Starring: Michael Caine, Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire
Director: Brian Henson
Running Time: 85 mins
The Muppet Christmas Carol is an American film about the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a grumpy old man who hates Christmas who is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve to show him the error of his ways.
You know the story, it’s A Christmas Carol, so what we’ve really got to be looking at here with The Muppet Christmas Carol is how it uses that classic story to create laughs, as well as its own original ideas. On the whole, I’d say that the movie isn’t half-bad, and its light-hearted atmosphere makes for an enjoyable watch, thanks also to some great performances, but the adaptation of the story is often so direct that, for anyone who knows it, it’s not so engaging.
Let’s start on the bright side, and say that this film does the job of being a Muppets movie pretty well. I never really found myself laughing out loud, but the presence of the Muppets within the 19th Century setting was funny enough to keep me entertained time and time again. Also, there are a few good jokes that interrupt the flow of the classic storytelling, and that makes for some properly good laughs.
The performances are also a huge positive from the movie. At the centre of it all, Michael Caine does a great job as Scrooge, playing everything just slightly over-the-top, so as to make Scrooge, particularly in the opening act, a lot funnier and sillier than in the original story. What’s more is that Caine provides the deepest bit of emotion of the entire film. Although I wasn’t so impressed with how the film took on the Christmas Carol story, there are moments when Caine, alongside one of the ghosts, brings across Scrooge’s sadness and regret very well, some of the most engaging moments of the film for me.
The directing in this movies is pretty good too. As far as mixing Muppets and 19th Century London go, I think you can say this is one of the best films out there. Seriously though, Brian Henson does a great job as always of directing the Muppets on screen, making them fit in surprisingly well with the human characters and setting, all the while retaining that silly nature that gives the film its light-hearted and more enjoyable vibe.
Despite all that, however, the one issue I do have with The Muppet Christmas Carol is that it all feels a bit too safe. It’s enjoyable, yes, but more often than not, I felt like I was just watching a bog-standard movie adaptation of A Christmas Carol, and the Muppets weren’t always adding much to the experience. Whilst there are a good few moments that stand out and move the film away from a typical Christmas Carol adaptation, on the whole, we spend most of our time with Scrooge throughout, and the Muppets don’t really ever get a look in.
Overall, whilst I definitely enjoyed The Muppets Christmas Carol, thanks to its strong performances, directing and light-hearted vibes, I can’t help but feel that it was just lacking in one key ingredient: more Muppets. The film often feels too much like Dickens’ Christmas Carol, and not enough like a Muppets’ take on it, and that’s why I’m giving this a 7.3.