Ever since Charles Dickens wrote 'A Christmas Carol' in the 19th Century several film adaptations have been made stretching from the Silent Era of film to the present day. Throughout that time these adaptations have varied in quality and book accuracy. However, one adaptation will always stick out as the definitive version of this story to me and that's "The Muppet Christmas Carol"; and for all those reading who are going into shock right now, please let me explain.
Yes, one of my favorite versions of the literary masterpiece by Charles Dickens has singing puppets and slapstick humor. To many literary scholars this would by sacrilegious, but I've always found "The Muppet Christmas Carol" to be the most balanced adaptation of Dickens' story. What do I mean by "most balanced", well it has less to do with accuracy and more with tone.
Most adaptations of Dickens' story go in one of two directions. They either rework the tone to make it more "child friendly" at the expense of downplaying the darker elements which hammer home the lessons Scrooge must learn or they stay completely accurate to the horror elements of the book while downplaying the joy and warmth that comes with a Christmas film. "Mickey's Christmas Carol" is a good example of the former, and the 1971 Chuck Jones/Richard Williams and 2009 motion capture versions are prime examples of the latter. While I enjoy both previously mentioned versions, "The Muppets Christmas Carol" was the version that hit the tone bullseye just right for me.
The Muppet version is primarily a children's film (duh) and really emphasizes the warmth and kindness found at Christmas. However, it still remembers to keep a large amount of the darker elements, such as the Ghost of Christmas Future being a genuinely unnerving silent specter. It doesn't shy away from the feelings of grief and loss many of the characters feel. But the film also doesn't keep the creepiest elements of the book that sometimes detracts from the "Christmas feeling" (looking at you creepy children under Ghost of Christmas Present's robe).
Along with balancing the tone the film also gives us some great "4th wall" humor and some genuinely great performances. Michael Caine plays a very subdued Ebenezer Scrooge, but still manages to add a level of pathos to his performance, which is not easy to do when you have to act opposite to silly looking puppets. The film always remembers to keep the lighthearted spirit of Christmas alive, which makes it the perfect film to watch around the holiday season.
It might sound odd, me saying that one of the best adaptations of Charles Dickens book was a silly puppet movie, but it does have real heart. It's the film I tend to watch whenever I want to see this story retold to me. I hope this little article has convinced some of you that "The Muppet Christmas Carol" is worth seeking out and watching. What better way to celebrate the holidays than with Kermit and friends.