Icons – Caine: The Muppet’s Christmas Carol

Everyone loves a good Christmas film right? There’s nothing better to put you in the Christmas mood than snuggling down on the sofa and watching Miracle on 34th Street, Elf or Home Alone. There’s a certain kind of person in my life recently though, the type of person who doesn’t limit their Christmas film watching to the last month on the calendar, the type who watches them all year through and to be perfectly honest, I can’t decide if I’m happy or not about this revelation… I mean, I thought I was special. One of a select few who laughed in the face of convention, who defied stereotypes and threw on a Christmas movie even in the middle of July! I’m not sure if it’s my preference of fairy lights over regular lighting but my abode always seems to have a vaguely Christmassy vibe about it. Whatever it is, I love it. Maybe this is what inspires my film choices.

Christmas films always manage to cheer me up, no matter how fed up I’m feeling and one of my trusty few that are guaranteed to put a great big cheesy grin on my face is The Muppet Christmas Carol. The winning combination of familiar story (and well-known happy ending), fantastic songs and the best puppets ever… how could it fail?! And let’s just throw it out there straight off, Michael Caine is awesome. End of story.

Caine plays miserly Ebenezer with such aplomb that the first time my nine year old eyes caught sight of him I was both terrified and intrigued. I knew the story inside out, even at that age, and was eagerly awaiting the ghostly visits and resulting U-turn but could not comprehend how someone so dastardly could ever make it. But make it he does and you can’t help but feel your heart swell a little when he does, even now, 20 years later.

I have to admit I was bowled over when I realised how old this film really is; partly because I can so clearly remember that birthday trip to the cinema to see it for the first time and partly because it hasn’t aged at all. Although I have, I still feel the same prickle of glee when they burst into the Heat Wave song because Scrooge refuses to put any more coal on the fire.

The way Caine interacts with The Muppets is so natural it makes it easy to suspend believe they are people in their own right. Somehow he manages to take this new world, full of outrageous looking creatures in his stride and as a result the viewer does too. The Muppet Christmas Carol is one of the few Muppet films that actually revolve around a human actor as a main character. This throws up a minefield of possibilities that Caine effortlessly negotiates, integrating himself into the cast with ease.

I do worry about watching this film too often and growing bored of it or the shine wearing thin and I think that’s why I occasionally put it back on the shelf and drag out Die Hard for a 400th  viewing instead. I have such fond memories of watching this film as a child with my dad, a massive Rizzo the Rat fan, that I never want them to go away.

That’s a pretty mushy end to a bit of a gush about one of my favourite films I’m afraid.

Laura Johnson

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