Monday, December 05, 2011

Charles Dickens was really a socialist

Muppets are big right now. The new Muppet movie is out in theaters and getting rave reviews and you can't turn on the tv, listen to the radio, or interact with another human being without hearing about the muppets. And that's not a bad thing--the muppets are awesome. I think my favorite is one of the newer muppets--Pepe the King Prawn. Which is kind of funny because Pepe isn't even in my favorite of all the muppet movies: The Muppet Christmas Carol.

My last Christmas movie post (and Clovis' comment following it) mentioned how we as a culture seem to have this idea of a perfect nostalgic Christmas. It's almost like we all have a rose and gold-shaded memory of a perfect Christmas that we keep locked in a snow globe forever. Our current holidays never seem to quite measure up, and in my opinion, it's all Charles Dickens' fault.

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is the Christmas story that all other Christmas stories are measured against. The main character, Scrooge, starts out a miserable miser who hates Christmas. But with a little help from some ghosts and time travel he comes to embrace all the most perfect ideals of Christmas: love, hope, kindness, sharing, friendship, snow, goose and puddings, top hats....

See what I mean? I think we forever view Christmas through a Victorian Dickens lens. The Muppet Christmas Carol is a refreshing romp through Dickens' world that manages to capture all the magic and emotion of the source material with some modern humor (and adorableness) thrown in from the muppets. Scrooge is played by Michael Cain (in what I think is one of his finest roles) and Kermit gets Bob Cratchit, Miss. Piggy his wife, Gonzo the narrator Charles Dickens, and Rizzo the rat his partner in narrating crime. The songs are super catchy, the score is excellent, and the script is whip smart, pulling a lot of the dialogue directly from Dickens' novella...but with some signature muppet touches of course.

Why Charles Dickens, I had no idea you had a hooked nose.

People try to put a fresh spin on classic tales all the time, but I think The Muppet Christmas Carol is one of the most successful. The love and respect that the creators have for the original book is clear, but they aren't afraid to poke a bit of fun at those (now) cliched Victoria ideals of Christmas. But none of that detracts from letting you feel what Dickens' wanted you to feel. Even though Tiny Tim is portrayed by a little felt frog, when he's singing I always tear up. When Scrooge discovers the true meaning of Christmas, I still get goosebumps. And when the Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge how wonderful Christmas can be, I want to cheer.

Isn't he one of the most adorable things you have ever seen?

I have to confess that I also experience some fiendish glee at the end of the film--when Scrooge comes to the realization that the best way to live your life is by "sharing the wealth" and helping those in need; "if you want to know, the measure of a man, you simply count his friends." I always wonder how the ultra conservatives feel about that part. How the "true meaning of Christmas" is the redistribution of assets to help others. I think deep down we all know that giving to others is the best way to celebrate Christmas, but in our modern world driven by deep divides based on politics, race, religion, and countless others--it's nice to have a reminder. And learning the lesson from a group of adorable puppets definitely helps the medicine go down.

It takes a good actor to sell interacting with a six foot tall giant bearded ghost. But Michael Caine makes this look good.


Axl Rosa said...

Well said my dear! You're wicked smaht.

"Heat wave! This is our island in the sun!" Gets a laugh from me every time.

Maggie Cats said...

Aw, I love the bookkeepers! I don't care if they are rats, I think they are adorable.

I think my favorite line is "light the lamp not the rat, LIGHT THE LAMP NOT THE RAT!"