‘Ello! Welcome back to Millennial Misremembers, where I look back at
TV shows entertainment from my childhood. You know, the content that gives us warm fuzzies when we think about it, but that’s maybe a bit fuzzy in our brains? This time, I’m rewatching The Muppet Christmas Carol.
After I tell you what I misremember about it, I’ll rewatch and recap it. That way, when you’re making your rounds at your upcoming holiday parties, you can impress your friends and coworkers with your amazing memory. And it will be impressive, considering The Muppet Christmas Carol was released December 11, 1992. It was directed by Brian Henson, son of Muppets creator, Jim Henson.
What I (mis)remember!
All right, so what I remember more than anything else is the Christmas album John Denver released with the Muppets, which for whatever reason, I always associated with this movie? Beyond that, I recall the film’s general vibe and the whole “insert muppets into Charles Dickens‘s Christmas classic.”
My brother and I spent many afternoons watching The Muppet Show while doing our homework; we grew up on Muppet Babies, so I’m ecstatic to go through The Muppet Christmas Carol with y’all. What are holidays for, if not nostalgia (and stressful times with family)?
Here we go! The opening credits tell us the film stars: Kermit (Steve Whitmire) as Bob Cratchit, Miss Piggy (Frank Oz) as Emily Cratchit, The Great Gonzo (Dave Goelz) as Charles Dickens, Rizzo the Rat (Whitmire) as himself, Fozzie Bear (Oz) as Fozziwig, and Michael Caine as Scrooge.
The Muppet Christmas Carol opens on a busy London (?) street, populated by humans and muppets alike. We land on Gonzo (who introduces himself as Dickens) and Rizzo, who are selling apples. Gonzo Dickens is gonna tell us his story and intros Ebenezer Scrooge.
The town breaks into a song about how terrible Scrooge is! Even the vegetables don’t like him. He’s basically a Bad Guy; he’s Capitalism. He screwges everyone over if you will.
So, Scrooge goes into his office where Kermit Cratchit is working, and one of Scrooge’s tenants is there for a meeting. Scrooge is not interested in hearing him out about why his payment is late. He just kicks the dude out. Then, he tells Bob to keep writing his pile of eviction notices, and since tomorrow is Christmas, he can gift wrap them if he’s so inclined.
Scrooge loves Christmas. You see, because it’s the season of giving … to money lenders, as people blow their mortgages on their Christmas celebrations.
Just then, Scrooge’s nephew, his only living relative, the Christmas-loving Fred (Steven Mackintosh), comes a-calling. Fred is low-income, apparently, and encourages Scrooge to love Christmas as much as he does! Then, Scrooge shares his violent fantasies … Scrooge won’t even donate money to charities, saying the houseless and low-income deserve to die and should roast in the oven with their turkeys. I mean, WOW.
When Kermit Cratchit asks for Christmas off, Scrooge begrudgingly grants it to his workers. Cue another song … “There’s Only One More Sleep Til Christmas.”
We follow Scrooge home, and Gonzo Dickens reminds us that Scrooge’s business partners, the Marleys are dead as doornails and rotting in the ground. Also, they used to own Scrooge’s home.
So, then the ghost of Jacob Marley (Jerry Nelson) pops up in Scrooge’s door. It freaks him out, natch. He gets inside and changes into his super cute jammies. Scrooge is able to chilax a little, but then his doorbell starts to jingle and his fire goes out, so …
Anyway, Robert (Goelz) and Jacob Marley are here to haunt Scrooge with their terrible Vaudeville routine. Then they sing a song about how fun it was to be evil in life. Unfortunately, evicting orphans does have the nasty habit of leaving you shackled in the afterlife.
Gonzo Dickens and his faithful rat, Rizzo, break into Scrooge’s apartment to see what’s going on. Well, ghosts. More ghosts. Err, a ghost. Specifically, The foretold Ghost of Christmas Past (Karen Pell/Jessica Fox). She’s there for Scrooge’s salvation, which involves a flight. Together, they head to Scrooge’s childhood.
It’s Back to School Night! Scrooge sees many mini Scrooges, who were all too busy for Christmas, even back then. Next, they head to his first job at Fozziwig’s Rubber Chicken Factory. Somehow, I do believe this is a divergence from the source material.
They hang out at Fozziwig’s party, which looks like a grand old time, but of course, younger Scrooge is only there to criticize how much it costs. He also meets a lady there, Belle (Meredith Braun). Instant sparks. But it seems like some awkward turtle things happened betwixt the two, ’cause he does not want to visit the other Christmas he shared with her.
