munchies.vice.com – There are few films that make me as hungry as The Muppet Christmas Carol. The film, released on this day 25 years ago, is a glimpse into how the other, Dickensian, anthropomorphic talking-puppet half eats. I’ve watched it sporadically through the years, feeling each time that it’s been cruelly calibrated to induce stupid, unrelenting hunger within the viewer.
The Muppet Christmas Carol has receded into that same, homogenized cultural canon of Christmas movies as Home Alone and The Santa Clause. It’s shot with the same bleary, soft-focus 35-millimeter haze that seemed characteristic of this genre in the early 90s. I suspect this is partially why it is not discussed in the same breath as, say, a Babette’s Feast or Eat Drink Man Woman, those movies held up as the pinnacles of food cinema, even though it’s every bit their equal. Those are movies where characters’ hunger spills beyond the frame and, somehow, makes us more hungry than we realize we’re even capable of.
I have my suspicions as to why The Muppet Christmas Carol isn’t considered a “food movie,” whatever that means. It’s a children’s movie, for one, with the added vanilla stench of Disney. Unfairly, it’s also been submerged beneath the countless other adaptations of Dickens’ original story. Besides, the Muppets endure as the kind of cultural icons some naive, earnest part of our culture revisits to feel comforted; all we’ve become conditioned to expect from these puppets is a sense of warmth.
This is a film that pays such diligent, delicate attention to food that the larger meaning Dickens grasped for when he first published this story in 1843 somehow becomes more persuasive. The first words uttered in the film, by a pair of hogs milling about town, are about food: “That was a fine meal. What should we do now?” one asks. “Lunch,” the other recommends. A vendor, outside the frame, shouts to the townspeople asking them to get their Christmas turkeys. The film’s narrators, a rat named Rizzo and a species of indeterminate origin named Gonzo, stand before a bed of red apples that look as vivid as rubies.
I’m going to have to revisit this movie after Big Al talked about it on the Holiday episode of the Just Grubbin podcast and now reading this article.