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The Muppet Christmas Carol: 20th Anniversary Blu-ray Review



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#1 of 68 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted November 04 2012 - 09:42 AM


One of the most remarkable things about Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol lies in its seemingly infinite adaptability. With its magically fantastical story, it’s open to any number of stage and screen interpretations. It must be the most adapted story in the history of entertainment (unless The Three Musketeers, Dracula, or The Hound of the Baskervilles supersedes it). Adding both music and Muppet magic to the venerable story, Brian Henson’s The Muppet Christmas Carol is a solid, entertaining version of the saga; maybe it’s not the greatest screen adaptation of the tale, but there are ample amounts of humor and heart to give this retelling of the classic story its own unique place among the best of the adaptations.
















The Muppet Christmas Carol: 20th Anniversary (Blu-ray + Digital Copy)

Directed by Brian Henson



Studio: Disney

Year: 1992

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1   1080p   AVC codec

Running Time: 86 minutes

Rating: G

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, 2.0 Spanish

Subtitles:  SDH, French, Spanish




Region: A-B-C

MSRP: $ 26.50






Release Date: November 6, 2012



Review Date: November 4, 2012












The Film



4/5






Pitiless miser Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine) thinks only of making money, indifferent to the pleas of the poor, the poverty of his overworked clerk Bob Cratchit (Kermit the Frog voiced by Steve Whitmire), and the imploring of his nephew Fred (Steven Mackintosh) to become one of the family. On Christmas Eve, he’s visited by the ghosts of his former partners the Marleys (Statler and Waldorf voiced by Dave Goelz and Jerry Nelson) who in order to save Scrooge from a dire afterlife have arranged for three spirits to visit him and show him visions of the past, present, and future which may alter his viewpoint and help him to begin to live life in a different way.






Screenwriter Jerry Juhl has installed Gonzo the Great (Dave Goelz) as narrator Charles Dickens (he’s even given him actual dialogue from Dickens’ narrative version of the book) and even with cohort Rizzo the Rat (Steve Whitmire) offering comic relief through much of the film, the movie stays remarkably faithful to the original story, apart, of course, from the various Muppets taking on most of the roles of the story’s supporting characters. There’s a real movie feel to the telling here: director Brian Henson has used remarkably effective segues between segments that have their own sense of magic and élan to complement the magical aspects of the tale, and the movie never stays too long on any one segment or strays too far from the Scrooge story even when Gonzo and Rizzo get sidetracked occasionally with their foolishness (some of which is tiresome but much of it is very funny: Rizzo as a Popsicle is not to be missed). Though he’s contributed songs to many of the Muppet ventures including their first film, Paul Williams’ song score here isn’t very memorable. On repeated listens, the tunes do grow on you a bit , but none of them can hold a candle to the brilliance of Leslie Bricusse’s Scrooge score. To his credit, Williams musicalizes some parts of the story where one wouldn’t expect songs (the Marleys explaining their business in song) and leaves off songs where one might think they’d be (Fezziwig’s – or here Fozziewig played by Frank Oz’s Fozzie Bear – party), but on the whole, the songs are merely serviceable rather than memorable. It still remains remarkable that the Muppets who have such unique and individual personalities could fit so snugly into this preexisting story. It’s no wonder they went immediately into another literary classic: Treasure Island.






Michael Caine may not be the greatest Scrooge on film, but he does an excellent job with the role and proves his mettle acting opposite pieces of felt in circumstances which must be trying to any live actor. Steven Mackintosh does a likewise outstanding job as Scrooge’s nephew Fred and being cast as younger than the part normally is makes him additionally interesting to watch. As for the Muppet performers, they are their usual terrific selves fitting into their roles so expertly that they almost seem made to play those parts.









Video Quality



4.5/5






The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is faithfully rendered in this outstanding 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is flawless (you can see much detail in facial features of the human actors and the contours of the felt on the Muppets), and color saturation levels are masterful in this encode making for one of the best Blu-rays available for this particular story. There are no age-related artifacts to harm the visual presentation which has only slightly less than optimum black levels as its only slight flaw. The film has been divided into 10 chapters.









