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Featured Blu-ray Review: The Muppet Christmas Carol

November 7th, 2012

The Muppet Christmas Carol - Blu-ray Combo Pack - Buy from Amazon

The Muppet Christmas Carol came out on theaters 20 years ago and while it was only a midlevel hit in theaters, it has developed a more loyal following on the home market and is a perennial Christmas favorite. This week, it made its Blu-ray debut, but is the film worth picking up in high definition?

Before I get to the review, if you pause the film for ten seconds, there's a loop of several random Christmas skits that play. Chickens singing, the Swedish Chef telling a story, Rats trying to set up a Christmas tree while penguins sing, etc. This is very fun to watch, but makes it hard to to take notes, as I keep pausing to make sure I get the specific lines right.

The Movie

The film is an adaptation of Charles Dickens' novel, A Christmas Carol. So explaining the plot is a little pointless, as it is arguably the most famous Christmas story of all time and it is one of the most adapted novels of all time. It is quite faithful to the original story, except the story is told by Gonzo playing Charles Dickens and Rizo the Rat playing Rizo the Rat. The first actual change in the story comes from the very first line. "The Marleys were dead, to begin with." Marleys. In this version, instead of being one Marley, Jacob Marley, there are two of them, played by Statler and Waldorf. Before we learn anything else about them, we are introduced to Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge, through song.

Scrooge is a moneylender, and a cruel one at that. His buildings are drafty and rundown, but he charges more than the poor can afford. Even though it is Christmas Eve, he instructs his employee, Kermit, a.k.a. Bob Cratchit, to deal with the next day's foreclosure notices. December is foreclosure season, as people spend money that they should spend on their mortgages on Christmas instead. Even the arrival of his nephew, Fred, doesn't change his spirits. If anything, he is in an even worse mood, which doesn't improve when Bunsen and Beaker show up asking for a charitable donation. He is willing to give his employees the day off tomorrow, as no other businesses are open and it would be a waste of coal.

That night when Scrooge returns to his home, he has a vision of Jacob Marley, which spooks him. After his dinner, he is visited by the ghosts of Jacob and Robert Marley. At first Scrooge assumes they are not real but a product of the food he ate. They tell him of their fate, forced to carry the chains they had forged in life through their cruel and greedy ways. After a song and dance, they warn him that he will be visited by three ghosts and unless he heeds the warnings, he will suffer the same fate as them.

At this point, I think we can safely end the plot summary. Almost everyone reading knows what happens next. I will point out two things. Firstly, the character of Fezziwig was changed to Fozziwig, which is a bad pun. Meanwhile, Miss Piggy plays Emily Cratchit, while several other Muppets have fun cameos.

I grew up on The Muppets and to this day I love these characters. Also, A Christmas Carol is a fantastic story. Combining the two creates one of my favorite Christmas movies of all time. Not only does it have a fantastic story, the Muppets do enough new with the story to make it stand out among the many other adaptations of the story. Furthermore, The Muppet Christmas Carol has the best non-Muppet acting in the franchise thanks to Michael Caine. Granted, The Muppets does come close in that regard. Finally, the music in this movie is also amazing with several catchy songs by Paul Williams.

Speaking of songs, "When Love Is Gone" is not in the movie. This song is considered one of the best from the movie by a lot of people and it does a lot to help develop Scrooge as a character. However, it was cut from the original 1992 theatrical release, so I'm not surprised it wasn't included in the movie. I am very disappointed it isn't at least included as an extra.

Overall, The Muppet Christmas Carol is by far the best post-Jim Henson... up until The Muppets came out last year.

The Extras

Extras start with two audio commentary tracks. The first is with Brian Henson, the director and son of Jim Henson. If you want a lot of information, this is where to start. On the other hand, if you want some jokes, go with the Kermit, Gonzo, and Rizo the Rat commentary track. It's worth listening to. Frogs, Pigs, and Humbug is a 22-minute making of / behind-the-scenes featurette. Next up is two minutes of outtakes. Pepe the Prawn interviews Gonzo in a five-minute featurette. Finally, there's a three-minute featurette on Christmas celebrations around the world.

The Muppet Christmas Carol was made 20 years ago for a budget of just $12 million. That's low, even given the age of the film. So it should come as no surprise that the Blu-ray doesn't look as good as a first run release from today would look. Don't get me wrong, it is a huge step up from the previous DVD releases with high level of details, bright colors, deep blacks, etc., but there are some scenes that are a little soft and the blacks are not quite as inky deep as they could be. There's no sign of compression issues or digital manipulation. There are some minor instances of print damage, but nothing serious enough to be distracting. The audio is very good with clear dialogue, some separation in the channels, the music surrounds you and the subwoofer gets into the act. It's not a complicated track, but it a very solid one.

The Blu-ray combo pack costs $22, which is on the high end of expectations. There are new bonus features and it does include the DVD and the digital copy, so it is worth picking up, but it is not a major bargain.

The Verdict

If you are a fan of the original story and of the Muppets, then The Muppet Christmas Carol is a must have. Even if you have the previous DVD, the Blu-ray Combo Pack is worth picking up.

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Filed under: Video Review, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Michael Caine, Dave Goelz, Brian Henson, Jim Henson, Steven Mackintosh, Jerry Nelson, Frank Oz, Steve Whitmire, Paul Williams