The Muppet Christmas Carol ★★★★★

I can’t believe it has been twenty years since the film’s theatrical debut. For two decades I have watched The Muppet Christmas Carol every holiday season without fail. Despite knowing every song, every joke and every little cameo, the film still feels as fresh as the day I first watched it as an overexcited ten-year old. It is a perfect combination of one of the greatest, most cherished and enduring creations and a novel by some guy called Charles Dickens.

The Muppets hold a special place in the hearts of many people, particularly those of my generation. Henson’s creations, including the non-Muppet variety, were a big part of our lives both on the big screen (Labyrinth, Dark Crystal etc.) and the small (Fraggle Rock, Sesame Street etc.) but it was the anarchic, irreverent and downright silly comedy of The Muppet gang that will be most fondly remembered. Although they have had many excellent, and a few not so excellent, cinematic outings for me, Christmas Carol, still remains the pinnacle of their theatrical releases.

Taking a much loved, and oft-adapted, novel, The Muppets add their own unique brand of comedy and catchy musical numbers whilst keeping remarkably close to the source material. In many ways it might be one of the most faithful adaptations out there lifting many of its lines directly from the page. This is a wise move (you can’t improve on perfection) but amazing that it works so well with the patented silliness of The Muppets. Gonzo (playing Dickens himself) and Rizzo the Rat prove to be a wonderful double act who lead the audience through the familiar story. Naturally some Muppets are given more attention than others but every cameo, from Sam the Eagle as Scrooge’s inspirational Headmaster to Statler and Waldorf perfect casting as Jacob (and Robert) Marley, all make a lasting impression.

However, the real star of the film isn’t amongst the fuzzy throng of puppets. No, the real star is a regular ol’ boring human. Michael Caine is a revelation as Ebenezer Scrooge, delivering a career best performance full of bitter resentment and redemptive heart. Having seen most, if not all, cinematic adaptations of the Dickens’ classic, I can safely say Caine’s performance is the most affecting and perfectly judged interpretation there is. His heartbreaking rendition of, "When Love Is Gone", is just beautiful and all the more upsetting that director, Brian Henson, has decided to cut the number from all subsequent home releases. Without it the film’s key turning point makes little sense but thankfully I still have the original, non-bastardised, version to enjoy every Christmas.

As far as I’m concerned this is the Christmas movie: it’s warm, funny, moving, uplifting and never fails to get me in the festive spirit. Twenty years I’ve been enjoying this film and I’ll still be loving it in another twenty too.

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