The Muppet Christmas Carol
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // G // $19.99 // October 8, 2002
Review by Phillip Duncan | posted November 11, 2002
Highly Recommended
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The Muppets will always hold a special place for me. I remember growing up and watching the Muppet Show and today it's still as funny and memorable. I think that says something about the care the Jim Henson departed into his characters. When choosing to adapt one of the most loved and memorable Christmas Classics into the Muppet universe, Henson's son Brian applied the same care and produced a memorable and timeless film.

Everyone knows the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, the banker with the heart of coal and a total disdain for Christmas. We've all seen the countless adaptations of his visits from the many ghosts of Christmas and how he turns it all around in the end, so what did Henson hope to achieve with his version. He added the wit of the Muppets and the charm of the characters to this classic tale and made all the more believable by casting Michael Caine as Scrooge.

Caine presents himself as a perfect Scrooge and is somewhat taken aback by his Muppet costars and their antics. Rather than play to the Muppets, Caine takes the role as serious as he would if surrounded by a season Shakespearean troop of actors. Rather than make a mockery of the story, Henson and his crew have tweaked and added sublime jokes throughout.

Most of the cast and Caine make note of the differences between Muppets and humans, as well as the frogs and pigs. Also, there are several songs and comedic bits added to the mix and overall the film plays like an extended episode of the show, but with a theme. It's a credit to Henson and the Muppet performers as they imbue their felt and plastic creations with the life and energy of real performers and make us believe that nothing out of the ordinary is going on. This is how the Muppets work the best and it's the formula that was used so successfully on their show and the original 3 movies.

The Muppets and Scrooge combine perfectly for a well-crafted and well-acted recreation of this Christmas cautionary tale. The performance by Caine will bring in the adults and the Muppets will enthrall the kids and make this a film for everyone this holiday season.

Video: The bright and vivid world of the Muppets is transferred near-perfectly in this addition. The 1.33:1 (no widescreen!!) looks crisp and clean, but the setting make things a little dark overall. There are nary any flaws in the print and contrast looks good on the many white, snow-covered backdrops. The age of the film shows slightly, as the overall transfers lacks a little definition compared to the documentary footage. A Widescreen transfer should have been included.

Audio: The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track is beautifully done. The Christmas music and songs fill the speakers. There are no real showcase sequences, but the overall quality is perfect.

Extras: There is a great documentary on the disc entitled "Frogs, Pigs, and Humbug: Unwrapping a New Holiday Classic." Filled with new interviews, old behind the scenes footage and new material with Gonzo and Rizzo, it's a decidedly Muppet take on the standard DVD documentary. Brian Henson host's the clips and interviews are included and the visual effects are explained in detail as well.

Also included is a Gag Reel from the film and they are hilarious. Similar to the outtakes that have become famous on DVDs like "A Bug's Life" and "Toy Story," they are a combination of funny ad-libs and unplanned mistakes that are carried to the extreme by the performers. Another feature, "Christmas Around the World" takes viewers on a short, but somewhat funny, tour of Christmas traditions around the world. It's interesting and educational.

Add a great commentary by Brian Henson and some truly entertaining menus with Kermit and it's a perfect holiday DVD. Henson covers a wide range of material in his full-length commentary and it's all interesting. He explains all the technical and personal choices he used in the film, as well as what it was like with this being the first film since his father's death.

Overall: This is a great addition for Muppet fans and anyone who wants a great Christmas movie that anyone will enjoy. The performances by Caine and the Muppets are perfect and there are a few great extras for those that want them.

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