December 12, 1992

A Muppet Christmas Carol

I really enjoyed this movie. Their choice to adapt classic books (see also Muppet Treasure Island) really pays off. Casting the Muppets like a repertory company seems effortless: Kermit is the humble Bob Crachit; As Mrs Crachit, Miss Piggy can barely contain her frustration with her husband's boss; Waldorf & Statler are naturals as Jacob & Robert Marley (wink wink); and of course, who else should play Scrooge's old boss Mr. Fezziwig but Fozzie Bear? And just like a repertory company hosting a big star to play the lead role, Michael Caine is one of my favorite Scrooges of movie history. Rizzo the Rat and Gonzo act as co-narrators and comic relief, contributing charm throughout the movie. Rizzo appeared as a supporting player only in The Great Muppet Caper and The Muppets Take Manhattan; Christmas Carol is his starmaking turn.
The only real soft spot in the movie is the Christmas Past segment. The actors playing teenage Scrooge and Young Businessman Scrooge are dull and their scenes are lifeless. After the Christmas party scene at Fozziwigs, Scrooge's fiancee Belle breaks up with him by a frozen pond, sings a sad song about their lost love, and I could not care less. Letting Belle walk away is one of the critical crossroads in Scrooge's life- he had an opportunity to value love over money and let it slip away. It's dramatically important to make their love seem important. The movie must illustrate Scrooge's inner conflict over her departure to make him worthy of redemption instead of just a cold fish. Unfortunately this plot turn is smothered by a long and dull song, and my indifference over the actors playing Belle and young Scrooge.
So I usually fast forward through that segment (yes, I watch this movie on my wife's old VHS tape) and move onto the rest of the movie which is just swell. Michael Caine is terrific; he's convincingly mean at the beginning, and his Christmas morning revelation strikes just the right tone of levity without seeming crazy. I always get weepy when Beaker (as one of the charity solicitors) gives Scrooge his teeny Muppet-sized scarf. Scrooge's mini-prank on Crachit always cracks me up for its inventiveness:

Ext. Victorian Street - Day
Ebenezer Scrooge knocks on Bob Cratchit’s door.
SCROOGE
Bob Cratchit!
Bob opens the door slowly.
SCROOGE (CONT'D)
So here you are.
BOB CRATCHIT
Mister Scrooge...
SCROOGE
You sir, were not at work this morning as we had discussed.
BOB CRATCHIT
But, Mr Scrooge sir, we did discuss it. It’s Christmas Day sir. You gave me the day off.
SCROOGE
I? I, Ebenezer Scrooge? Would I do a thing like that?
BOB CRATCHIT
No. I mean yes, but you did.
SCROOGE
Bob Cratchit, I’ve had my fill of this.
Emily Cratchit comes bursting out.
EMILY CRATCHIT
And I have had my fill of you, Mister Scrooge!
BOB CRATCHIT
Emily, Emily...
SCROOGE
And therefore, Bob Cratchit...
EMILY CRATCHIT
And therefore, you can leave this house at once!
SCROOGE
And therefore, I am about to raise your salary.
EMILY CRATCHIT
And I am about to raise you right off the pavement... pardon?
BOB CRATCHIT
Pardon?
SCROOGE
Yes Bob. Raise your salary. And pay off your mortgage on this house.
Emily Cratchit laughs nervously.
BOB CRATCHIT
Please, sir. Come inside. Yes, yes.
SCROOGE
Bob Cratchit, would you and your family care to join us for a little turkey dinner on this fine Christmas Day?
Emily and Bob Cratchit both gasp.
SCROOGE (CONT'D)
Merry Christmas.
My Stub Hubby grade: A-minus

December 3, 1992

Aladdin

Funny and action-packed.