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The Muppet Christmas Carol(1992)
The Muppet characters tell their version of the classic tale of an old and bitter miser's redemption on Christmas Eve.
For more about The Muppet Christmas Carol and the The Muppet Christmas Carol Blu-ray release, see the The Muppet Christmas Carol Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on November 7, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Michael Caine, Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Jerry Nelson, Frank Oz, David Rudman
Director: Brian Henson
» See full cast & crew
The Muppet Christmas Carol Blu-ray Review
Rumors of the theatrical version's inferiority have been greatly exaggerated...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, November 7, 2012
Bah! Humbug! Let's cut to it: The Muppet Christmas Carol is a lesser film without "When Love is Gone," the all too critical musical number and narrative crux the studio powers that be foolishly cut from the movie's 1992 theatrical release, much to director Brian Henson's objection and dismay. The song was reinstated for various home video releases over the years via a superior, fan-favorite extended version, but even then it couldn't seem to catch a break. (The 2005 DVD featured both versions of the film, but only the theatrical cut was presented in widescreen. The extended cut was relegated to full- screen pan-n-scan.) Alas, whether by stubborn resolve, lazy disregard, shrewd sales staggering, or some other inexplicable but equally disheartening reason, no such version of The Muppet Christmas Carol is included on this new Disney Blu- ray release. "When Love is Gone" has sadly gone missing yet again, and it pains me immensely.
I have no intention of joining or inciting any impassioned boycott, though. Is the song's disappearance a shame? Absolutely. A tragedy? Let's not get carried away. The theatrical version isn't a lackluster Muppet movie by any means. It isn't the perfect Christmas outing I was prepared to declare its extended cut, I'll be the first to admit, but it's still my Christmas Carol of choice, still an enormously funny and touching Muppets musical, and still 96.6% of the beloved holiday classic I revisit a dozen times every December.
Michael Caine dons the bed slippers and cap of Mr. Humbug himself, Ebenezer Scrooge, a hateful old moneylender who'd sooner see the surplus population decrease than give a dime to the poor, much less indulge in the merriment and mirth of Christmas. Enter the ghosts of long-dead business partners Jacob and Robert Marley (Statler and Waldorf), who warn Scrooge he's about to be visited by three more spirits: the Ghost of Christmas Past (voiced by Jessica Fox), the Ghost of Christmas Present (voiced by Jerry Nelson) and the Ghost of Yet to Come (voiced by... no one at all). Soon Ebenezer is whisked away to witness his fall as a schoolboy, the present ramifications of his actions, and eventually the ultimate consequences of his callousness and greed. Scrooge isn't alone, though. Charles Dickens (The Great Gonzo) and his trusty sidekick (Rizzo the Rat) are along for the ride, traveling back in time as young Ebenezer learns about business from his upstanding schoolmaster (Sam the Eagle), resists sage advice from his first employer Fozziewig (Fozzie Bear) and walks away from the love of his life (Meredith Braun); following close behind as Scrooge visits the home of Bob Cratchet (Kermit the Frog) and his wife (Miss Piggy), discovers Cratchet has a very sick little boy named Tiny Tim (Robin the Frog), and finishes his journey in the present at the home of his nephew Fred (Steven Mackintosh); and ducking away as Ebenezer faces the grim fate that awaits him if he doesn't change his ways.
Even though humans rarely take center stage in a Muppets production, Caine is perfectly cast and perfectly central as Scrooge, and the dastardly miser's cruelty is even more heartless and sadistic when hurled at a world-weary frog, the lovable rats in Ebenezer's employ, or Bunsen and Beaker's kindly charity workers. He has trouble carrying a tune, sure. But it works in his favor, as does the warmth he exudes when Scrooge finally makes that all important turn. (Something "When Love is Gone" bolsters tremendously in the film's missing extended cut.) The Muppets are perfectly cast too. There isn't a Muppet out of place, out of sorts or out of character. No small feat considering how closely The Muppet Christmas Carol clings to Dickens' original tale. (It's easily one of the most faithful adaptations committed to the big screen, with most of its dialogue pulled directly from Dickens' text.) With Gonzo as a delightfully omniscient narrator, comedy is ever at the ready, miraculously without interfering with the seriousness or somberness of Ebenezer's story. The two exist on separate plains, making it that much easier to accept Gonzo and Rizzo's hijinks one second and Scrooge's lessons in life and death the next. Brian Henson and screenwriter Jerry Juhl forge a careful balance at the outset, of course, and know when to make adjustments (Gonzo and Rizzo's artful exit as Ebenezer encounters the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, for example). The musicals songs help tie things together even further, from the expositional yet catchy "Scrooge" to the lovely "One More Sleep 'til Christmas," the unforgettable "Marley and Marley" (wooOOoo!), Kermit and Robin's toe-tapping "Christmas Scat," and the climactic "Thankful Heart."