Too bad, so sad, ’cause off they go! Scrooge and Belle are engaged, but Scrooge is postponing their marriage by another year, as he doesn’t feel his firm is making enough money for him to provide the kind of life she deserves. He loves her and wants to do right by her! She doesn’t really believe that, and she’s all Boy, bye!
Scrooge asks The Ghost of Christmas Past to stop torturing him, so she leaves him, only to be replaced by The Ghost of Christmas Present (Don Austen/William Todd-Jones) (as in, like “no time like the present,” not the ghost of Christmas gifts). He’s a jolly giant, kinda like Santa Claus, who’s had way too much coffee. Christmas Present is all about the spirit of the season ( in the whole non-Jesus way).
Scrooge and over-caffeinated Santa go to visit Fred and his family. They’re playing something akin to 20 Questions and making fun of Uncle Scrooge. Next, they go to Casa de Cratchit. They’re cooking goose, which always makes me uncomfortable … animals that wouldn’t eat animals eating animals is just wrong.
Scrooge cannot believe that Kermit and Co, who have so little, still share with others. Kermit thanks Scrooge for the feast, though Miss Piggy isn’t quite as appreciative. They launch into a song about being grateful and asking to be blessed. It’s a bit more Jesus-y than the previous song. Unfortunately, Tiny Tim (Nelson) is probably gonna die anyway.
Scrooge is starting to learn and begs Christmas Present not to leave him, but leave him he must. And let me tell you, the visual effects as he disappears are a 90s treasure. *Chef’s Kiss*
Now it’s time for The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (Austen/Robert Tygner), which like, OK, now I am questioning why these latter two ghosts are ghosts? Aren’t ghosts … dead? Anyhoo … Scrooge is scared of this Ghost, as are Gonzo and Rizzo, who peace out.
And Scrooge should be scared, ’cause the people “yet to come” are celebrating “someone’s” death. They only wanna know what he’s doing with his money and if lunch will be served at his funeral service. Woooow, everyone basically ransacked his house upon his death and are now selling his earthly possessions.
Scrooge heads to the Cratchit house, hoping for happier days. Alas, Miss Piggy is crying. Tiny Tim has croaked (he was a frog, get it?). Scrooge doesn’t understand why the world sucks so much. The Ghost takes him back to the graveyard. Scrooge begs to know whose death they were celebrating! He implores the ghost: “Are these things that will happen or things that might happen?”
I mean, of course, it was Scrooge’s death they were celebrating. Scrooge cries. He’s a changed man. Why would the Spirit show him these awful things if it was already too late for him? Then, miraculously Scrooge is home!
Scrooge promises, on his knees, to be a different man! Unfortunately, he accidentally knocks Gonzo Dickens and Rizzo off his windowsill in his gleeful celebration of being alive. He also sends a rabbit boy he’d previously been a turd to buy a giant turkey, paying him five shillings to do so.
Scrooge is gonna bring that giant turkey to Chez Kermit Cratchit’s. Then, he goes out onto the street and wishes everyone a Merry Christmas. And offers to donate so much money to charity he cannot even say the sum aloud. Scrooge sings (err … tries to) about how he’s gonna share everything now. It’s Socialism, y’all.
Scrooge runs around, giving everyone in the town prezzies. He ends up at the Cratchit house and fakes Kermit out, which … rude. Scrooge yells that he’s gonna raise Kermit’s salary, pay off his mortgage and give him a turkey dinner. Lulz. And Tiny Tim doesn’t even die, y’all! He sticks around to utter his famous, “God bless us, everyone.”
Gonzo takes us out with an, “If you liked this, you should read the book.” Indeed.
Does it live up to the nostalgia?
Heck yeah! And then some. I mean, maybe it’s because I just kinda love Christmas movies in general, but this is a solid one. It’s entertaining, flies by and the performances are just good. Sure, the music isn’t exactly memorable, and aren’t the songs on the John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together album (which makes sense, ’cause apparently that was released in 1979).
I will say that The Muppet Christmas Carol could be a bit dark for super young ones, so if you’ve got small kids, consider a family watch. Also, some of the language isn’t what we use currently to describe people’s incomes or housing situations, but it’s true to the time period in which the movie is set and was made. And there’s valid criticism of racism in Dickens’s work, especially with regard to his colonialist apologist views. So, if any of that makes you too uncomfortable to watch this, I get it. However, I’d rather not pour out the champagne with the cork, particularly when looking at older works.
All in all, if Christmas movies are your jam, this should probably be in your rotation. And, that’s all they wrote, folx. Join me next time for Millennial Misremembers as I walk further down memory lane! I’m off to read A Christmas Carol now …
This article was originally published on 11/30/21.