I usually try not to say that something is “the best” since we all have different tastes, but when it comes to Muppet Christmas…it’s the best.
Still, I know we all have our favourite Christmas movies. I used to watch The Santa Clause and Home Alone all the time when I was younger, and The Polar Express was a yearly tradition at my dad’s – accompanied by hot chocolate during the song, of course. But the movie I always looked forward to the most, every single year, was The Muppet Christmas Carol. It somehow felt different from all the others. Today, it remains my favourite Christmas movie of all time.
Why is this classic so timeless when, by all accounts, it probably shouldn’t be as good as it is? I came up with a few reasons why!
The Best Adaptation of A Christmas Carol?
Did you know there have been 32 different film adaptations of A Christmas Carol? When you add in TV and theatre, the number of total adaptations is astounding!
I don’t claim to have seen all that many of these films, but from those I have seen, Muppet Christmas is the one that best captures the spirit of the book while following the details of the story pretty well – yes, even with the Muppets. It’s similar to how I feel about Pride and Prejudice (2005): Are there other adaptations that contain more details directly from the book? Yes. But the point of an adaptation isn’t to stuff as many exact quotes and scenes into the movie as possible – it’s to capture the spirit of the original story. And Muppet Christmas absolutely excels at that, retaining both the joviality and solemnity of Dickens’ writing.
I honestly think that Charles Dickens would love this adaptation if he could see it.
With this movie, the creators had the difficult challenge to create music that perfectly matched the tone of an already-written story. Music in movies like this tends to be superfluous. The songs may be cool, but they don’t actually add to the story. They’re just there to make the movie a musical and it really would have been fine without them.
But not with Muppet Christmas. The songs are perfectly paired with the plot and certainly add to the already poignant storytelling. If you do it right, A Christmas Carol excels at being a musical, which is why so many have adapted it as such. But to me, nothing quite beats singing to yourself: “After all, there’s only one more sleep ’til Christmas” or dancing around your house pretending to be a jolly giant and proclaiming that “it’s true wherever you find love it feels like Christmas.”
And just you try and show me something more iconic than the opening song. I’ll wait.
Don’t get me wrong, the Muppets are great, but Scrooge obviously carries the whole story. If he isn’t cast right, then the whole movie is nothing short of a disaster (and I feel this way about most other adaptations I’ve seen).
Michael Caine, though, will always be Scrooge to me. He plays the mean and nasty part so well at the beginning that you could never imagine how kind and endearing he is towards the end until you see it for yourself. I think that most other films have tried to cast someone who does either “kindly old man” or “crotchety old man” really well, but they can’t do both. And that’s a must for Scrooge. He needs to be believable both at the beginning and end.
Keeping the Original Narration
This is one way in which Muppet Christmas stands out from many other adaptations. Some of the actual narration from the book is kept in the film, related by Gonzo, who plays the part of Charles Dickens. This is so important because it sets the tone of the story and retains Dickens’ unique and witty style. While other adaptations may briefly use the narration, I haven’t seen it carry throughout the whole film like the way Muppet Christmas does it.
Obviously, as a film, this is important. I think the movie excels at bringing Dickens’ imagination to life with captivating visuals you can’t easily forget. Some of my most vivid memories from when I watched the movie as a child are of the big songs with the whole cast, seeing the dancers twirl majestically on the cobblestones in the snow.
And then there’s the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Never have I seen a more horrifying version of it. The costume is so simple, but the lack of a face, the colour of the cloak and the limbs… It’s completely chilling, as it should be. Just another example of how the movie isn’t afraid to be scary when the story calls for it.
So, do you agree with my points? What’s your favourite Christmas movie? Let me know in the comments!
For now, I think I’ll sit down with some hot cocoa and watch The Muppet Christmas Carol. Why? Because “it feels like Christmas!”
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