Jim Henson Production’s “The Muppet Christmas Carol”
Directed By: Brian Henson
Screenplay By: Jerry Juhl
Based On: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
For this review, I shall be doing something slightly different. This particular movie has been talked about many a time before with some even going so far as to analyze the musical rendition of Charles Dickens’ classic tale (one by name of “Paw” of Channel Awesome renown if anyone is curious), but how many have truly given their opinion on the Muppets’ version of the Ghosts of Christmas? For this review, I shall dedicate a paragraph each to the three spirits focusing on appearance, voice/mannerisms, and overall impact on the story.
First up, there is the Ghost of Christmas Past. Out of the three Ghosts, this one is just ahead of the others as my absolute favorite. Her appearance, and yes I’m well aware that the Dickens’ version is technically androgynous but this is the muppets and I say female with this particular spirit, is that of a young child aglow with her own inner light. Her pristine white garb and her burning locks of red hair are almost always in motion even when she appears to be standing perfectly still. This effect was actually achieved by the three puppeteers filming the Ghost of Christmas entirely underwater.
Voiced by Jessica Fox, the Ghost of Christmas Past sounds both unbelievably young yet fantastically wise beyond her years. Contrary to the spirits which follow after her, the Ghost of Christmas Past is perhaps both the kindest and cruelest of the spirits in that she shows both Scrooge’s happiest and most despairing moments in his life, moments that he cannot change no matter how much he may wish to otherwise. Instead, all that he can do, all that anyone can do, is heed the words of the Past and try and make something out of the Present. Speaking of…
The Ghost of Christmas Present is a marvelous muppet unlike any I’ve ever seen on a human-sized scale. While not outright stated in any version of Dickens’ tale, I cannot help but feel that the Ghost of Christmas Present is a personification of Saint Nicholas given life but for one whole day out of the entire year. This is helped by the fact that out of the three spirits, the Ghost of Christmas Present is the only one seen to interact with people aside from Scrooge, going forth and spreading the joy that is Christmas with cheerful abandon. In fact, there’s hardly a moment where the spirit is not just downright jolly.
This is helped by the fact that the spirit’s voice actor (and facial puppeteer) is Jerry Nelson, whose most prominent role is that of The Count of Sesame Street renown. Makes sense really that they’d have a man who could make a vampire of all things sound like a jolly old soul be the literal spirit of one. Of the three Ghosts of Christmas, I feel that the Ghost of Christmas Present does open Scrooge’s eyes to what lies hidden around him, the family he could still be a part of should he shed his disdain, and the harm he has caused by his cruel ignorance but can still undo. Yet, of the three, that’s all that the Ghost of Christmas Present does and it is not enough yet to change the ways of a bitter old miser like Scrooge. That’s for the last and final spirit…
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, or more informally the Future, is a muppet who is both incredibly frightening and disturbingly surreal to me. I’ve seen a good number of puppets crafted by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop for all manner of films and stories, from the television series of The Storyteller with frighteningly real devils to the fantastically marvelous world filled with all manner of alien life in The Dark Crystal but nothing, absolutely nothing, has ever frightened me as much as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Why? Because it is a muppet that does not speak, does not emote in any conceivable way. It is a shadow given physical form and all that it does, all that it may do, is show visions of what-could-be and what-very-well-may-be… And yet… the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is perhaps kinder even than that of the Past as its visions are mere shadows and not yet solidified.
Though it does not speak, I feel that this particular spirit’s embodiment is that of… of patience. Whenever its not pointing for something to Scrooge to see, its hands are always clasped in front of it as though it were waiting for something to occur. Though many assume that the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come’s greatest impact was to show that Scrooge would die quite soon, within the next year some could argue, I feel that it was showing something far worse. To paraphrase a quote of my grandfather, the greatest terror of life is to die our work incomplete while the greatest joy in life is to die with our work complete. Scrooge saw first and foremost that his death left little to no impact in anyone, that for all that he had, all the monetary wealth he had accumulated, it was worthless if he could be forgotten as a passing storm cloud…
Overall, I give The Muppet Christmas Carol 5 out of 5 stars. It may at times come off as childish in some parts and the puppetry/special effects does show its age in some scenes, it hardly matters at all when it comes to the story itself and as many a soul can attest, there is no better tale to be told around Yuletide than that of Ebenezer Scrooge.