Dramatis persona*

helenhead Helen Chick

I've always wanted a bumper sticker that said "I'm a female, LDS/Mormon, Scout leading, geocaching, piano-playing, bicycling, mathematics educator with a PhD in maths ... and I VOTE"!

I think this makes me a minority group of cardinality 1!

* Since there's only one of me and "personae" is plural (I think), I've gone with dramatis persona.
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The Muppet Christmas Carol

One of my Christmas traditions is to watch The Muppet Christmas Carol, starring Michael Caine and a large number of famous Muppets, including Kermit the Frog, Gonzo, and Miss Piggy.

It was the first Muppet film made after Jim Henson’s death, and when I first saw it I remember being worried about how well Steve Whitmire would do performing Kermit the Frog — with the whimsical sing-song voice and occasional sense of exasperation that I had grown up with watching Sesame Street and The Muppet Show — and I was relieved to find he did it well.

However, Kermit the Frog, in the role of Bob Cratchit, is not the main character here; that role falls to Michael Caine as Scrooge. He is one of the few human actors in the story (the others have minor roles) and he does a great job as the most famous grouch in literature (giving immortality to the phrase “Bah, humbug”). Caine surprised me by having a reasonable singing voice (like many of the Muppet movies, this film has musical numbers), but I was also impressed by his acting. His Scrooge has a haunted visage, with his loneliness and isolation being exacerbated by being surrounded by characters that are predominantly Muppets.

The film follows Dickens’ story fairly faithfully, with Gonzo playing Charles Dickens as the narrator, accompanied by Rizzo the Rat who is experiencing the story for the first time. They provide some comic relief, but also pull back to give gravitas where it is needed. They frame the story and bridge the fourth wall between the audience and the film, helping to make it accessible to children but also giving some amusing nods to a cognizant adult viewer.

There are the usual funny bits, with Statler and Waldorf appearing as the brothers Marley (why have one Marley when you can heckle better with two?), Miss Piggy is very restrained as Mrs Cratchit, Animal shows some restraint at the Fozziwig Christmas party (but lets go at least once in typical Animal fashion), and the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future are performed by specially created Muppet characters that act well their parts.

For a fun but respectful take on a well-loved story, and/or as a way of introducing this classic work to children (or adults!), this is warmly recommended. Four stars.

1 comment to The Muppet Christmas Carol

  • Linda

    My book group has just done ‘A Christmas Carol’ and we enjoyed it immensely.Like most of the others, I’d never actually read it, only seen interpretations in things like the Muppets or skits. I was surprised by how moving Dickens’ story was and how it avoided the sticky Victorian sentimentality I’d expected. Not sure I’m up for the Muppet version yet, but I’ll get there eventually.
    PS Saw Beth singing in ‘Messiah’ at the Cathedral on Saturday – just beautiful. Thought of you every time the mezzo stood up. I feel properly Christmassy now!

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