Director Brian Henson continues a family tradition with father Jim’s creations, The Muppets. He also carries on another tradition, this time in the form of the long-told tale “A Christmas Carol” by legendary author Charles Dickens. The combination goes so well together I can hardly understand why it wasn’t done sooner, as in by Jim himself before his untimely death. Michael Caine does an extraordinary job, as usual, in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, a hopeless miser, who receives visits from three very different ghost… in a last ditch chance at redemption. It doesn’t matter how many times the story is told, or in how many ways – it never seems to lose its power, and The Muppets’ retelling in their own unique way only serves to enhance the tale.
There is something missing without Jim Henson as the voice of Kermit the Frog, but his replacement does a comparable job, and we still get Frank Oz in his usual roles of Miss Piggy and Animal. The result is something any Muppets’ fan will be proud to place on the shelf alongside the other children’s classics for which this troupe is responsible.
The full frame presentation contains quite a bit of grain in spite of the otherwise colorful picture. That’s why I highly recommend the 1.85:1 widescreen. It contains a sharp picture in addition to the excellent color reproduction. From the foggy streets of London to the dark dungeon-like atmosphere of Scrooge’s lair, the film makes the most of its greens, reds, blues, and blacks. A flawless rendering.
Again, the film maximizes its technical presentation, this time in the glorious Dolby Digital 5.1 transfer, especially in scenes such as Scrooge’s walk home on Christmas Eve night, or on the streets during the heartwarming finale. Any chance Henson has to put his ensemble cast of puppets on screen in addition to the human actors, all within the often wide-open landscapes, he takes. And the result is a soundtrack that pays attention to all the major and minor details with a fine degree of clarity.
There isn’t that much for grown-ups, but what is provided serves as a continuance for more Muppets fun. The audio commentary with Director Brian Henson may be the only legitimate insight into the filmmaking process. For the kids, there is the amusing Pepe Profiles Presents – Gonzo: A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Weirdo, a 10-minute Behind the Music-type satire. Unfortunately, Gonzo doesn’t seem to have that same verve and mischief in his voice as he used to. He is the Muppet, who suffers most in his current persona. Still, the kids should like this mock special, as well as the on-the-set gag reel.
Jim Henson cannot be replaced in the role of Kermit the Frog. Fortunately, no one really tries to. Instead, everyone continues to focus on the work, and making it the best it can possibly be. The attention cast and crew has paid to simply telling a good story the entire family can enjoy will not only win your respect, but it will also capture your heart. Though containing only a mild dose of bonus material, the audio is top-notch, as is the video on the widescreen version. The Muppet Christmas Carol certainly delivers and earns its keep as once-a-year viewing.
Special Features List
- Audio commentary by director Brian Henson
- Pepe Profiles Presents – Gonzo: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Weirdo
- Christmas Around the World
- On-the-Set Gag Reel
- Full-Screen and Widescreen versions