut so I can get the full breadth of what makes it a Muppet movie for me.

December 15, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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