2012 has seen not only the bi-centenary of Charles Dickens’ birth, but also celebrates the 20th anniversary of one of the strangest screen adaptations of perhaps his most famous ghost story (of which he wrote several), A Christmas Carol. Directed by Brian Henson, the son of the late Muppet master Jim Henson,The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), starring Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat, as well as a wonderfully sour Michael Caine, is sheer bliss from start to finish.
Charles Dickens’ seasonal tale, which is not only a warning against greed and the love of money, but also a classic example of the benefits of doing good to your fellow man, is brought to life by noneother than that loveable team of misfits, the Muppets.
No matter who you are or where you come from Jim Henson’s mad offspring have an indefinable quality which has universal appeal. As their successful reinvention in The Muppets (2011) proved, their brand of magic is timeless, which also means now is the ideal opportunity to reissue one of their most succeful and best loved big screen outings.
The quirky characteristics of the various members of the Muppet troupe make them the perfect candidates to bring Dickens’ supernatural tale to life. The role of the quick tongued and buxom Emily, matriarch of the Cratchit family was tailormade for Miss Piggy whilst Kermit is ideal as her kind hearted husband Bob. There are a few diviations from Dickens’ original version, but giving Scrooge’s dead partner Jacob Marley a brother called Robert, allows for grouchy Muppet regulars Statler and Waldorf to perform their popular rountine of putdowns and corny jokes. The casting as a whole is pure genius on the part of Casting Directors Suzanne Crowley, Mike Fenton and Gilly Poole, and brings a breath of fresh air to a story which often appears stale through overfamiliarity.
The humans, though mainly in supporting roles, add believability to the whole affair whilst not detracting from the impact of the film’s main stars. Other than Steven Macintosh as Scrooge’s nephew Fred, Caine is the only other human to play a major role in the film. His interpretation of Scrooge, the crotchety and miserable moneylender, is marvelously chilling yet pitiful, inducing sympathy from the viewer as he is shown the mess he has made of his life and given one last chance to mend his ways before his time runs out.
If there was to be any downside to the film one would imagine it would result from the addition of the sacharine and fluffy songs without which no Muppet production would be complete. However the clever placement of these serves to strengthen the storyline, bringing a lighter touch to what can sometimes be a brooding and cautionary tale.
Christmas is ultimately a time for children, and the rerelease of this magical family treat will be the perfect antidote to the big budget blockbusters which take over many local multiplexes at this time of year.