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The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 11/6/2012
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/8/2012
When we think of most movies, we picture human actors, and let's face it, human actors have a lot of things going for them. They can be funny, charming, moving, and relatable. But, they also have drawbacks, such as physical limitations, acting range, and the fact that they age. This is an area where non-human actors would have an advantage. "Non-human actors?!", you cry, what are those? Why, The Muppets of course. The flexibility, both literal and figurative, of The Muppets allows them to be placed in nearly any setting and any kind of story. While the first three Muppet films (The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, and Muppets Take Manhattan) were all set in the present and in a slightly heightened version of our world, the characters were poised to make the leap into something different. So, when Disney brought The Muppets back to the screen after an 8-year absence, it was in an adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic tale, resulting in The Muppet Christmas Carol.
The Muppet Christmas Carol features Gonzo (voiced by Dave Goelz) taking on the guise of Charles Dickens. He's assisted by Rizzo the Rat (voiced by Steve Whitmire). Together, they tell the story of Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine). Scrooge is a tight-fisted, stingy man who is a money-lender and lords over his book-keepers, who are headed by Bob Cratchit -- played by Kermit the Frog (voiced by Steve Whitmire). When Scrooge goes home on Christmas Eve, he's visited by the ghosts of his former business partners, the Marley Brothers -- played by Statler & Waldorf (voiced by Jerry Nelson and Dave Goelz), who warn him that he must change his ways. Scrooge is subsequently visited by three more ghosts who show him how he has behaved at Christmas-time in the past and in the present, and how this has affected others. Will these spectral visitors help Scrooge to be a better man?
The Muppet Christmas Carol came at an odd time for the characters. As noted above, the last Muppets features film, The Muppets Take Manhattan, came out in 1984 and due to the lackluster response to that movie, The Muppets have avoided the cineplex. Muppets' creator Jim Henson's death in 1990 put the franchise's future in question. So, the 1992 release of The Muppet Christmas Carol seemed like a revelation to fans, as some thought that they'd never see their old friends on the big screen again.
Which brings us to Muppet fandom and how that will influence one's feelings about this movie. Again, The Muppet Christmas Carol is a departure from the previous films, as it tackles a pre-existing story. Placing Kermit, Miss Piggy, and Fozzie in supporting roles was a risky maneuver which could have easily turned off longtime fans. However, Gonzo and Rizzo do a fine job in the lead, as Gonzo drops his usual "weirdo" act and actually shows some charisma. And, of course, Rizzo makes for a great comic side-kick. So, the movie then becomes almost like a game where we try to spot familiar Muppet characters like Animal, Beaker, Sam the Eagle, and Lew Zealand. While the movie contains some dramatic moments, we also get some classic corny Muppet humor, and the dinner scenes with Kermit, Miss Piggy, and their children is very funny.
On the flip-side, did we really need another version of A Christmas Carol? So many movie and TV characters have done this story and The Muppets don't put a new spin on it. The script remains very faithful to the original story, save for the fact that we have Muppets playing key roles. Having said that, the design for the Ghost of Christmas Past (which is simply creepy) and the Ghost of Christmas Present are interesting, but the movie doesn't push the envelope much farther than that. Brian Henson attempted to take his late father's place in the director's chair on this film, but, as this was his feature debut, his sense of pacing is off at times. Long-time songwriter Paul Williams, who wrote music for The Muppet Movie, is off his game here, as some of the songs have an odd sense of rhythm and aren't very good. On the plus side, Michael Caine makes a great Scrooge.
So, The Muppet Christmas Carol is a toss-up. The Muppets would really have to go out of their way to be truly bad and they certainly offer some laughs and touching moments here. The movie is somewhat irreverent at times -- mostly in the scenes with Gonzo and Rizzo -- but follows A Christmas Carol pretty closely for the most part. However, Jim Henson's guiding hand is definitely missing here and some of the movie feels hollow.
The Muppet Christmas Carol may be the first version of the story to have singing vegetables on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 37 Mbps. The image is sharp, but shows some issues. There is some grain evident, but no defects from the source materials. The image is somewhat flat, which is unfortunate, as the sets offer a good opportunity for depth. The colors look good, most notably reds, but the image is a bit dark at times. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The songs, while not all that impressive, do sound good and individual voices and instruments can be picked out. The stereo and surround effects are a bit weak, but during the street scenes they are evident. The ghost scenes do provide ample opportunities for the subwoofer to show off.
The Muppet Christmas Carol Blu-ray Disc contains a handful of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Kermit, Rizzo, Gonzo, and other Muppets. This is followed by a second COMMENTARY with Director Brian Henson. "Frogs, Pigs, and Humbug: Unwrapping a New Holiday Classic" (22 minutes) is a making of featurette hosted by Gonzo, Rizzo, and Brian Henson. The piece contains on-set footage and interviews with various member of the crew and Michael Caine. We get a sense of how the idea evolved and how the production progressed. And we get a look at how certain Muppets were manipulated in order to get a certain look. The 3-minute BLOOPER REEL is a must-see and contains some hilarious moments. "Pepe Profiles Presents - Gonzo: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Weirdo" (5 minutes) is a fake bio special on Gonzo hosted by Pepe the King Prawn. "Christmas Around the World" (3 minutes) has Rizzo and Gonzo discussing different Christmas traditions from different countries.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2012.