Another spirit haunts The Muppet Christmas Carol: that of Brian Henson's father and Muppets creator, Jim Henson, who died just two years earlier. While the Muppets' fourth feature film is brimming with wit, sharp humor and memorable musical numbers, a palpable sense of sadness hangs heavy over the production. It permeates every scene, every reflection on death and regret, every puppeteer's work, even the way Kermit's head droops or his smile fades seems to whisper "we are not what we once were." And yet Jim Henson's legacy is alive and well in The Muppet Christmas Carol. Brian Henson, his puppeteers and the Muppets themselves refuse to let a day pass wasted, even in their grief, and allow their sadness to not only invade the production but to inhabit it, enrich it and make it a more sincere, emotionally poignant film. Watching Kermit and Robin as Cratchet and Tiny Tim -- a loving father who devotes every ounce of his strength to his work and his son -- is suddenly utterly heartbreaking and incredibly moving. Seeing Scrooge learn what Jim Henson spent his days teaching -- to live life to its fullest, bringing joy to others whenever possible -- suddenly resonates unlike any "Christmas Carol" adaptation before or since. Realizing Brian Henson is coming into his own, in complete, confident command of his craft -- on his feature film directorial debut no less -- is suddenly wonderfully satisfying. "We are not what we once were" suddenly translates to something else entirely: "This too shall pass. We are exactly what Jim wanted us to be."
The Muppet Christmas Carol Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Muppet Christmas Carol celebrates the season with a fittingly festive 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer sure to please fans familiar with the film's terribly outmoded 2002 and 2005 DVD releases. Colors are strong and lively, despite the fact that many of the film's early scenes are cast in an icy blue hue, which tends to skew skintones and primaries ever so slightly. Thankfully, other scenes, particularly those that accompany Scrooge's journey into the past, his first visit to the Cratchet house and his eventual redemption, are warmer and more natural, suggesting the shots that feature the mild blue tint appear exactly as they should. Detail is excellent as well. Edges are crisp and clean (with only a hint of ringing on occasion), textures are unexpectedly refined and revealing on the whole (the fur, the hair, the felt!), grain is intact and unobtrusive, and there isn't any significant macroblocking, banding, aliasing or other compression anomalies to report. There is minor print damage -- all negligible -- and some compositing softness and noisiness (as is the case when Scrooge first meets the Ghost of Christmas Present), but each instance is, by and large, inherent to the source. My lone complaint? Contrast is a bit inconsistent, which leads to some dullness (the Ghost of Christmas Past's parting) and some crush (the scene immediately following it in Scrooge's bed chambers). All that being said, I couldn't be much happier with the results. Unless, that is, I was reviewing a comparable 1.85:1 presentation of the film's extended cut. Maybe next Christmas.
The Muppet Christmas Carol Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There aren't any major disappointments to be had with Disney's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. It just isn't all that remarkable. Dialogue is clear, intelligible and intuitively centered, LFE output is decidedly decent (particularly when the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come makes itself known, swirling portals, bum bum bum motif and all), and the various songs fill the otherwise front-heavy soundfield nicely. Unfortunately, the rear speakers aren't all that engaging. Interior acoustics are good, but environmental ambience has a far greater presence in the front speakers than the rear, directional effects are weak and imprecise, and "immersive" is one of the last words I would toss about with abandon. Still, it's safe to assume that this is a reasonable representation of the film's sound design, for better or worse.
The Muppet Christmas Carol Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Muppet Christmas Carol Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
No, this isn't the definitive release of The Muppet Christmas Carol have been hoping for. No, it doesn't include the film's extended cut or "When Love is Gone," which really does make the movie better all around. And yes, it's a missed opportunity and a disservice to fans. But to disown Disney's first Blu-ray release of The Muppet Christmas Carol is to dismiss everything beyond "When Love is Gone" that makes the film so good, especially when the Blu-ray debut of the theatrical cut features such a commendable AV presentation. Me? I'll happily add this one to my collection, hold onto my 2005 extended cut DVD a bit longer, and patiently wait for Disney to catch up with fan demand and release a more complete edition, hopefully next Christmas.
The Muppet Christmas Carol: Other Editions
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The Muppet Christmas Carol Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Muppet Christmas Carol Blu-ray Detailed - September 29, 2012
This holiday season, Disney is bringing the Muppets classic, The Muppet Christmas Carol, to Blu-ray for the first time. The 2-disc set will feature a slew of special features, old and new. Grab your copy of The Muppet Christmas Carol November 6th.
• The Muppet Christmas Carol Returns to UK Cinemas - August 17, 2012
20 years after its original release, The Muppet Christmas Carol, will return to the big screen on brand new digital prints, courtesy of British distributors Park Circus. The Muppet Christmas Carol will open in cinemas across the UK on November 23rd.
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