Audio Quality



4/5






The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix gives the background score of Miles Goodman and the songs of Paul Williams the only real surround elements of the transfer. Otherwise, it’s basically a very effective stereo mix with the excellently recorded dialogue rooted to the center channel and ambient effects spread across the front left and right channels.









Special Features



3.5/5






There are two audio commentaries available. Gonzo and Rizzo narrate most of the first one cracking jokes but not offering much in the way of filming anecdotes (Kermit and Statler and Waldorf are also briefly heard). For a behind-the-scenes narration of how shots were accomplished, one will need to listen to director Brian Henson’s commentary track which does lift the curtain on Muppet magic to describe how these elaborate movies are filmed.






Every time the viewer puts the movie into pause mode, a Muppet Intermission segment is begun featuring various characters singing holiday carols to the viewer.






The remaining featurettes are presented in 480i.






“Frogs, Pigs, and Humbug” is a 22-minute behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the picture with comments from producer/writer Jerry Juhl, star Michael Caine (recording his songs in the studio), composer Paul Williams, director Brian Henson, and an assortment of Muppets.






The movie’s blooper reel is hosted by Gonzo and Rizzo and runs 2 ½ minutes.






“Portrait of the Artist as a Young Weirdo” is a 5 ½-minute featurette with Pepe the King Prawn interviewing Gonzo and with other Muppets offering opinions on his work as the narrator of the movie.






“Christmas Around the World” finds Gonzo telling Rizzo about how Christmas is celebrated in other countries in this 3-minute vignette.






The second disc in the set is the digital copy of the movie.






The disc offers promo trailers for Wreck-It Ralph and Santa Paws 2.









In Conclusion



4/5 (not an average)






A delightful retelling of the familiar Dickens classic, The Muppet Christmas Carol is the theatrical version, not the three-minute longer director’s cut, but apart from that option not being offered, there’s little to criticize about this beautiful looking and sounding Blu-ray package. Recommended!












Matt Hough



Charlotte, NC





#2 of 68 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted November 04 2012 - 03:08 PM

So the "When Love is Gone" song hasn't even been included as an extra...eh, Matt?


That's too bad.  You'd think it would at least be included as an extra.

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#3 of 68 OFFLINE   Mike_Richardson

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Posted November 04 2012 - 03:53 PM

You'd think they would care about putting out the version of the film that the director turned in -- not the one that Disney executives cut -- but sadly that's not how it broke here for anyone who likes the film. Nope, the song is not on there in any form -- making this release a must to avoid.

#4 of 68 ONLINE   David Norman

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Posted November 04 2012 - 04:47 PM

You'd think they would care about putting out the version of the film that the director turned in -- not the one that Disney executives cut -- but sadly that's not how it broke here for anyone who likes the film. Nope, the song is not on there in any form -- making this release a must to avoid.

Just have to make my own Special Edition combo pack and move the old DVD into the DC slot and find another spot to keep the DC.
 

 


#5 of 68 OFFLINE   Tom M

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Posted November 04 2012 - 06:01 PM

Nope, the song is not on there in any form -- making this release a must to avoid.

Oh, please. The movie is still very entertaining without the song and still has plenty of heart. I will buy the Blu and enjoy it. If a director's cut ever gets released, I will happily repurchase. Having come through hurricane Sandy with only minor property damage and minimal power disruption, the last thing I will ever be concerned about is some damn song.
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#6 of 68 OFFLINE   cafink

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Posted November 05 2012 - 02:54 AM

I think it's unacceptable that the Blu-ray contains only the cut version. That seems like a reasonable opinion to voice on a message board dedicated to movies and Blu-rays. I'm not sure what Hurricane Sandy has to do with it, but if it helps to strengthen my opinion, I made it through Katrina.
 

 


#7 of 68 OFFLINE   Jason_V

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Posted November 05 2012 - 02:58 AM

Originally Posted by Tom M 


Oh, please. The movie is still very entertaining without the song and still has plenty of heart. I will buy the Blu and enjoy it. If a director's cut ever gets released, I will happily repurchase.
Having come through hurricane Sandy with only minor property damage and minimal power disruption, the last thing I will ever be concerned about is some damn song.


I do think this entire hobby pales in comparison to natural disasters, obviously.

However, the response is not appropriate for the conversation.  We're talking about a movie with deleted material which is not on the disc.  In my view, it is fair game.  If someone wants to avoid the disc because of the missing song, so be it.


