The Muppet Christmas Carol appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen version on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. I didn’t expect much from this transfer, so that meant the solid visuals came as a pleasant surprise.
Very rarely did I encounter any issues with sharpness. The vast majority of the flick demonstrated concise, distinctive images. A little softness crept into some wider shots, but those didn’t cause distractions. I noticed no jagged edges or shimmering, and I also didn’t discern edge enhancement. As for print flaws, I witnessed a handful of specks and marks. Those didn’t interfere often and stayed minimal.
Colors worked nicely. With a winter setting, the palette stayed subdued but still managed reasonably lively tones. The colors always looked warm and inviting. Blacks seemed deep and dense. Shadows could be slightly too heavy, but they never became truly problematic and usually were clear and visible. Overall this movie boasted a very satisfying transfer.
While I felt less impressed by the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Muppet Christmas Carol, I thought it did what it needed to do. The soundfield was a modest affair. The most active scenes came during the visit of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. We got some thunder and rain along with spooky effects, all of which blended well with the surrounds.
Otherwise the mix concentrated on the front and usually offered general ambience. The music showed good stereo imaging, and the whole package mixed together smoothly. The rear speakers mostly reinforced the forward elements and added a little dimensionality to the track.
Audio quality was perfectly acceptable. Speech always sounded concise and distinctive, as no lines suffered from edginess or other problems. Music presented good bounce and clarity. They didn’t tax the speakers but the score and songs seemed appropriately full. Effects also rarely stood out from the crowd. The smattering of louder elements offered nice heft, but usually things stayed subdued. Nonetheless, those bits were tight and accurate. This was a more than decent soundtrack for this kind of film.
While not chock full of extras, a few components flesh out Carol. One will irk widescreen fans. If you watch the fullscreen version of the film, you can see it with an extra scene. This starts at the 44-minute and 50-second point in the flick and offers a tune from Belle about her breakup with young Scrooge.
Should it have stayed in the film? I’m not sure. On one hand, it slows the story and doesn’t really tell us anything we don’t already know. On the other, it adds some heft to Scrooge’s pain and also allows some other scenes to make more sense. For instance, when Rizzo sobs after Belle splits, his pain seems more logical than during her quick “see ya!” to Scrooge in the theatrical cut.
In addition, we find an Audio Commentary with Director Brian Henson. He offers a running, screen-specific chat. He mainly focuses on technical topics as he relates all the challenges involved in filming Muppets, especially when they interact with humans. He also discusses casting, choosing what Muppets to use in various roles, songs and score, adapting the Dickens story, the added song, editing and cinematographic choices. We even find out why the Muppet personnel hate Bean Bunny. Henson goes silent too much of the time, but he offers more than enough good information to make this a worthwhile commentary.
A Gag Reel lasts two minutes, 33 seconds. Some are staged while others are legit. None of them are terribly amusing.
For more silliness, we get Pepe Profiles Presents: Gonzo – Portrait of the Artist as a Young Weirdo. This five-minute and 29-second piece is “hosted” by the strange prawn Pepe as he chats about Gonzo’s work and history. He chats with Gonzo himself and we get some comments from Muppets like Kermit, Fozzie and Miss Piggy. It’s not packed with laughs, but it has some funny moments.
Christmas Around the World goes for two minutes and 58 seconds. In this Gonzo and Rizzo chat about different holiday traditions from various locations. It lacks substance but it seems cute and entertaining.
The DVD opens with a few ads. We get promos for Lady and the Tramp, The Wild Shaggy Dog, The Muppet Show Season One and The Muppets Wizard of Oz. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area along with clips for Kronk’s New Groove, Sing Along Songs Volume 3/Disney’s Learning Adventures and JoJo’s Circus.
Given the existence of eight million other adaptations of the Dickens story, is there any reason to see A Muppet Christmas Carol? Yes – it’s a lot of fun. It also provides a rich and surprisingly true retelling of the tale, and it works awfully well. The DVD presents very good picture along with acceptable sound and a smattering of extras highlighted by a generally good audio commentary. Grab this DVD and add it to your holiday viewing list.