Saturday, December 8, 2012

"The Summer of the Soul in December" - Review of "The Muppet Christmas Carol"

Charles Dickens (as played by Gonzo the Great): "But the incident at the door had made Scrooge wary.  Before shutting himself in for the night, he searched his rooms"

Rizzo: "All right, that does it!"

Dickens: "Pardon?"

Rizzo: "How do you know what Scrooge is doin'? We're down here and he's up there!"

Dickens: "I keep telling you, storytellers are omniscient - I know everything."

Rizzo: "Hoity-toity, Mr. Godlike-Smarty-Pants!"

Dickens: "To conduct a proper search, Scrooge was forced to light the lamps"

[light in upstairs window comes on]

Rizzo: "How does he do that?"

"A Christmas Carol" is my favorite non-scriptural story at Christmastime.  I've seen many film and stage versions (even produced a stage version when I worked at West Desert High School - thank you very much).  And "The Muppet Christmas Carol" is my favorite movie version of Charles Dickens' classic story.  It's the one Christmas movie that I saw as a kid with my family that everybody loved (Dad is hard to please when it comes to kiddie-family-fare at the movies and he loves this movie).  To this day, we all know "We're Marley and Marley" and "There's only [insert number of days left] sleeps 'til Christmas" and my personal favorite "At least I landed on something soft - and hot!"

Now that I'm older and have more story-consumer-type wisdom, I sought to figure out why this version of "A Christmas Carol" is so well-loved.  I mean, Disney did "Mickey's Christmas Carol," which was good and I still watch from time to time (and was actually my first exposure to the story).  But given my druthers, I go for Kermit and Miss Piggy and Gonzo when I want a quality retelling of this story.  Why is that?

Humor plays a factor in it, so does nostalgia.  But I think the best thing about "The Muppet Christmas Carol" is the narration provided by Gonzo playing Charles Dickens and Rizzo speaking as a member of the audience/readership.  Rizzo asks questions like "How do you know what Scrooge is doing?" and "Shouldn't we be worried about the kids in the audience?"  He provides the scared reactions toward Scrooge and the ghosts - even gives the pair an out when the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows up, thus allowing the drama and horror of darkest point of the movie to be unhampered by Muppet-esque humor and hijinks that have peppered the movie thus far.  But then they come back for the light-hearted and happy finale with a light-hearted and happy (and repentant) Scrooge, which makes the ending just as fun and uplifting as it is meant to be.  The Greek-Chorus aspect of Gonzo and Rizzo helps bring the audience into the story and you forget that Scrooge is employing a frog and a bunch of rats in his money lending business.

The music in this movie is phenomenal and very memorable.  I still can sing - from memory - "Scrooge," "We're Marley and Marley," "It Feels Like Christmas" and "A Thankful Heart" (and I'm working on "Bless Us All" - try not tearing up at that one).  It doesn't matter that these songs are sung by frogs and pigs and rats and a blue-furry-Charles-Dickens-who-hangs-out-with-a-rat.  The music only enhances the story, giving an already beloved Christmas message an even more powerful punch.

"The Muppet Christmas Carol" is a gorgeous retelling of a cultural classic and more than deserves a "Classic" moniker of its own.  And, you know what?  I think it's got it.

(And no matter how many beauty pageant consultants or butlers to superheroes he plays, Michael Caine will forever and always be Ebenezer Scrooge).

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