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A sheer delight but a disappointing DVD
on 15 December 2006
The Muppet Christmas Carol may well be the greatest film ever made. It's certainly far and away the best screen adaptation of Dickens perennial even if Michael Caine's Scrooge is more game than great (George C. Scott is probably the definitive personification of Dickens' Scrooge while Alastair Sim is the most beloved, but that's another story in a much lesser movie). Aside from the real visual imagination on display (almost every scene is filled with great throwaway details you may not spot until a second, third or fourth viewing), from the wonderfully stylised production design and warm photography to Jerry Juhl's genuinely witty script, it's also the only version I've seen that passes the Tiny Tim test: usually the part is played by such obnoxiously saccharine little tykes that you can't wait for that empty place by the fireside, but in this case you really do care for once. Pure greatness in every frame.
Unfortunately, the care shown with the feature has not been mirrored with the DVD, which has never had a satisfactory release anywhere to date. The UK PAL editions are missing a key musical number, 'When Love is Gone' (which features on the NTSC disc, but only on the fullframe version), which is particularly unfortunate since its absence leaves a gaping hole in the Christmas Past section of the movie. And it's still missing on Disney's impending US Blu-ray release on the grounds that it was cut from the US theatrical version, and it's that shorter cut they're sticking with. But the Blu-ray does have one of the most enjoyable extras I've ever seen hidden away in the Disney intermission feature, where a group of wonderfully choreographed chickens sing Joy to the World.