Directed by Kirk R. Thatcher (Feature Directorial Debut)
November 29, 2002
Produced by NBC Studios and The Jim Henson Company
A greedy developer tries to cheat Kermit and the gang out of the Muppet Theatre causing our favorite frog to lose all hope until an angel intervenes to show him the impact he has had on everyone. That plot sounds kinda familiar.
It’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie is not too bad of a movie as TV movies go. Basically it’s the Muppet version of It’s A Wonderful Life. But the film also engages in the usual Muppet style of corny jokes and random cameos and thus manages to actually be entertaining and quite funny unlike other Christmas specials. An entertaining Christmas film is a lost art these days and was even a difficult accomplishment in the best of times. Too often they go through the motions of either trying to be sappy or shoving it in your face that what you are watching is indeed connected to Christmas and miss the humor though they claim to be comedies. This manages to be funny and Christmas-y.
As is common with previous Muppet films, we have a series of celebrities in various roles ranging from central characters to glorified cameos. The cast of the series Scrubs make an appearance in a scene with Miss Piggy (performed by Eric Jacobson). Carson Daly, who had a very late-night series on NBC at the time, shows up interviewing Kermit (performed by Steve Whitmire). Kelly Ripa, Joe Rogan, and Molly Shannon all appear as themselves. In something I thought was particularly funny Robert Smigel performs as Triumph the Insult Comic Dog and utters the trademark “…for me to poop on!”
In central roles we have Dave Arquette as Daniel who is the angel that appears to Kermit in his time of need. Joan Cusack is Rachel Bitterman who is the banker that holds the deed to the theater and is the movies main villain and that Rizzo the Rat (performed by Steve Whitmire) lusts after. Matthew Lillard briefly pops in as French choreographer Luc Fromage. Whoopi Goldberg is The Boss (think God) here. William H. Macy plays Glenn who is the angelic boss of Daniel.
Mel Brooks as the voice Joe Snow though was a personal favorite here mostly because he cameoed in the very first Muppet film. It is also interesting to note that this movie does reference that very movie in the alternate reality portion where Kermit is in the mall. Doc Hopper’s French-Fried Frog Legs restaurant chain is front and center for a few seconds while Kermit is checking things out. In The Muppet Movie the film’s villain was chasing after Kermit to be the chain’s mascot/pitchman.
Corny jokes abound in this film with everything from the Mel Brooks’ snowman getting pushed out of the way by the Muppet director to Fozzie’s (performed by Eric Jacobson) ridiculously over-the-top experience meant to parallel Uncle Billy’s trip to the bank in the film from which this draws inspiration as well as take a swipe at the live action version of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas and the Whos in it. We even get a corporate synergy joke from Kermit as well as other bits of humor in the traditional Muppet mold.
The film is almost a beat per beat remake of It’s A Wonderful Life. They took the basics of that script and slapped in Muppet characters with the usual Muppet twists. For example Whoopi Goldberg and David Arquette both take the place of the two angels in It’s A Wonderful Life that tell George Bailey’s story. We also get the alternate reality trip where out hero sees just how impactful he has been to everyone.
The jokes come steady and evenly throughout the movie. Some will make you smile, and others will make you out right laugh but they are all genuinely funny. They definitely mix sentimental and genuine comedy here which is something that comes easily in a Muppet feature. Something about them just makes it happen with little effort.
As with all Muppet films the plot is simple enough with the character’s antics padding things out. Then again, the Muppets themselves are not complicated. The story is just an evil corporation versus the Muppets. The Muppets and their stories have always been simple comfort food. You watch anything with them in it to feel good and smile. This is a bouncy and fun movie that has plenty for both children and adults and will bore neither.
Is It’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie a great film? No but it is a very entertaining film. You will laugh and you will smile. The story will make you happy and warm your heart. Watch it!