Sunday, December 8, 2013

Family Movie Night: The Muppet Christmas Carol

Title: The Muppet Christmas Carol
Director: Brian Henson
Original Release: 1992
Choice: Our Girl's
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5
via Wikipedia
The Muppets were a big part of my childhood just as they have been for millions worldwide.   I have written about them before here.  In short, I can't imagine my life without them and I'm still sad about creator Jim Henson's early passing in 1990.  The fact that they are now an important part of my daughter's youth warms me to no end.

The Muppet Christmas Carol was the first Muppet film to be released after Jim Henson's death so the faithful among us were still getting used to Steve Whitmire performing Kermit.  I saw it in the theater while I was in college.  I may even have dragged a friend on the hour drive to Des Moines so we could watch on opening night.  I have never read the original book by Dickens but the movie earns high marks from critics for its faithful rendition.  It is my second favorite of the Muppet movies - after the first one in 1979, of course.  The usual Muppet hijinks offsets the dark Dickensian atmosphere very nicely.

Gonzo narrates as Dickens himself with Michael Caine as an outstanding Scrooge and Kermit playing Bob Cratchit.  Most of the old favorites make cameos, too.  Statler and Waldorf are Jacob and Robert (Hahaha!) Marley.  Robin plays Tiny Tim.  Fozzie is Fozziwig.  Scooter is notably absent.  His puppeteer, Richard Hunt, had also recently passed.  The best new puppets are the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come.  The last is wonderfully creepy and served as my mental image of the Dementors while reading the Harry Potter series.

via http://holidaymovies.tripod.com/id14.html
Music, unfortunately, is not the strong suit for this movie.  Paul Williams wrote the songs.  Williams's songs for the original Muppet Movie were absolutely brilliant but the collection here is weak.  The song "When Love Is Gone," sung by Belle (Scrooge's fiancee) was left out of the theatrical release because the Disney folks felt it wouldn't appeal to kids.  I hate to say it doesn't really appeal to me either.  It is included in the VHS copy I own but has been left out of some of the DVD releases.

There's a new Muppet film set for release in March: Muppets Most Wanted.

36 comments:

  1. This was a great Muppet movie.
    Very seldom is there a Muppet show or movie I don't enjoy.
    I'm with you on the kids enjoying what I enjoyed as a kid.

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    1. Sesame Street didn't take for her, though - too much Elmo, I think.

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    2. My youngest liked Elmo, but loved Abby Cadabby the fairy-in-training.

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    3. I get misty nostalgic when I see the classic sketches from the Henson heyday.

      "Waiter, there's a fly in my soup!"

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  2. I love Muppet movie along with The Peanuts. We watch them every year.
    We always listened to the Muppet Christmas Album after Thanksgiving dinner. If we were home
    The "John Denevr and the Muppets" was a favorite.Then the next day we would watch one of The Muppet movies.

    I sing Gonzos/Miss Piggy rendition of "Christmas Is Coming" to thehamish all the time because he is a Figgy (piggy) pudding. It is his Christmas nickname.

    Enjoying your movie reviews.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. I love the John Denver special - a highlight of the man's career, to be sure.

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  3. We watched this yesterday! Love it. Big fan of the Muppets, and I think aside from an exceptional rendition of the traditional Christmas Carol story, it's also a really good representation of what's best about the Muppets without actually being about the Muppets. And they've been trying to recapture that ever since.

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    1. It pulls the Muppets back to their early '70s roots of spoofing well-known stories. Michael Caine really does a great job - not just of being Scrooge but of interacting with the puppets convincingly. He takes them seriously. Humans in Muppet movies don't always do that.

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    2. The first season of Saturday Night Live was good for that with Gilda Radner. She was surprisingly sweet with them, especially when they made their exit in preparation for The Muppets Show. (To be accurate, the SNL characters themselves quickly faded into oblivion, although they may have inspired Fraggle Rock.)

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    3. I've never seen the old SNL sketches but I did read about them in a Jim Henson biography. The puppets were certainly different!

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  4. I'm not a huge fan of the Muppets, but the one film I do like of theirs is The Muppet Christmas Carol. Some random family member got me a copy of it for Christmas several years ago and I still love watching it. The only hang-up I have is the long, drawn out song about halfway through with a young Scrooge and his lady love. Love Michael Caine!

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    1. Yup, that would be "When Love Is Gone." Painful - no mystery why it's been left out of some editions, including the original theatrical release.

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  5. I haven't seen that one in a long time, and I'm not sure if my kids have ever seen it. Which seems odd to me thinking about it, because I'm pretty sure they've seen everything else Muppets.

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    1. For some reason I've never understood, the movie isn't even listed by Netflix. I own a copy so I don't worry about it anymore but that's probably done a lot to push it out of people's awareness over the past several years.

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  6. Nice movie. I remember going to see the Muppets when I was younger. It brings back such wonderful memories.

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  7. I really liked this one. Thought it was one of the stronger Muppet films. They did really well with Treasure Island as well.

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    1. I didn't care for Treasure Island as much. I should maybe watch that one again, though, as I just recently read the book.

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  8. We own this movie, too, and now I'm glad, because I had no idea it wasn't on Netflix! I thought everything was on Netflix!

    The Muppets were part of my childhood, too, but Chelsea knows them in a totally different way - just from movies. It gives me a little pang, sometimes, that we can never really FEEL the same experience of that moment in time as someone who saw it happen live.

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    1. I thought everything was on Netflix, too. I wonder if they know...

      I understand what you mean about sharing. It's a trade off, though. I've learned about so many things from her that weren't even around in my childhood, or weren't as big for me for whatever reason.

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  9. "When Love Is Gone" ranks as one of my least favorite Christmas-ish songs...probably only beaten by ANYTHING from "Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas."

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    1. Yes, it's pretty terrible. Least favorite Christmas song, though... I really do despise "Sleigh Ride."

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    2. I absolutely LOVE "Sleigh Ride"...I despise "I'm Getting Nothing For Christmas" (especially when a "kid" sings it) and "Santa Baby" (especially when it gets "sexed" up...CREEPY). Nan doesn't care for the Jesus Shoes Song.

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    3. I loved "Sleigh Ride" back when I knew it as a high school band piece. That's still the best way to hear it. Add the words and you lose me.

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  10. I absolutely love anything and everything Muppets. I know what you mean though, it was hard to get used to a new voice for Kermit. Jim Henson was such a genius.

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    1. He certainly was. He would have turned 77 this year.

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    2. For the length of time Kermit has been in my life, Whitmire has voiced him longer than Henson!

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    3. I suppose that's true for me, too. The Muppets are important enough to live beyond their creators - that's for sure. But more than just the voices have changed since Jim passed. The feel of the institution is not what it once was. It's still good but it's no longer Henson good.

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  11. I didn't know there was a new Muppets movie in the wings. Yay. :)

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    1. Set for release March 21st - Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell and Tina Fey lead the human cast.

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    2. I actually don't know who Ty Burrell is but the other two sound promising ...

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    3. Ty Burrell - Phil Dunphy from Modern Family.

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    4. Well, see, there you go. I've never seen Modern Family. But was he the guy who used to come out in funny commercials and was a stand-up comic first? (I'm being lazy, I can look this up.) If so, he's funny. Or, wait. I could be thinking of the guy who comes out with the girl who played Sookie in Gilmore Girls in another TV show about a married couple and is also generally very funny.

      Anyway.

      I might take my daughter to see the new Muppet movie. We had a blast catching the last 'new' one with Jason Siegel and Amy Adams a few years ago.

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    5. Here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ty_Burrell

      Because this is a full-service Squid.

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