The Muppet Christmas Carol (20th Anniversary Edition)
Because Disney is loudly masticating its four billion dollar Lucasfilm acquisition this week, the public might not notice the 20th anniversary release of "The Muppet Christmas Carol," the first franchise film made after Jim Henson’s untimely death, directed by his son Brian Henson.
Michael Caine is a sad sack Ebenezer Scrooge, Kermit and Miss Piggy are the Cratchits, Fozzie Bear plays rubber chicken factory-owning "Fozziwig," and Gonzo is author/narrator Charles Dickens, accompanied by Rizzo the Rat who cracks-the-wise, with a cast of puppet thousands including mice (also called mouses and meeses), the three ghosts, and talking vegetables.
In addition to being a holiday cash cow, and a throwback to a time before CG-everything, the film is eerily topical during a recession, with Scrooge noting that "December is the foreclosure season; the harvest time for money lenders." As earnest charity collectors, Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker remind wealthy slumlord Scrooge that "many of us feel we should take care of the poor and homeless." Then, as if in response, Mitt Romney-doppelgänger Sam the Eagle swoops in as an uptight schoolmaster, preaching the importance of American, er, British business, over any social programs.
The script by Jerry Juhl is a pastiche of Brit lit references, from "Oliver" - "please, sir, may I have some more?" - to Punch & Judy, all existing within the typically funny and self-referential, meta-Muppet oeuvre ("storytellers are omniscient"), interspersed with witty Paul Williams’ songs. Apparently one of the original songs, "When Love is Gone," is not included in the 90-minute film, but shows up in the DVD extras, which also contain audio commentaries, bloopers, "Frogs, Pigs and Humbug," and "Pepe Profiles Presents - Gonzo: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Weirdo." Kids who want to continue to believe that Muppets are sentient entities shouldn’t watch the "under the scenes" tours.
After a scary scene, Rizzo also worries: "What about the kids in the audience?" Gonzo reassures, "This is culture," and a reformed Scrooge advises, "You’ve seen the movie, now read the book."
"The Muppet Christmas Carol"
Blu-ray and DVD