For a lot of people it’s not Christmas until Michael Caine has angrily stormed his way through what many consider to be the quintessential adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic Christmas chronicle, The Muppets Christmas Carol. A movie Caine only appeared in as an excuse to give his daughter something to watch starring him where he didn’t hurt someone. At least not with a shotgun.
Specifically, according to Caine in an interview with GQ magazine pretty much his entire reasoning for appearing in the movie is that his daughter didn’t really know what he did for a living as he’d never starred in a movie that was suitable for a 7 year old.
To remedy that Caine asked his agent to find him a role in a family friendly picture to which his agent responded, how about an adaptation of a Christmas Carol featuring some of the most respected actors of the day? It was only later that Caine realised these co-stars would be a fuzzy felt frog and some rats made of carpet.
Not that this mattered to Caine who, upon meeting the producers, informed them that he planned to play the role as if he was performing “with the Royal Shakespeare Company“. Specifically Caine noted that since the film was going to be a comedy it would be way funnier if he didn’t try to be funny at all, reasoning that the more seriously he took the role, the more ridiculous scenes featuring him and the muppets would look. To quote Caine –
“I’m a sort of rock in the middle that all of the Muppets bounce off of.”
A sentiment producers agreed with, similar expressing the desire to adapt the original story as accurately as possible but you know, with more muppets. To this end the film features numerous lines taken directly from the original story as well as elements not often featured in more, shall we say, traditional adaptations. Hell, even website The Dickens Project notes that –
In contrast The Muppets Christmas Carol is considered by many to be a remarkably accurate adaptation of the original prose. Hell, even the stuff they did change was mostly for the sake of truncating the story to a lean 90 minutes like making the caroler who knocks on Scrooge’s door and the kid he asks what day it is at the film’s climax the same character and also a rabbit Caine would later describe as the most sickeningly adorable thing he’d ever seen.
Likewise some minor characters are omitted from the original story like Scrooge’s sister whilst others are inventions of the film for the sake of comedy, like Scrooge’s rat accountants. In the original story Bob Cratchit is Scrooge’s only employee because you know, he’s a spendthrift miser with a fist tighter than a python’s handshake.
Otherwise the film is pretty accurate and, adorably enough, one of the favourites of Michael Caine who frequently watches it with his grandchildren who he delights with tales of the time he sung a duet with Kermit the Frog.