The Quarantine Stream: Watching 'The Muppet Christmas Carol' Should Be a Holiday Tradition
(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Movie: The Muppet Christmas Carol
Where You Can Stream It: Disney+
The Pitch: It’s A Christmas Carol, but with the Muppets.
Why It’s Essential Quarantine Viewing: While it’s perfectly okay to not be in the holiday spirit this year, if you’re in search of just a tiny bit of cheer you can’t go wrong with The Muppet Christmas Carol, a funny, sweet adaptation of the Dickens classic full of great songs, great gags, and Michael Caine as arguably the best-ever on-screen version of Scrooge.
I don’t have to explain what this is, right? Surely, reader, you know about The Muppet Christmas Carol. It’s basically the same exact Christmas Carol story, but there are Muppets. Kermit is Bob Cratchett, Gonzo is author Charles Dickens, a bunch of new Muppets make up the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, Michael Caine is the miserable Ebenezer Scrooge, who must learn the true meaning of Christmas and stop being such a prick to everyone, and the catchy-as-hell songs are courtesy of Paul Williams, of Phantom of the Paradise fame.
There have been many versions of A Christmas Carol, and trust me, I’ve seen almost all of them. I was a tad obsessed with the story as a kid – it wasn’t just a Christmas story, it was also a ghost story, and that’s my jam – so I went out of my way to watch as many movie versions as I could. As far as the classics go, the 1951 film Scrooge with Alastair Sim might be the best of the bunch, but there’s room in my heart for the many other adaptations – be it Bill Murray’s Scrooged or the animated Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol from 1962.
But the adaptation I revisit the most is The Muppet Christmas Carol. There’s something warm and inviting about the entire experience that I find irresistible. This year has been bleak, and I’ll confess I’m not feeling the holiday vibes as the winter sets in. But I still made a point of revisiting The Muppet Christmas Carol over the weekend, and I didn’t regret it. The film remains as charming now as it ever was.
There’s a lot to love here, from the Paul Williams songs, to the set the design, which is just the right amount of phony, to the idea of making Gonzo narrate the movie as Charles Dickens, backed-up by side-kick Rizzo the Rat. But the real secret ingredient to The Muppet Christmas Carol is Michael Caine. Caine plays the entire movie straight – there’s not a single second where he seems to be winking at the audience. He doesn’t seem like he’s acting against felt puppets at all – they’re just his co-stars. When asked what it was like to act opposite Kermit the Frog, Caine said: “You look him straight in the eye. It’s like talking to a real actor.” Tell ’em, king.
If Caine’s take on Scrooge was more tongue-in-cheek, or more comedic, or more over-the-top, the entire facade of the film would crumble. But because he’s such a pro, and because he took this seriously, we now have ourselves a new Christmas classic. So as 2020 draws to an anxious close, and you find yourself frazzled, take a step back – if you can – and turn on The Muppet Christmas Carol. You won’t regret it, and you’ll be humming the songs to yourself for weeks.
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