Three Scrooges, Part 8 (of 12): Silly

Three Scrooges, Part 8 (of 12):  Silly
                Thought of the blog: At Fred’s party, they played a guessing game called “Yes and No”. Fred thought of a thing and they had to guess with yes-or-no questions what that thing was: it was a savage animal that growled and grunted and lived in London. Someone asked if it were a horse.  Were the streets of Victorian London stalked by savage, growling horses?
                “A Muppet Christmas Carol” was a theatrical release in 1992 starring Michael Caine as well as Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzy and the gang. It was the first Muppet production after the death of Jim Henson –  to me it added a sad air to the film. Hearing Kermit’s new voice was jarring. Richard Hunt had also died of aids earlier that year. He and Henson did the voices of the crotchety critics Statler and Waldorf. Hearing their new voices was also somewhat sad.
                The movie was peppered with musical numbers, most of which are forgettable except for “It Must Be Christmas”.
                Critics were underwhelmed. They had the same complaint as they did for “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” – a canny effort adding nothing to either the Muppet or Carol mythos.
                True, but without Henson at the helm you would hardly expect a home run. And it does have its charms: Old Fozzy-wig; Rizzo the rat became a top-level muppet with this movie; Sam the Eagle as the schoolmaster (“It is the American way! Hmm? Oh, yes, it is the British way!”); Robin as Tiny Tim warms the heart; Scrooge’s clerks (all rats) breaking into a calypso, etc.
                The best bits? Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker as the solicitors (any scene with Beaker is first class) and Statler and Waldorf substituting for Marley (ditto).
                The story followed closely to standard adaptations seen before and since and without many bits added on. My favorite though is Scrooge’s reaction to seeing his younger self, “Good Lord, it’s ME!”  That kind of reaction has never been done.
                And Michael Caine is as brilliant as ever. He played it straight despite emoting to cloth-covered costars with ping pong balls for eyes.
                Could it have been better? Oh yes – they could have taken a page from Mr. Magoo and made this an extended version of “The Muppet Show” with Michael Caine as the guest doing a version of Carol. Caine could have been particularly grumpy and the ghosts showed him the errors of his ways all while the production of Carol on the stage continued. This is the basic plot of Bill Murray’s “Scrooged”  a few years before. Perhaps they didn’t want to risk the comparison.
                I adore the Muppets, so I probably have a bias in this movie’s favor it does not deserve; but I like the movie. It’s sweet, accessible to a younger audience and (knowing its back story) sad. The puppeteers (including Frank Oz) have said they still miss Jim Henson. If they heard him say, “Mmm, lovely,” after a take they knew it was the perfect one.
                I’m sure he said that very thing when he saw “The Muppets Christmas Carol”.
                “Black Adder’s Christmas Carol” from 1988. I love the “Black Adder” television program! My love for Rowan Atkinson as Black Adder even surpasses my dislike of Rowan Atkinson as Mr. Bean.  Here is the Victorian Blackadder, the nicest man in the old town. The Ghost of Christmas (played by a post-Cracker but pre-Hagrid Robbie Coltrane – someday I will write about the post-Python comedy troupe that included him, Atkinson, Emma Thompson and the cast of “The Young Ones”) shows him what rotten people his ancestors were. Miranda Richardson, Tony Robinson, Stephen Frye and Hugh Laurie all reprise their various roles. Blackadder sees the error of his goodly ways and converts to become a complete bastard – finally enjoying a Happy Christmas! You probably need to be a fan of the series to enjoy it, so become one. All that laughter will only do you good!
UNSEEN SCROOGES (version I have not seen but will review anyway, oh like that’s never been done by professional critics…)
                I vaguely remember an episode of “Family Matters” doing a Carol spoof. Alex – the teenage Reagan Republican raised by ex-hippie parents, played Scrooge. I suppose the rest of the family played the Ghosts, etc. The show was on before “Cheers” which is why I only saw the last two minutes of each program. Perhaps some fan of the show can fill in the blanks.
NEXT:  Strange Scrooges…
Copyright 2012 Michael G. Curry

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