I have this theory that everyone has their own personal favorite version of A Christmas Carol. I know there are some out there who just love the story and love seeing it adapted in any form, but for most of us, there's probably just one you prefer and seeing any other version just feels like treading water. My own personal favorite version is Mickey's Christmas Carol, which I was recently surprised to find is only 26 minutes long. That may go a long way in explaining why I really have little patience for other versions of the story.
I don't remember seeing the Muppet version when it came out. I bought this around Christmas last year, hoping the timing would get me in the mood. I literally turned it off around the 15 minute mark and put it away. For the sake of this marathon though, I was committed to watching it all the way through and giving it at least a fair shot.
Surprisingly, even though I was dreading watching it and put it off for as long as possible, I actually did enjoy it. Michael Caine plays Scrooge, and this is really his movie. He takes the character from miserly to remorseful to reformed well. The story felt a little simple at times, both barely showing us why Belle leaves Scrooge and then having him very quickly reform when he sees Tiny Tim, but for what is mostly a children's story I suppose that is all we need.
Beyond Statler and Waldorf playing Marley & Marley and Gonzo and Rizzo narrating, this isn't so much a Muppet movie as it is A Christmas Carol told using puppetry for the Christmas Spirits. Sure, Kermit plays Bob Cratchitt and Robin is Tiny Tim, but they are very much those characters and not really themselves at all. Fozzie is also largely absorbed into his role as "Fozziwig," with the only real trace of his characterization being the fact that he runs a rubber chicken factory and is heckled by the Marleys very briefly.
The spirits, however, are great. The Ghost of Christmas Past is a small girl, and she floats beautifully, as if she was underwater the whole time. The Ghost of Christmas Present is a full body puppet with strong similarities to Santa Claus, and it's neat to watch him age as his time with Scrooge passes. The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come manages to not be too scary as to give children nightmares, but still has an air of creepiness to him, with his lack of face and overly long arms that point ominously.
Going from watching the older films to this one, Kermit, Waldorf, and the Swedish Chef sounded very different. Dr. Teeth and Rowlf, the other two characters Jim Henson voiced, don't have speaking parts at all from what I remember. Statler, originally voiced by Richard Hunt who had also passed away before this film was made, is also noticeably different. If you watched this on its own I'm not sure how noticeable it would be. They all do a decent job of at least trying to sound right.
So, I have to admit, this isn't as bad as I was expecting it to be. Granted, if I had been doing this marathon any other time of the year, I probably wouldn't have been able to stomach it. That's the problem with Christmas films; they're simply not something you can watch any time of the year.
Tomorrow I'll talk about the other Muppet adaptation of a story, Muppet Treasure Island.