|'Like a foreshadowing of Disney's relationship with Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars, you could be forgiven for not knowing about the creator/studio wrangling that went on behind the scenes of this innocent-looking number.'|
There are those who say that the true genius of The Muppet Christmas Carol is that it manages to successfully meld both Dickens and The Muppets. I'll go half way with that. Whilst Dickens may be a lot of things, he is not typically regarded as 'fun'. The true genius of The Muppet Christmas Carol therefore rests with Jim Henson's cloth creations, who manage to turn A Christmas Carol into something light-hearted, joyous and funny, to produce something that celebrates not just Dickens' text but Christmas (which is, of course, the aim of the source material). It is, indeed, something like a Dickens novel. But better. More in tune with the message of the text. Yes, that's right: if you want to improve your adaptation of a 19th Century novel, the 19th Century novel itself actually, than you need to add more Kermit the Frog. It's perhaps a reflection of the cultural standing of The Muppets that that perhaps isn't as derision-worthy a statement as it may have been at the time of this film's release.
It's not all fun and games, all Gonzo and Rizzo falling off Scrooge's (Michael Caine) garden gate after a heady climb, only to realise Rizzo can fit through the railings. In fact, the final third gets both a bit too serious for its own good, dodges several serious bits it should actually go for and forgets that the film is at its best when it is adding levity and simple jokes to Dickens' story. The latter of those elements rather dries up in the final parts. As Scrooge comes to realise his ill-doings, narrators Rizzo and Gonzo's characters are marginalised in favour of Gonzo's Dicken's persona. As such, where formally they were a comedy diversion, they become more traditional voiceover, stalely moving the plot onwards towards its Tiny Tim conclusion.
Like a foreshadowing of Disney's relationship with Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars, you could be forgiven for not knowing about the creator/studio wrangling that went on behind the scenes of this innocent-looking number. Directed by Brian Henson, son of Jim, the film's original, VHS and initial DVD release include a longer segment between Scrooge and Belle (Meredith Braun), which ends on a melancholy note. Henson wanted to leave it in but Disney disagreed, leaving us with the version we get now: slightly jarring of tone in that vignette and certainly no stronger for losing its emotional climax.
That this short article has spent time picking problems with The Muppet Christmas Carol is a reflection only of the film's quality, which is glorious and obvious and of the fact that I have now watched it more or less every year for many, many years. The musical numbers hum with perfectly judged invention and tunefulness still: 'we're Marley and Marley... woooooOOOO', is not the height of lyrical or musical production, but just you try to stop singing it post-screening. It's not the only ear-worm contained within and, given that this could have been something of a muddled terror, it is quite amazing still just how satisfying this is, whether you are a member of the younger target generation, or the older more cynical kind of kid.
The Muppet Christmas Carol was playing on Sky platforms.