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The Muppet Christmas Carol (VHS)

Starring: Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Rizzo the Rat, The Great Gonzo and (a presumably extremely cash-strapped) Michael Caine.

Rated: U.

Story: It's Christmas Eve in nineteenth century London and Ebenezer Scrooge (Caine) is as mean and miserly as usual towards his bookkeeper, Bob Cratchit (Frog). When he returns home, however, Scrooge is visited by a succession of spirits who show him his past, present and future in an effort to reveal to him the error of his ways and release his inner Santa.

Comments: Yep, it's Christmas already. Our tree is up and covered in tinsel. The first cards have arrived. The plastic birds which tweet carols have fresh batteries. I even made the mistake of buying some gum-backed strips of shiny card, teaching the children how to make paper chains and then leaving them alone for half an hour. I came back to discover they'd been rather enthusiastic and the entire lounge was buried under strings of slimy, paper loops which had been licked to within an inch of completely dissolving.

Last year, our advent viewing at Sunday lunch was the BBC production of The Box of Delights. This year we dug out The Muppet Christmas Carol. We put it in the slot with some trepidation, unsure how the production would have aged and mildly concerned that the tape might have biodegraded.

Luckily, the film is still fantastic (and, somewhat to our surprise, our videoplayer still works). There's plenty of slapstick, some funny lines and a good helping of the original book. Scrooge and his family are played by real people and the spirits of Christmas are specially designed creations. The rest of the cast is made up of the regular muppet crew.

The most noticeable difference between the film and the book (apart from Tiny Tim being a cuddly frog, obviously) is that Jacob Marley has a brother, Robert, to fit the two grumpy, old muppets into the show. Gonzo also narrates as Dickens himself with Rizzo acting as comic sidekick.

The main downside is that it's a musical and a couple of the songs aren't that great. Well, actually, none of them are particularly good but most have interesting stuff going on in the background. Caine can't sing, though, and occasionally struggles to act. (Although, in his defence, he does spend most of the film surrounded by scene-stealing muppets, so he was probably more than happy just to get out with his sanity and a pay-cheque.)

All in all, The Muppet Christmas Carol has stood the test of time well but, weirdly, it also looks older than it really is. Go figure. Maybe it's the fuzzy VHS-o-vision, maybe it's cloudy memories of watching Miss Piggy as a seven-year-old or maybe it's merely the sad realisation that they don't make them like this anymore. Who knows? Search it out and remember how kid's films used to be.

Conclusion: Better than a whole host of CGI movies involving cute, furry penguins/squirrels/sharks/robots/zebras/llamas/wombats. (Delete as appropriate to whatever you've had the misfortune to watch recently.)

Explosions: None... just a flaming rat.
Roasted chestnuts: Some.
Christmas: Lots.
Snow: Heaps.
Swedish chef: Not enough.

Rating: 4/5.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's on at the Filmhouse cinema in Edinburgh this weekend - although watching it twice in a fortnight is probably too much for anyone!