On December 11th 1992, a film was released in the US that wasn’t expected to do too well, just get a tidy sum from parents treating children to an afternoon at the cinema around Christmas. Reviews were mostly positive, some said there was too much talking for a children’s movie, others that the songs were clunky and tuneless. I’m with Anthony McGlynn of Screen Rant, who called The Muppet Christmas Carol “a work of genius on every level” and “the greatest Christmas movie ever made”. It’s definitely one of my absolute favourites, and one I watch and rewatch every year (I’m watching it now as I write).
While I can’t go as far as ‘The Greatest Christmas Film Ever Made’ (which accolade it needs to share with The Holiday, Scrooge (the musical) and It’s A Wonderful Life) it’s definitely the entry level film I chose to introduce my children to Charles Dickens and A Christmas Carol itself. Believe me when I say I have watched almost every version of A Christmas Carol out there, including the misbegotten 2001 Christmas Carol: The Movie version with the *shudder* mice. I like my Carols to be true to the original story as much as possible, unless like the 2017 The Man Who Invented Christmas it has a really good reason to deviate (like it’s telling Dickens’ story of the writing of A Christmas Carol, not the original itself). I know the book like the back of my hand, and it’s a regular listen on Audible (yes, I have worked my way through a good few Audio book versions as well) and often a re-read at Christmas because… well, if you can’t read a story of love and reformation, hope in a better future and amendments made for past mistakes at Christmas, when can you read it?
I’m probably preaching to the choir here, since I find it unlikely anyone who likes Christmas and is prepared to read a series of blogposts on Christmas hasn’t already seen A Muppets Christmas Carol. But just in case, here are the points I think make the movie one of the best:
- It stars the Muppets in most of the central characters, and they are divinely cast. Kermit makes a wonderful subjugated clerk Bob Cratchit, while Miss Piggy as Mrs Cratchit loses no time in taking advantage of her marital licence. Other perfect castings are Fozzie Bear as Fozziwig, Sam the Eagle as the schoolmaster and Beaker and Dr Bunsen Honeydew as the charity collectors who visit Scrooge. The created cast are perfect as well. The ghosts are the closest to Dickens’ original descriptions that I’m aware of, even down to the Ghost of Christmas Present wearing a green robe, and ageing as his section goes on. And, of course, the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Be is menacing, scary and silent.
- It has Gonzo as Charles Dickens. A blue, furry Charles Dickens who hangs out with a rat? Why not. Since so much of the power and meaning of the original book lies in the narrative and the writer’s voice, it makes sense to have a way to listen to that prose. A good actor will show Scrooge as solitary, hard and sharp but the ability to add the metaphors to the script mean viewers get the full benefit of him being as solitary as an oyster and hard and sharp as flint. And they are really good at using whole passages of the book so that a child, on first reading, will recognise the words even if they have to de-muppet the characters in their head.
- Even the insertions are fun. Gonzo and Rizzo the rat add a comedic touch without spoiling the atmosphere. Whispering for dramatic emphasis, moving from front to back of the house for a better view and leaving once the Ghost of the Future appears because it’s scary… only to reappear as the reformed Scrooge opens his window and knocks them off…. well, they add a layer to this movie that no other Christmas Carol has.
- The human actors take their roles perfectly serious, never ever treating it as a kid’s movie, which of course it isn’t really. Michael Caine said that he acted as if he were “working with the Royal Shakespeare Company”. He really does do it, as well, giving Scrooge a chance to be truly, deeply mean before his conversion.
- I like the songs. They’re catchy, and suit the moment. I would really love the movie to be released again with the sad love song, When Love is Gone between Belle and Scrooge included again. It got cut from the theatrical release at some point and never included again until 2005 ish. My original video version had it in, but my DVD copy is missing it, and I’m currently chasing a version that has it in. Without it, the break up is too sharp and sudden. I love Bless Us All and It Feels Like Christmas, although I have to say that One More Sleep to Christmas is the one that gets hummed most in my house.
- It’s possible to watch the film and act along, almost like a child’s version of the Rocky Horror Show. Certainly we’ve watched it enough in our house that we join in the lines as well as the songs. My sons stuck it on to watch last week and I promised not to join in. I lasted until Sam the Eagle’s “You will love Business, It is the American Way…. It is the British Way!” before I had to join in. Now, unless I’m watching in the office and unable to singalong, I warn people I will join in.
- The film has a deeper significance for me. I bought my first video copy in 1993, after marriage, and loved it. But in 1994 my brother and his wife lost their only son at 10 days old, his name was Timothy, and that Christmas I found myself unable to watch the Cratchits. Tiny Tim set me off every time. I still bless my family and their grief every time I see Tim, but now it’s a shadow of grief that passes over me, not a tsunami.
All in all, it’s a gem of a movie. And tonight, 11th December, we will sit and watch it together as a family as we do every year, popcorn and chocolates in hand. We will sing, we will laugh and we may shed a tear for those no longer with us. In two years time I fully intend celebrating 30 years of (one of) my favourite movies. It’s an institution in our house, and will remain so. I hope, when the children eventually bless me with grandchildren, that I get to enjoy it again through children’s eyes.
***Jacob and Robert Marley are, of course, Statler and Waldorf playing the ghosts of Scrooge’s deceased partners. They’re mean, nasty and repentant in a way. It took me years to work out why they used Robert as the name of the second partner. Bob. Of course.***
Daily Read: 10 Hidden Details in The Muppets Christmas Carol. Yes, even I missed these for a few years… and they add extra significance once you know.
Daily Book: What else could it be, apart from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens? This is a facsimile of the original. Or, for younger readers, try A Guinea Pig Christmas Carol while teenagers may appreciate A Christmas Carol: The Graphic Novel.
Self Care Act for the Day: A Christmas Carol is about being able to look at past, present and future and be content with what we have and what we have done. Take a few minutes today to write a list of all the things you are grateful for… people, places, moments. Keep it to hand and you can add to it as more occur to you. Gratitude and recognising how fortunate we are is a great tool in self-care. Approaching life from a place of abundance and love means we become aware of how much we truly have.
How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted or bought by me with my everyday wages.
I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:
A Self Care Christmas: A short ebook on keeping Christmas simple and making sure it doesn’t overwhelm.
Celebrating a Contagious Christmas: Available in ebook and paperback, it’s about making this year a festival of Hope.
Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little rhings in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human.
Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas, however we get to celebrate it this year, and a Happy, Healthy and Simple New Year.