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Two beloved classics combined
on October 21, 2001
Charles Dickens' classic tale "A Christmas Carol" has probably been adapted for stage, screen, and TV more than any other story in the history of literature. Many have been really great -- the Mr. Magoo animated version, Patrick Stewart's one-man stage show, the George C. Scott version, etc. But one of the best is definitely "The Muppet Christmas Carol," directed with heart and intelligence by Brian Henson. This version is particularly noteworthy because it combines two beloved pop-culture icons: Dickens' story and the Jim Henson Muppets.
It's been a long time since I read Dickens' original text, but from what I remember, the MCC is quite faithful to Dickens. Like the other Muppet films, MCC combines human actors with the whimsical Muppet characters (just in case you don't know what a Muppet is, it's a sort of puppet). The great Michael Caine plays Scrooge, and the Muppets play other Dickens characters: Kermit the Frog is Bob Cratchit, Miss Piggy is Mrs. Cratchit, etc.
One clever touch is having Charles Dickens (portrayed by Muppet Gonzo the Great) appear as a narrator in the film. Gonzo/Dickens is accompanied by Rizzo the Rat, and the two have some great comic banter and slapstick humor. This device nicely complements the main story without distracting from it. The film is enhanced by some lovely songs; my favorite is the one sung by the Ghost of Christmas Present.
Dickens' original "Carol" is, at its core, a compassionate and life-affirming story, and the Muppet version is right on target in preserving the soul of the tale. There are some genuinely sweet and moving touches (such as one Muppets' gift to Scrooge) that combine well with the trademark Muppet humor. Add to this good special effects, fine performances (both human and Muppet), and impressive sets and costumes, and you have a true classic: a film for every member of the family. In "The Muppet Christmas Carol," Brian Henson and his Muppets prove that, with imagination and skill, new life can be breathed into a favorite old story.