Blending classical literature with Jim Henson’s Muppets could have only ever been destined to succeed. And thankfully, it did just that in 1992 when Michael Caine starred as Ebenezer Scrooge, alongside Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy as Bob and Emily Cratchit in The Muppets Christmas Carol.
The film begins when Gonzo the Great appears as Charles Dickens alongside Rizzo the Rat, whereupon they narrate the story of Ebenezer Scrooge. A figure who embodies horrible grouchiness and ghastly characteristics, Scrooge is a man who is ruthless and terribly downbeat.
On the eve of Christmas, Scrooge is visited by the two ghosts of his former business partners. They forewarn him of the three forthcoming ghosts of Christmas along with a bouncy ditty of a tune. Appearing one after the other, each ghost takes Scrooge to a certain point in time whereupon he can see the impacts of his existence on those around him. Firstly, the ghost of Christmas past tracks his unhappy childhood and downfall into humbugness. Then the ghost of Christmas present takes Scrooge into the houses of his friends and co-workers and discovers how they truly feel about Mr. “Bah Humug”. And finally, the ghost of Christmas future takes Scrooge to see the depressing world after he has died.
Being the key to Scrooge’s salvation and redemption, the ghosts prove naturally effective and see a moral code apply to Scrooge’s changed existence. Michael Caine is initially brooding, dark and particularly diabolical as Scrooge, evident with the commonly uttered “Bah Humbug”. However Caine’s irresistible charm is constantly exuded and he plays Scrooge with a tremendous amount of warm vulnerability after being guided by the ghosts.
Gonzo and Rizzo’s narrator roles are interestingly utilized whereby they are included within the storytelling, as opposed to keeping them as a distanced voiceover. Catchy musical numbers and the general wacky zaniness of the Muppets bring a bouncy, quick witted feel to The Muppets Christmas Carol and Dickens’ unforgettable morals are not lost. The film happily belongs amongst many successful adaptations and re-imaginings of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, perhaps most famously with Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life in 1947 with James Stewart.
Carrying on the legacy after his brother’s death, Brian Henson has made a film very fitting for Christmas. Along with the aid of Jerry Juhl’s humourous screenplay and Miles Goodman’s engaging songs, The Muppets Christmas Carol is a superb feel-good film that has not dated a tad in the almost twenty years since it was made.
The Muppets Christmas Carol was theatrically released on 11 December 1992 through Disney.