#8 of 68 OFFLINE   Tom M

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Posted November 05 2012 - 04:52 AM

I do think this entire hobby pales in comparison to natural disasters, obviously.  However, the response is not appropriate for the conversation.  We're talking about a movie with deleted material which is not on the disc.  In my view, it is fair game.  If someone wants to avoid the disc because of the missing song, so be it. 

I knew it wouldn't be a popular comment but I am well with my rights in this forum to express such a sentiment. Besides, you're taking my comment way too seriously. Just relax. As Simon Cowell says, "It's just an opinion!" :) Still, if anyone is offended, I do honestly apologize. I just feel that, like Pocahontas, the situation is being taken far too seriously. If you want the song restored, act in a calm, polite manner. Getting angry and calling the studio names will only hurt your cause. Also, no matter how they treat YOU, treat them with nothing but respect. The whole thing about theatrical cuts vs. director or extended cuts is and will be an ongoing struggle between the fimmakers, the studio and the audience. It almost never happens that everyone gets what they want. I like a choice as much as anyone. If Disney releases the DC, great. I'll happily upgrade. BTW, Brian Henson is awfully quiet about this whole thing. If he truly felt the song was crucial to the scene, wouldn't he be in contact with Disney trying to get it restored? Did he change his mind? It would be great to get his comments on all this.
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#9 of 68 OFFLINE   Jason_V

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Posted November 05 2012 - 05:02 AM

Originally Posted by Tom M 


I knew it wouldn't be a popular comment but I am well with my rights in this forum to express such a sentiment. Besides, you're taking my comment way too seriously. Just relax. As Simon Cowell says, "It's just an opinion!" Posted Image
 


Believe me: I have no horse in this particular race.  You are absolutely within your rights (well, as much as Ron, Adam and Kevin allow) to express your opinion.  I never said, or meant to imply, otherwise.  Just like we're all allowed to have an opinion, we can all comment on someone else's opinion.  (So an opinion on an opinion, I guess...  Posted Image  )


And agreed: this is a song in a movie.  However, no one is calling anyone a name here unless I missed it.  And a missing song is a perfectly valid reason for someone not to purchase a disc.  To each their own, right?



#10 of 68 OFFLINE   Malcolm R

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Posted November 05 2012 - 05:06 AM

I have to disagree about the quality of the music. These songs are just as essential to my holiday mood and traditions as any classic Christmas carols. This is the only version of A Christmas Carol I watch faithfully every year, and the music is the primary driving factor for me.
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#11 of 68 OFFLINE   Tom M

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Posted November 05 2012 - 05:27 AM

Believe me: I have no horse in this particular race.  You are absolutely within your rights (well, as much as Ron, Adam and Kevin allow) to express your opinion.  I never said, or meant to imply, otherwise.  Just like we're all allowed to have an opinion, we can all comment on someone else's opinion.  (So an opinion on an opinion, I guess...  :)   ) And agreed: this is a song in a movie.  However, no one is calling anyone a name here unless I missed it.  And a missing song is a perfectly valid reason for someone not to purchase a disc.  To each their own, right?

Right and agree that a person's reasons for not buying a movie are valid to them. I never meant to suggest otherwise and apologize if I did. As for the name calling, I meant comments directed to Disney like "lazy, stupid", etc. Those kind of comments won't get anyone anywhere with the studio. I do find it interesting that the scene in question seems to have been carefully written and filmed so that it can work either with or without the song. Brian Henson probably suspected the reaction the song might get. Does it work better with the song? I think so but I also feel it works perfectly well without it.
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#12 of 68 OFFLINE   cafink

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Posted November 05 2012 - 06:10 AM

I do find it interesting that the scene in question seems to have been carefully written and filmed so that it can work either with or without the song. Brian Henson probably suspected the reaction the song might get. Does it work better with the song? I think so but I also feel it works perfectly well without it.

Even if you feel the movie works fine without the song, its removal can hardly have been more glaring. The cut in the film is obvious, and you can even hear part of the song after the cut. At least, that's how it was in the original theatrical version. Disney apparently re-edited that transition to make it less conspicuous on the Blu-ray. But given how awkward that cut is, it's obvious that the scene was never originally intended to play without the song.
 

