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It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie
MGM/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 85 mins .
G . PAL
It’s time to play the music
It’s time to light the lights…
Well, invoking the spirit of the great television delight that was The Muppet Show is kind of apt, as at least this most recent adventure of Kermit and the gang features them all hanging out in the Muppet Theater, rather than dicking about in space or Dickensing about in a mire of English literature.
The little drummer boy...
Made for television but a scant couple of years ago, It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (hitherto known as IaVMMCM for the sake of avoiding ouchy, ouchy R.S.I.) is an often befuddling collision of references to other popular bits and bobs, very loosely assembled into some semblance of a relevant, cohesive story thanks to the mine of existing things it plunders. Essentially a mishmash of A Christmas Carol and, more obviously, the utterly gorgeous It’s a Wonderful Life, our tale revolves around poor Kermit losing his holiday spirit, and more frighteningly wishing he’d never been born.
Now how can such a usually ‘up’ little amphibian become so completely despondent? Well, the real owner of the Muppet Theater - not Scooter’s uncle, rather a banker known for his leniency in letting our little fuzzy-felt buddies keep their dream alive - has shuffled off the old mortal coil, leaving his daughter, Rachel Bitterman (Joan Cusack), in charge of the whole family banking shebang. Now she’s hardly a chip off the old block, ‘cos she’s all nasty and such – the bad guy for the pic as it were – with big plans for gutting the place in order to create a big, fat, doofy nightclub. Basically our Muppet buddies need to front up with megabucks by midnight on Chrissie Eve, or it’s Skidsville for the lot of them. They manage to put on one hell of a show, and rustle up the money, but when Fozzie has a run in with Father Christmas and a slight case of muddled-up bags goes down, all seems lost – especially as Ms. Bitterman has sneakily brought forward the zero hour to 6pm.
But just when all seems more hopeless than a fish juggler(sorry Lew), somebody ‘up there’ cottons on to what’s going down – an accountant named Daniel (David Arquette). Doing his darnedest to help Kermit, but facing a wall of bureaucracy, he does the unthinkable and goes straight to the top, one godlike being who bears an uncanny resemblance to Whoopi Goldberg. He’s then sent to earth, and if you haven’t seen It’s a Wonderful Life then you should go out and get it - now.
Midori will do that to you...
While at times evoking the wondrous renegade sprit of The Muppet Show, sadly IaVMMCM more often involves itself in far too much scavenging of the pop culture reference pile, many fleeting examples of which will mean nothing to most in but a few years, rendering this very much of its time - a big no-no for seasonal fare. As such the likes of Moulin Rouge, The Crocodile Hunter, Scrubs, The Grinch, Cirque de Soleil, Fear Factor, Riverdance, Ricky Martin and that stupid puppet dog that poops on everything within a million mile radius are all plundered for the odd attempt at a cheap laugh, along with somewhat more timeless creations such as Star Wars, Batman and even the original The Muppet Movie. It leaves IaVMMCM tainted with the brush of mediocrity, and ultimately while it has its moments of both very happy and incredibly sad, it just doesn’t quite gel as a classic Muppet tale.
Well, what’s on offer visually is hardly Muppetational, but it’s still pretty damned good. Considering the feature’s recent vintage and television pedigree this isn’t of any great surprise, however the presence of an anamorphically enhanced, 1.78:1 image kind of is, especially considering the U.S. release was one of those nasty full frame jobbies.
It's not easy being green...
While imperfections such as speckles, blobs and all that other crud that seems to find its way onto films is completely absent, and there’s little in the way of aliasing or shimmer to get us all antsy, overall the image just isn’t quite as sharp as you’d reasonably expect. Still, colour is magical, with every shade of Muppet in the rainbow coming up a visual treat. The televisual roots of this presentation are glaringly obvious in the regular fades to black at not always completely appropriate, but neatly measured, intervals; the only saving grace of this is that the layer change has been placed in one so it skates by essentially undetected.
Lager, lager, lager!
A full-on Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is the order of the day here, despite the fact that it wasn’t originally made as such – and it shows. Surround usage is essentially but a combination of two words irrelevant to what’s on offer here, as to all intents and purposes the rears remain as quiet as the quietest of quiety things. At least the subwoofwoof gets the odd chance to send a shout out to its cousin Rowlf, just don’t expect too much. Otherwise, the sound does all it is required to in delivering the dialogue, music and effects audibly and without any bad stuff, while the synch department calls up the usual Muppet caveat. We hate to burst any bubbles of ignorance or anything, but they’re actually puppets with hands (for the most part) pretending to utter the words, so duh, it isn’t always spot on. Deal.
Oh, the score from Mark Watters is fairly inconsequential, so we won’t mention it.
Just static and silent menus? Oh for heaven’s sake, get with the Noughties! Still, at least they’re 16:9 enhanced.
Little hides inside the special features section; save for a 2:04 full frame trailer which is reasonably fun, and a collection of deleted scenes which stretches out for a good yawn at 8:47. In fact ‘yawn’ is a fairly appropriate word, for this collection, topped by a brief bit of Pepe the King Prawn interviewing director Kirk R. Thatcher, features no cuts which make any significant difference to the final presentation.
Looks like Beaker's done an Anthony Michael Hall...
Sure we miss out on a couple of inconsequential extras the Yanks were given, however the widescreen presentation should more than make up for that indiscretion in the eyes of most comers. Anybody desperate for a Muppetised yuletide fix should find enough to like here – the sight of Beaker on steroids is a true rolling-about-the-floor-like-a-ninny-in-a-bouncy-castle moment for one - just don’t expect something invoking that unique spirit of the Jim Henson-era though, for you may be left wanting, mostly due to the desperately derivative nature of IaVMMCM.
Jack & Sarah "Proving that simplicity is no obstruction to brilliance, this is an ultimately sweet (but not sickeningly so) tale that gives all those bigger English films out there a more than respectable run for their money... "