Making the Grades
Yet another adaptation of the classic Dickens tale, where Bob Cratchit is the patient, faithful employee of the stingiest boss of all time, Ebenezer Scrooge. After allowing his employees a few hours off for Christmas Day, Scrooge returns home for the night, but he is not alone. A series of ghosts come to tell him what he needs to do, if he does not want a death as miserable as his life.
The Henson Company does a wonderful job of bringing Scrooge into the home again. Although the 1951 version with Alastair Sim used to hold top spot for the annual viewing tradition during our holidays, the Muppet version's warmth and wit has come to replace it over the years -- and my children love it.
As with all Muppet movies, you wonder how you can accept the fact that these ridiculous looking creatures are able to coexist with humans, and after a while you don't even notice the difference. A frog playing Cratchit against Michael Caine as Scrooge seems perfectly normal after the first few minutes. The wonderfully corny comedy solicits laughs with hardly any profanity, and sight gags abound.
One fear I had was that the message would be lost behind the antics, but the last ghost is given a serious stage, with little humour, and does an ample job of bringing the spirit of Dicken's work across. Little children may be frightened for a moment during this section.
Paul Williams provides songs that have catchy lyrics and help to move the story along. Especially look for the touching scene between Scrooge and the might have been Mrs. Scrooge.
Now that Disney has a hand in the late Henson's projects, we can only hope that the sarcastic but innocent humour of the Muppets will remain the way it has always been. This film was directed and produced by Jim's son Brian, and certainly lives up to its creator's name.