The Curator of Schlock #70 by Jeff Shuster
The Muppet Christmas Carol (Redux)
Yeah, I’m revisiting the movie!
Okay. I’ll admit I can be a bit of an ogre when it comes to my own personal taste. We all have our Christmas Carols. I grew up with Scrooge the Musical, the one with Albert Finney. Other people swear by the 1951 adaptation starring Alastair Sim. I had a delayed reaction after viewing The Muppet Christmas Carol last week. That delayed reaction was revulsion. I had known about The Muppet Christmas Carol for several years, but had avoided it like the plague. Several friends suggested I review it for the blog, and I decided to give it a go.
I knew in the first five minutes that I would have nothing insightful to say about this chestnut so I decided to record my real time reactions. A few days later the film had finally sunk in, and I let it known over social media how terrible I thought the movie was by stating, “The Muppet Christmas Carol was terrible!” You’d think I had kicked someone’s dog by friends’ reaction. Still, I regret my word choice. It’s Christmas Day, and in the spirit of the season, I will give The Muppet Christmas Carol a fair shake. Oh wait. It’s Boxing Day. I think I’ll tear The Muppet Christmas Carol apart. I’m like Pinhead in that respect.
I want to make it clear that I don’t hate Muppets or Muppet movies. The Muppet Movie is childhood favorite of mine. I’m sure The Muppet Christmas Carol is a childhood favorite of other people, and that just makes me depressed. This isn’t a proper adaptation of A Christmas Carol. You can’t just slap a bunch of Muppets on a piece of classic literature and declare “Voila!” This is like a bad community theatre production of A Christmas Carol starring Muppets. The Muppets slip in and out of character on a whim.
Gonzo states that he’s Charles Dickens only for Rizzo the Rat to blow his cover immediately. So for the rest of the movie I’m trying to figure out whether it’s Charles Dickens providing the narration or Gonzo. It’s never cleared up. Frankly, Gonzo interrupts the story too much.
My favorite Muppet, Animal, is on screen for all of five seconds. He probably read the script and negotiated his part down to a cameo.
Sam Eagle shows up as Scrooge’s headmaster ready to teach the young man the “American Way of Business” only to have Gonzo correct him into saying the British Way. Sam Eagle would never abandon an American tradition in favor of a British one.
Not even as a joke.
Have you seen Sam Eagle? He doesn’t exist in this world to make you laugh!
I think the only one who stays in character throughout the whole movie is Michael Caine’s Scrooge. Since the movie spends so much time on canned Muppet jokes, we get a kind of abridged version of A Christmas Carol. We see a young Scrooge making googly eyes at Belle at Fozziwig’s annual Christmas party only to them break up in the very next scene. There’s no courtship. We don’t get to see Scrooge, the hard man, falling in love only to see him eventually prioritizing money above all else. There’s no tragedy in this movie. All we get are Michael Caine’s crocodile tears to a creepy puppet of an English girl.
There are songs in this movie, but I’d be hard pressed to remember any of them. We see the Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come, but there’s no Grim Reaper reveal. Scrooge’s redemption comes from the doling out of plastic cheese to some Muppet mice. I’m not seeing a changed man here. If the movie can’t make believe that a miser can turn into a philanthropist, the battle is lost.
I know. I know. That’s just my opinion. Well, you know what? I’m a curator.
Here’s a clip of a missing song between Belle and Scrooge that didn’t make it into the final movie.
Perhaps this song could have made all the difference…Nah!
Photo by Leslie Salas
Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47, episode 102, episode 124, and episode 131) is an MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida.