Monday, November 30, 2009

Bah Humblog: Stave the Third - George C. Scott.


(Scott gets one hour of playtime per day. It's in his contract.)

THE GOOD - There’s a lot of little details here and there thrown in from the original novella. Nothing earth-shattering, just some little moments that don’t usually make it into adaptations that give the movie a more fleshed-out feeling. A good example would be Fred offering Peter Cratchit a job, and Scrooge thinking the offer was only made to spite him. Actually, it’s nice to see someone do anything with any of the other Cratchit kids. There’s also some lines and details that weren’t in the old story that similarly expand and improve the story. I’d cite specific examples, but I forgot to write any. Another thing I like about this version is that the ghosts are kind of assholes. Past laughs at Scrooge when he gets upset, and Present directly admonishes him. More detail on those later, but I like that they have more in-depth personalities.

("Spirit, whose grave is... Wait... I.P. Freely?")

THE BAD - Having little details in the movie, and fleshing out scenes and characters is one thing, but there’s some scenes that were just added in entirely that tend to be unnecessary and terrible. Showing the Cratchit family’s reaction to receiving the prize turkey seems like a good idea, but once the writers get out of the framework of Dickens, they have no idea what to do, and the scene is just awkward.

("It costs how much to take off the feathers? Blimey, this charity business is trickier than I thought.")

THE OTHERWISE WORTHY OF MENTION - Some of the little details I mentioned are really… inexplicable. For example, the back of Scrooge’s fireplace has “The Last Supper“ painted on it. I certainly hope they weren’t implying some sort of symbolism there. Also, this first place Present takes Scrooge is a marketplace. I guess the idea was to show that commerce can be friendly and positive, but did we need to start with the lingering closeup of dead fish? Then show those fish being cleaned? Then move on to closeups of a guy butchering a pig? Weird stuff.

("And I'll tell you where you can shove your Oscar, too.")

SCROOGE - A odd tactic is taken here by making Scrooge the only one who has any fun. When Cratchit goes to put another piece of coal on the fire, Scrooge doesn’t just ream him out, he gives him an impromptu lecture on the function of clothes. “Once purchased, they can be used indefinitely for their intended purpose.” This adds an excellent dimension to him, as statements like “Boiled in his own pudding,” and “decrease the surplus population” are delivered with a laugh that makes it clear that in the mind of Scrooge, these are hilarious jokes. And the fact that no one else is laughing just means something is wrong with them. In the mind of Scott’s Scrooge, he is so right and everyone else is so stupid, it’s hilarious. Fantastic way to play Scrooge. Scrooge’s extremely generic profession is gone into more detail here. Rather than a banker or a lender, he appears to be a corn merchant, going to the Exchange to sell to the middlemen. I have to say, this lessens his impact a bit. Threatening to foreclose on a widow is what we want to see in our evil misers, not threatening to jack up grain prices for wholesalers. I also want to mention that this is the first Scrooge we’ve seen fully clothed, wearing a smoking jacket over his shirt, pants, and vest, rather than the traditional nightshirt. Apparently, Scott didn‘t want to film in England in the dead of winter with no pants on. Good for him. It’s a nice look, anyway. My final note for Scrooge reads “Not paying attention. Opens the door.” I forget what I meant when I wrote that.

(An added scene in which Marley walks in on Scrooge changing into his pajamas.)

MARLEY - I think it’s great that in most productions of the story, Marley is kind of vague and mopey and Scrooge acts terrified, but when we actually get a scary-as-hell Marley, he has to go up against George C. Scott. He gets the best of him, though, and well he should. His chains and safes seem to honestly be weighing him down, and he lurches forward with wide, unblinking eyes, his jaw flapping slack when freed from his bandage, screaming with a throaty roar that seems to come from the VERY BOWELS OF HELL ITSELF. I like him, is my point. And no special effects to speak of, too.

(This is Major Ghost of Christmas Past to ground control...)

