This is my favorite Christmas Carol adaptation and one of my favorite Christmas movies, period.
On paper, the proposition looks risky: Pairing the Muppets with a dramatic Victorian ghost story. And indeed there is a clash of tones, with comedy cutting the Dickensian darkness via puppet quips. (If I have a complaint with the film, it’s that there’s maybe just a little bit too much Rizzo the rat as comic relief.)
But overall the blend of tones works miraculously well: Dark when it needs to be, fun and warm at other moments, occasionally silly and slapstick, yet never underselling the dramatic heft of the story. It makes for a full holiday buffet of storytelling modes.
Much of that success hinges on Michael Caine as Scrooge. Indeed, he ranks among the best Scrooges I’ve seen, playing the role completely straight as he acts against cartoony puppets. He sells Scrooge’s spiritual transformation so much — breaking into tears as Belle leaves his younger self, delighting in his nephew’s Christmas party, projecting delirious happiness at his moment of salvation.
This is an original musical too, and a good one. I like the numbers a lot. They are tuneful and flesh out important themes/moments from the story, adding a dimension missing in the straightforward drama adaptations. A few are iconic to me: “It Feels Like Christmas” is a great ode to holiday spirit; “One More Sleep ’til Christmas” is a beautiful tribute to anticipating the upcoming holiday.
And the thing I really admired when I watched this time is just how strong the technical components of the film are. The sets are outstanding, with slightly fantastical angles to the building shapes. The mise en scenes are well-crafted, with immense cast of puppets of different shapes and types often filling the frame. And the period costumes and production touches are fantastic.
So yeah, I love love love it. If Disney releases a DVD/Blu-ray or streaming version with “When Love Is Gone” re-integrated (why they cut that beautiful number, so integral to Scrooge’s arc, is beyond me), I’d start thinking about bumping this up to a full 5 stars.
Exceptionally Good (7/8)
Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.