Charles Dickens published his novella A Christmas Carol on December 17, 1843. Such was the power of this critically-acclaimed story it was first “adapted” (read: pirated) a mere month later, in January of 1844. Since the first unauthorized adaptation in 1844, Ebenezer, Tiny Tim, and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future have been adapted countless times. There are so many adaptation there is a separate Wikipedia page about them. Counting just movies, tv shows, and the theater, there have been over 100 versions of Dickens’ tale. To say that A Christmas Carol is a cultural touchstone is putting it mildly. With so many adaptations to chose from, everyone has a favorite. My mother loves the Alastair Sim version, released in 1951. The kids in our library seem to enjoy the Mickey version, released in 1983.
My favorite? Why, The Muppet Christmas Carol, of course! Directed by Jim Henson’s son, Brian, this film premiered to mediocre reviews in 1992. Some critics found the tone confusing. There are songs and Muppets galore, but some of those songs are downright depressing (“When Love is Gone” is a three-hanky number) and I know I personally found the Ghost of Christmas Future terrifying when I was a child. Still, I find the Muppets a great way to introduce children to the tale of Scrooge, a view shared by the late, great Roger Ebert.
And the Scrooge in this movie is fantastic! Michael Caine is grouchy, rude, and everything a miser ought to be. He also interacts credibly with his Muppet costars. The Muppets are integrated seamlessly into the story, and the soundtrack is excellent. Although parts of it are sad and parts of it are scary, it remains my favorite version of the tale today. To me, this is a must-watch each Christmas. Marley and Marley is a macabre hoot.
Who is your favorite Scrooge? For that matter, what’s your favorite holiday movie?