PAST - Played by some weird androgynous clone of young Judi Dench and David Bowie. Rather than the sweeping flight across time we saw in the past two versions, she… he… it shows Scrooge visions as reflections in her shiny cap. At first all we saw was what they were seeing, with voice over from them watching it, and I was terrified that that would be all it was, with Scrooge narrating over his wonder years like so much Daniel Stern. Thankfully, they soon plant their feet in the past, and go around watching everything like usual. Scott takes a different approach in the past scenes, needless to say. I always hated how regretful and contrite and nostalgic Scrooge seems to get right away in the past, and here, his nostalgia is the same as everything else to him. He’s right, and everyone else is wrong. I never much liked the scene where Lil’ Ebby is reading inside, and the ghost tries to make him look all lonely and wretched, whilst Scrooge dithers nostalgically over all his old books. In this version, Scrooge just says “Screw you, ghosty, my books are awesome.“ Nice. It’s this kind of no-nonsense attitude that leads to the first-in-this-blog appearance of one of my favorite book bits, the murder of Past with its own hat. In this Scrooge crams the hat viciously on its head and all the background instantly vanishes as it screams, “THE PAST LIVES” or some such. Scrooge? Him balls nasty.

("No, that's just what my legs look like. Thanks for bringing it up, asshole.")

PRESENT - For our first full-blown live-action Present, I’m glad they were able to get a real tall guy. He seems at first to be a bit skinny and short-bearded to qualify, but the height helps. And frankly, it all goes a long way to making him look less like Santa. He basically sort of wanders casually through Christmas, enjoying himself, wearing a big ol‘ curtain. Casual, not hugely jovial and all up in Scrooge‘s grill. Rather than simply reminding Scrooge that no one can hear him, we get this delightful admonition: “Don’t talk to them. It’s pointless… and rather tactless.” He does, however, get REALLY pissed at Scrooge, and flat out says that he would murder Scrooge a million times over to save one person like Tiny Tim. See, Past? If you talked that sort of game, you wouldn’t be jammed into your own hat right now.

(I almost typed 'It only hurts when I do this', but then I remembered I used that joke in the Muppet one. I need better writers.)

FUTURE - I’m actually really impressed with the amount of variety directors can get out of a weirdly tall guy in a black robe with no face who never talks. This one, for example, moves a lot, communicating not with a nod, but a full-body droop. His pointing is similarly more elaborate gestures, and he flickers about instead of staying in one place. He tends to be revealed in flashes of lightning, rarely staying in one place for long. His future realm is also wonderfully atmospheric, with stark lighting, deep shadows, and random whispering in the background. There’s also a great moment in the scene where Scrooge sees his things being sold to the bone man. Rather than play him like he’s in denial or legitimately thinks he‘s looking at some random guy‘s death, Scrooge knows damn well he’s dead, he just doesn’t want to see it. This is confirmed when his maid hands Pawny MacFacescab Scrooge’s distinctively-chiming pocket watch. Chilling. If you like your futures bleak and creepy, this is the one for you. Oh, and at the end, instead of being taken to the graveyard after demanding that the spirit show him where he is, he gets taken there after screaming “That‘s enough! Take me home!”. Creeeeeepyyyy.

(Pure badass.)

CRATCHIT - Played by David Warner. I can’t tell you how much I love David Warner. I want to be him. For the unaware, he was the MCP in Tron, Ra’s al Ghul on Batman the Animated Series, Professor Perry in Ninja Turtles 2, Dr. Downey in Hogfather, Gul Madred on the Star Trek episode where Picard gets tortured, and Chancellor Gorkon in Star Trek 6. DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW AWESOME THIS MAN IS?

(Significantly less badass.)

You may have noticed something about… well, every role up there except Gorkon. As Warner’s Wikipedia article begins, the man “is known for playing sinister or villainous characters.” So how does he do as clinically nice guy Cratchit? Ehh. He’s fine, but there’s nothing really unique going on here, and his bearing is still a bit too powerful. I’d rather see him play Marley or Scrooge, or something similar he can really ham it up in. When you have the gift of hamming without looking stupid, I say use it!

(If Mr. Smlown was a human, he'd look like this.)

TINY TIM - Aah! Sorry. I just looked at a hideous beast. I thought Tiny Tim was going to show up, but I guess AAH! There it is again! Seriously, we’re supposed to feel sorry for the merry little cripple, and that’s really hard when he’s a hideous beast. The actor has grown into a film executive, with a hand in producing some recent major hits, such as Twilight and Tropic Thunder. I am in favor of this, as it keeps him behind the camera. Still, the kid is a decent actor, and I can’t blame him for what the makeup artists did when told to make him look sickly. Character-wise, he’s not just optimistic and loving, but downright chipper in the face of horrible disease, which is an interesting way to play it. Dickens wrote Tim as a suffering saint who knew he was terribly ill and likely to die soon. This kid seems like nobody wanted to tell him. He does, of course, say “God bwess us, evewy one,” but I much prefer his earlier line “Huwwah for Chwistmas!”

