It’s Christmastime, which means I don’t want to be writing this piece right now. I just want to stuff my face with food, listen to Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song” and pretend that I have absolutely no responsibilities except to be as happy as possible. I want to forget all my stresses and embrace the joy of the season. Basically, I just want to chill out and watch The Muppet Christmas Carol.
I have seen more film versions of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol than I ever wanted to see in my life. They are usually plodding affairs wherein a great, older actor is eating up scenery as Scrooge and some small slip of a child actor is laying on the schmalz as Tiny Tim. It could be me, but the central theme of A Christmas Carol isn’t merely to pity Scrooge for being a Scrooge or to pity Tiny Tim for being an underfed whelp on the verge of death. It’s to acknowledge that there is great love and joy to be found despite the bitterness of the world’s Scrooges and the horror that children suffer simply because life is cruel. We can find that happiness by opening our hearts up to helping and loving one another despite each other’s flaws.
The Muppet Christmas Carol gets this. Know why? Because The Muppet Christmas Carol is the only version of A Christmas Carol with muppets.
The muppets are warm and anarchic. Each of them is unique and slightly bizarre. There’s no real reason why Kermit and Miss Piggy and Fozzie and Gonzo and Rizzo and Sam the Eagle and Animal and all the others should hang out with each other, but they do. They are bound by love and respect for each other despite their differences. The message of all their films seems to be that beautiful things happen with people who are different join forces to help each other.
So, even though it seems strange and anachronistic to have penguins ice skating in Victorian London and for a felt American frog puppet to be working with Michael Caine’s very traditional Ebenezer Scrooge, I think it works. The muppets show up and inject this burst of true joy into the proceedings. There’s humor, there’s wit, and most of all there’s music.
The music makes The Muppet Christmas Carol soar. In most versions, when Marley’s ghost visits, it’s creepy and scary and well…you know…sets the tone for The Christmas Carol to be a creepy, ghost story. While that is totally a true and accurate interpretation of Dickens’s work, I kind of prefer the singing Statler and Waldorf version of the scene. When Statler and Waldorf start singing, “We’re Marley and Marley…whooaaaaaaaahhh-oooooooohhhhhhh!”, they are creepy and cruel, but they are also funny. You get why a young Scrooge would have considered them as likable mentors. Also, I just love any song where a main lyric is just, “whoooooaaaaaaaahhhh-ooooooooohhhhhhhhh!” (I love it so much it’s my twitter background.) Okay, okay, I just love Statler and Waldorf.
But besides Statler and Waldorf, you get all your favorite Muppets breathing new life into Dickens’s classic characters. Kermit’s “Jimmy Stewart as a frog puppet” vibe is perfect for everyman Bob Cratchit, and Miss Piggy actually gives personality to his wife. Fozzie the Bear embodies Fezziwig with all of the sweetness and naivete that the character deserves. When Gonzo the Gonzo plays Charles Dickens it’s cool because it reminds you that Dickens was less of a stuffy old man, and more of an ambitious storyteller of the people. Oh, and Rizzo the Rat is just perfect as Rizzo the Rat. After seeing The Muppet Christmas Carol, you realize that the one thing Dickens’s original classic was missing was a smart aleck rat who was only in the story for gags and in pursuit of food. Okay, maybe Dickens didn’t need a Rizzo the Rat in his novel, but I enjoy him greatly. Again, I love the muppets, okay?
I could wax on forever about the reasons I love this film. I mean, I love the creepy baby doll that takes Scrooge back in time. I love that Sam the Eagle is his schoolmaster. I think Michael Caine is a curmudgeon and a delight. I love the muppets. Oh, I already said that.
But I think my entire argument is best summed up in the Ghost of Christmas Present’s showstopping number, “It Feels Like Christmas”. The Muppet Christmas Carol is a movie that’s about celebrating the warmth and love that we can find in our everyday lives. Wherever you find love, it feels like Christmas, and I love this movie so much, that just thinking about it makes me feel like Christmas.
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