Don Austen as:
Ghost of Christmas Present (in-suit performer)
Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (in-suit performer)
The Muppet Christmas Carol is an entertaining holiday musical film that’s a delight to watch and enjoy. I’ve always been a fan of the Muppets and this animated film provides a heartwarming story line, colorful characters and great composition. The film stays very close to Dickens original tale and the film itself serves well as an introduction to the story for young ones.
Michael Caine is absolutely wonderful as the cold-hearted, stern and mean Ebeneezer Scrooge. He plays his role straight, treating the Muppets like real folks.
The film sets of Victorian London are detailed and stylish. The film provides helps us suspend reality to pretend that the Muppets are real, and we’re soon caught up in the story.
The film’s musical numbers are highly entertaining. Both adults and children will enjoy them. The film’s special effects are very good and believable, especially as Scrooge is transported here and there by the three spirits. This magical mix of Muppet performers, Caine and human actors has created a timeless movie that will never lose it’s delightful edge. I highly recommend it.
The story begins on Christmas Eve in 19th century London with Charles Dickens (Gonzo) as the narrator of the tale with added commentary by Rizzo the Rat.
The joy of the season is disliked by money-lender Ebenezer Scrooge, more interested in profit than celebration. He’s a rude man, ignoring all the frivolity and singing, shrugging off the extended hands of the begging poor as he walks the streets headed for his office.
His office is staffed by rat bookkeepers and Bob Cratchit (Kermit the Frog). The staff has pressured Bob to ask Scrooge for the entire Christmas holiday off. Scrooge disagrees, but then Cratchit explains that few customers will be doing business on the holiday so it would be a waste of coal to sit alone in the office, doing whatever he would be doing, alone.
Scrooge’s nephew Fred arrives wishing all a Merry Christmas. He invites Scrooge once again to his house for Christmas dinner which Scrooge declines.
Two gentlemen come to the office collecting money to provide a Christmas dinner for the poor. Scrooge rudely declines, coldly complaining that the poor are not worth his time and money to provide for them and if they die, they would decrease the surplus population.
Fred is shocked at his uncle’s ruthless outburst. He gives his own donation, and leaves. A poor creature (Bean Bunny) on Scrooge’s door asking for a penny to hear him sing. Irritated with this meaningless talk of Christmas, Scrooge throws a wreath at him before slamming the door.
He departs, walking through dark and lonely streets until he arrives at his equally dark and cheerless home. He imagines that the door knocker morphs into his old partner Jacob Morley face, dead these past seven years.
Later that evening during a lonely dinner, Scrooge faces the mean-spirited ghosts of his former business partners, Jacob and Robert Marley. The two have been condemned to wearing shackles in the afterlife as punishment for the terrible things they did to others in life. They warn Scrooge that he’ll share the same fate, only worse, if he doesn’t change, foretelling the visitation of three spirits that night.
The first ghost is the childlike ethereal Ghost of Christmas Past, a very lifelike ghost possessing expressive eyes set in a child’s face. The ghost transport Scrooge back to his youth’s early school days. As Scrooge gets older he is always alone, spending the holidays reading and studying.
Later Scrooge is apprenticed to Mr. Fozziwig (Fozzie the bear) who operates a rubber chicken factory. Fozziwig throws a Christmas party which alarms Scrooge because of the amount of money he’s spending. Scrooge meets Belle and a romance develops.
But down the road in his life, Scrooge explains to a distressed Bell that he cannot marry her just yet since business is slow and he doesn’t think he can provide properly. This plea comes despite Scrooge becoming a partner in Fozziwig’s firm. Belle ends their relationship saying that he loved her once but she know he loves money more and will never have enough.
The Ghost of Christmas Present appears next. It’s a huge, festive ghost with a booming voice and enthusiastic demeanor. He shows Scrooge a glimpse of other folk celebrating. He observes nephew Fred’s party where he, his wife and their guests crack jokes at Scrooge’s expense.
Then Scrooge is taken to the house of Bob Cratchit and family. Somehow they’re enjoying Christmas together and eagerly anticipating their small Christmas goose. Scrooge sees young Tiny Tim who has an incapacitating illness. He asks the Ghost if Tiny Tim will live. The ghost replies that the boy won’t see another holiday. The Ghost of Christmas Present rapidly ages and vanishes.
Then the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come appears as the film narrators hastily depart. This ghost is a silent and gruesome 9 foot tall creature. It show Scrooge that Tiny Tim won’t survive because of the Cratchits’ poverty. Then it shows Scrooge a vision of his own death where others are happy and relived that he’s died with four local businessmen (pigs) planning to attend his funeral, but only if lunch is provided.
Scrooge’s cleaning lady, laundress and funeral director steal Scrooge’s possessions and sell them to a spider-like fence named Old Joe. This appalls Scrooge. But when he sees his headstone in the cemetery, he’s convinced to change his ways.
He grabs the spirits’ robe, begging for another chance, promising to celebrate the holiday properly with his fellow man.
He awakes in his bedroom clutching his rug, overjoyed to discover that it’s Christmas Day. He engages Bean Bunny’s help to go around town, gathering items for a Christmas feast and giving gifts to characters who had previously been wronged by him, including Fred and his wife.
Later at the Cratchits’ home, Scrooge scolds Bob for not showing up for work, despite his permission to do so the day before. To Bob and his family’s amazement and delight Scrooge breaks into a smile, jovially announcing that he’s going to raise Bob’s salary, provide for a proper holiday feast and pay for their home mortgage.
The story ends with Scrooge having learned to adopt the spirit of Christmas throughout the year as he joins the Cratchits in their feast along with characters of the film.