It’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002)

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Ah, The Muppets. I love them. I really do. They’ve given us a number of fun movies and they’ve given us one absolutely superb Christmas movie. Sadly, when someone decided to use the characters in a different Christmas movie they forgot to include the great characters, the warmth and humour and the sprinkling of magic that made The Muppet Christmas Carol the great movie it was, and remains.

The plot for our puppet pals this time comes straight from It’s A Wonderful Life and it’s a shame that using that classic as a template couldn’t yield something more enjoyable. Kermit is at a low point, The Muppets are about to lose their theatre, and there is just one angel (David Arquette) explaining the whole situation to god (Whoopi Goldberg). If god is convinced then someone can go down and try to help Kermit. But if god remains unconvinced then that is that. Despite the mediocrity of the material, it would be someone with a heart of stone who wouldn’t be hoping that things can turn out okay in the end for the most famous frog in the world.

This film, it pains me to say it, fails on a number of levels. It’s a middling family movie (at best), it’s a lame Christmas movie and it’s a terrible Muppets movie. One or two chuckles still occur, mainly from the amusing Pepe The Prawn, and Joan Cusack is enjoyable in the panto villain role but this is just one souffle that never rises.

It’s perhaps most telling that nobody involved in the writing or directing of the film has the surname “Henson”, a signifier that some of the unique vision and love has been lost. A couple of the boys turn up as voice performers (and, speaking of voice performances, Frank Oz is sorely missed) but this just doesn’t feel like the wild and whacky entertainment we used to get from the Hensons. Because it isn’t. It’s sanitised stuff, so inoffensive and bland and irritatingly twee that it’s like being given Chinese Water Torture under a dripping bottle of Evian. It’s just not the madcap antics that fans know and love, it’s just not The Muppets.

That’s not to say that there’s no fun to be had at all. The puppets are as cute as ever, a few one-liners manage to work their way through the dross and the characters still retain their innate charm. But enjoying this movie is more a case of goodwill from the viewer than good quality product from the makers.

DIRECTOR: KIRK R. THATCHER
WRITER: TOM MARTIN, JIM LEWIS
STARS: DAVID ARQUETTE, WHOOPI GOLDBERG, JOAN CUSACK, WILLIAM H. MACY, MATTHEW LILLARD, THE CAST OF SCRUBS, KERMIT THE FROG, MISS PIGGY, THE GREAT GONZO, PEPE THE PRAWN. FOZZIE BEAR
RUNTIME: 100 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: USA

Film Rating: ★★½☆☆

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