 


#13 of 68 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted November 05 2012 - 08:24 AM

Originally Posted by Tom M 



BTW, Brian Henson is awfully quiet about this whole thing. If he truly felt the song was crucial to the scene, wouldn't he be in contact with Disney trying to get it restored? Did he change his mind?
It would be great to get his comments on all this.


He certainly says nothing about it in his audio commentary.



#14 of 68 OFFLINE   cafink

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Posted November 05 2012 - 08:57 AM

He certainly says nothing about it in his audio commentary.

The commentary was originally recorded for the complete version of the film, with "When Love Is Gone" intact. That part of the commentary was removed from the Blu-ray along with the song.
 

 


#15 of 68 OFFLINE   Tom M

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Posted November 05 2012 - 09:23 AM

Even if you feel the movie works fine without the song, its removal can hardly have been more glaring. The cut in the film is obvious, and you can even hear part of the song after the cut. At least, that's how it was in the original theatrical version. Disney apparently re-edited that transition to make it less conspicuous on the Blu-ray. But given how awkward that cut is, it's obvious that the scene was never originally intended to play without the song.

I'm not saying the edit wasn't obvious as it clearly was. The song was cut at the last minute so the edit was a rush job. Disney is doing now what they didn't have time for back then: making the edit less noticable. What I meant was the scene with the song plays like this: Scrooge: I love you, Belle Belle: You did once. *song* Belle leaves See, the scene is constructed so the song can be removed with minimal disruption. It's the way the scene is scored that creates the problem with taking it out. BUT, just so my position is clear: I think BOTH cuts of the film should have been made available. There is really no excuse not to do this.
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#16 of 68 OFFLINE   JohnS

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Posted November 05 2012 - 08:45 PM

I'm still getting this. It's Muppets and it's widescreen.

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#17 of 68 OFFLINE   MatthewA

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Posted November 06 2012 - 06:26 AM

Originally Posted by JohnS 

I'm still getting this.
It's Muppets and it's widescreen.


Well, I can only assume the remaining Muppet movies, which have no editing issues, will look stellar on Blu-ray.


Enough is enough, Disney. No more evasions or excuses. We DEMAND the release Song of the South on Blu-ray along with the uncut version of Bedknobs and Broomsticks on Blu-ray. I will not support anything your company produces until then.


#18 of 68 OFFLINE   JohnS

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Posted November 06 2012 - 10:33 AM

Well, I can only assume the remaining Muppet movies, which have no editing issues, will look stellar on Blu-ray.

I've seen Great Muppet Caper in HD on cable not to long ago. Even though its not a true HD picture, it still looks really good. This is the one I really want on bluray too.

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#19 of 68 OFFLINE   Tom M

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Posted November 10 2012 - 09:38 AM

Got mine yesterday. It looks and sound fantastic! The music editing for the young Scrooge and Belle scene is perfect, you can't tell the song was ever there to begin with. I enjoyed every second and didn't miss "When Love Is Gone" one bit. Man, this movie really got me into the holiday spirit! Which was no mean feat as the nor'easter this past week knocked our power out for a couple of days. The power came back around 11 AM yesterday and UPS delivered the Muppets just an hour after that! Christmas Magic! I suspect that Disney now feels that this is the "official" version of the film. *shrugs* Fine by me though I do hope to see the extended version in HD eventually.
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#20 of 68 OFFLINE   jim_falconer

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Posted November 10 2012 - 01:33 PM

Originally Posted by Tom M 

Got mine yesterday. It looks and sound fantastic! The music editing for the young Scrooge and Belle scene is perfect, you can't tell the song was ever there to begin with.
I enjoyed every second and didn't miss "When Love Is Gone" one bit.
Man, this movie really got me into the holiday spirit! Which was no mean feat as the nor'easter this past week knocked our power out for a couple of days. The power came back around 11 AM yesterday and UPS delivered the Muppets just an hour after that! Christmas Magic!
I suspect that Disney now feels that this is the "official" version of the film. *shrugs* Fine by me though I do hope to see the extended version in HD eventually.

Yeah, glad you are so over joyed with Disney's subpar release.  For me, it's a no-sale until the complete movie is back in place again.







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