Although I enjoy all of the Muppet movies, there are three that I feel are most important to the Muppets as a franchise. The Muppet Movie proved that the Muppets could entertain and succeed on the big screen. The latest Muppet movie, simply called The Muppets, proved that the Muppets are still viable and relevant. But Muppet Christmas Carol was an important and unique challenge for The Muppets. It had to prove how the Muppets were going to continue after the loss of Jim Henson. The Muppets had found success starting in the 1950s and peaking in the 1980s. They were everywhere. Although he continued nurturing and expanding the Muppets, Jim Henson also delved into other areas of television, puppetry, and movies. He was continuing to grow as a visionary and becoming a powerful player in the entertainment industry. He had also been in heavy negotiations to sell the Muppets to Disney. The 1990s became an entirely different decade for the Muppets. It began with having to say goodbye to their creator, founder, and leader. Jim Henson died unexpectedly in 1990. Without Henson, there were many questions surrounding the Muppets. Would they survive or become a footnote in entertainment history? Would Kermit, Rowlf, and the other characters Henson performed be retired? Then, the Muppets were struck with another blow. Muppet performer Richard Hunt died in 1992. He was the talent behind Scooter, Sweetums, and Janice. Henson and Hunt had also teamed up to perform Statler and Waldorf. Under the direction of Henson’s son, Brian Henson, The Muppet Christmas Carol was a resounding answer to all of the questions surrounding the losses. The classic and well-known story of Ebenezer Scrooge coupled easily with the magic of the Muppets. This time, Scrooge (Michael Caine) was visited by Jacob and Robert Marley (Statler and Waldorf) who appeared as transparent ghosts complete with a musical number warning him that he would be visited by other spirits and urging him to change his ways. This is the first Muppet movie that centered on human main characters and featured Muppet supporting characters — a major role reversal from the previous Muppet movies. It distances itself from the previous Muppet movies in other ways, too. Gonzo plays Charles Dickens, the author of A Christmas Carol and acts as a narrator, with help from Rizzo the Rat. The two lighten the mood of the movie and provide the typical Muppet antics and gags. In fact, it is as if all of the Muppet gags and silliness have been reserved for Gonzo and Rizzo while the other central Muppet characters are much more serious and straight in their portrayal of Dickens’ characters. The film sticks as closely as it could to Dickens’ original novel. Gonzo often recites lines directly from the text. Kermit the frog is noticeably absent until he appears as Bob Cratchit. In fact, there is a quick, but fun fake out gag when he appears. Scrooge is heard bellowing, “Bob Cratchit!” while a humanoid Muppet is on screen. Then, Kermit appears. With his absence this far into the movie, you almost wonder if he will appear at all. Miss Piggy appears even further into the movie as Emily Cratchit during the Ghost of Christmas Present sequence. We do get to see what Kermit and Piggy’s children would look like, but they don’t go for the obvious joke. Instead of being a combination of the parents, we simply get two smaller pigs, another frog, and Robin the Frog as Tiny Tim. It is a missed opportunity that was played with similarly when Kermit and Fozzie were brothers in The Great Muppet Caper. At least Fozzie Bear was punny as Fozziewig, Scrooge’s former employer. Most of the characters Henson and Hunt were known for appeared silently and briefly on screen. This marks the first film that veteran Muppeteer Steve Whitmire, who also plays Rizzo the Rat, performs Kermit the Frog. He had very hard role to fill, and it is not seamless. Whitmire did not simply start performing an impression of Kermit the Frog, he started performing his interpretation of Kermit. The voice is similar, but different. It is deeper and has added his intonation. Also, there is a marked difference in the puppetry behind Kermit. Somehow, Whitmire positions his hand differently from Henson. Because of how Kermit is designed, this causes a subtle change in Kermit’s face. So we now have a transition and growth in the characters. When Scrooge watches the love of his love Belle (Meredith Braun) break up with his younger self (Raymond Coulthard), his heart begins to break all over again. In true Muppet form, the break up speech becomes a ballad. “When Love is Gone” has found little love over the years from the fans of this movie. The song was cut from the initial theatrical release of the film, but was included in the VHS and subsequent other releases of the film. It was criticized as being too slow for the film and extending a movie that was already testing the attention span of young viewers. The edit was fairly obvious and led to a strange reaction from Scrooge and the other characters. In my opinion, it does seem to bog down the film. Other Muppet films contained similar ballads, but they took place between Miss Piggy and Kermit. They also contained sight gags and classic Muppet-isms. I just feel that the song meant too much time without a Muppet in a Muppet film. This would have been a completely different film had Kermit the Frog played Scrooge and Miss Piggy played Belle, for instance. Then again, we would have missed out on a great performance from Michael Caine who was phenomenal as Scrooge. By removing “When Love is Gone,” the finale is less effective with the reprise “The Love We Found” when the new and improved Scrooge is merrily enjoying Christmas with the Cratchits and other residents of London. Perhaps the most touching a poignant line ever to be uttered in a Muppet movie is delivered by Kermit in the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come sequence. Of Tiny Tim’s passing (and by extension, the passing of Jim Henson), Kermit comforts and says, “It’s all right, children. Life is made up of meetings and partings. That is the way of it. I am sure that we shall never forget Tiny Tim, or this first parting that there was among us.” Muppet Christmas Carol was a charming film that has become a Christmas classic. It was a delightful gift to us all, and a must see every Christmas season. I give this one 5 out of 5 rubber chickens! The Henson family suffered another loss recently. Jim Henson’s son, John Henson died on February 14, 2014. He is best known by Muppet fans for performing Sweetums in the short lived television show Muppets Tonight and in Muppet Treasure Island. We here at Psycho Drive-In would like to extend our deepest sympathies and positive thoughts to his family. See larger image The Muppet Christmas Carol (20th Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray] New From: $38.97 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related 2 Responses Lost in Translation 239 – Holiday Adaptations | Seventh Sanctum Codex December 23, 2017 […] with the best known being the 1951 version, Scrooge starring Alastair Sims*, but also includes The Muppet Christmas Carol and Scrooged. While the story has a limited time for being in theatres, at most late November until […] Log in to Reply Lost in Translation 239: Holiday Adaptations - Psycho Drive-In December 29, 2017 […] with the best known being the 1951 version, Scrooge starring Alastair Sims*, but also includes The Muppet Christmas Carol and Scrooged. While the story has a limited time for being in theatres, at most late November until […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.