(“Then I shall keep my good humor…” If you say so, man.)

FRED - Fred is played by Roger Rees, who we’ve recently seen as the Sheriff in Robin Hood: Men In Tights, making him the first crossover performer between my two long-form blogs. Good for him. What with being classy and talented, he pulls double-duty as the films narrator, but there’s not much narration there. Frankly, I can’t stand movies that just start and end with narration. Narrators are annoying anyway, and if they aren’t going to be sticking around, just give us some damn supertitles. Anyway, Fred! He kind of sucks.

("Get a haircut, hippie.")

The whole point of Fred, it seems to me, is that his relentlessly cheerful Christmas spirit contrasts with his uncle’s cold dismissal of the whole concept. In this movie, I suppose since they made Scrooge a cheerier person, Fred is grim. Rather than an invitation to Christmas dinner, it seems like he’s running an intervention. In addition to his weird direction, Rees has a weird face, well suited to villains, or at least mustaches. His pinched expression of discomfort combined with his weird Ronald McDonald bouffant hairdo make this Fred fail on about every level. The scene where Scrooge spies on his party has one great moment, where everyone says “Bah, humbug” in unison, and one reeeeeealllly long section where Scrooge watches them play party games that wind up mocking him. The word game is one thing, but there’s no need to labor it with charades, musical chairs, and Apples to Apples.

(Winner of the 1837 Christmas Sideburns contest.)

CHARITY CASE - Holy crap, it’s Alfred! Oh, wait, it’s Mr… Poole? And his friend is Mr. Harking. They have names! Good for them.. Anyway, the now-named charity saps in this version are slightly more polite, approaching Scrooge not in his office while he’s working, but in a major public location when everyone’s closed up. This makes them less obnoxious, but also Scrooge’s dismissal more warranted. Well, I guess when you blow off charity panhandlers in Times Square, you’re supposed to do it by just walking by, not by stopping to tell them how much they suck and how you hope everyone they’re trying to help winds up in prison. Yeah, Scrooge is still a jerk.

("Yes my dear! What a delightful dirty limerick!")

FEZZIWIG - The F-wig is described in the book as being a serious tough boss, who still knew the value of fun, and Scrooge learned all the wrong lessons from him. In this movie, we see a very little bit of him at work before the party, and he is a muttering, giggling, funny little hobbit of a man. I like this implication, as well, that Scrooge really started off on the right path with the right mentor, and he strayed on his own. He also directly plays matchmaker with Scrooge and…

("I cannot marry you Ebenezer. You just... You fart so damn much.")

BELLE - Now, unless I miss my guess, the implication is made that she is Miss Belle Fezziwig, daughter of the old boss. It adds a nice extra dimension to what I am increasingly beginning to think is a role that amounts to nothing more than a broken heart, a sharp tongue, and a silly hat. One of the oddest parts of the movie is when she leaves Scrooge, and the soundtrack, which had been very understated though most of the film, suddenly bursts forth in a cacophony of strings and horns. When Belle ends it, she hires an orchestra to let you KNOW it. They actually go on to show the rarely-adapted scene where Scrooge sees Belle, her husband, and their six children, happy and loving at Christmas, the parents reminiscing vaguely about poor old Ebenezer. This, of course, is motivation to provoke the aforementioned grisly spectrecide. Oh, Belle, you still got it.

("Scrooge? You ever think about... You know... Stuff?")

OTHERS Not much in the way of interesting new characters here. There is a bit where a ghost hearse with a ghost driver rides past Scrooge, with Marley’s voice moaning out from inside it. I like that Scrooge is having a weird night before the door knocker. I wish they’d done more with that. Nothing else really to speak of, except that Papa Scrooge seems to have a glass eye or something. That’s about it.

(Oh, it's related. Don't you worry.)


Are you ready for the awe-inspiring fury of the finest lyrics ever committed to the human throat? PREPARE YOURSELF!

We wish you the merriest, the merriest, the merriest, the merriest to you
We wish you the merriest, the merriest, the merriest, yes the merriest,
We wish you the merriest, the merriest, the merriest Yule cheer,


We wish you the happiest, the happiest, the happiest, yes the happiest,
We wish you the happiest, the happiest, the happiest new year.


May your tree be filled with happiness, happiness and friendliness for all
May your heart be filled with cheerfulness,
With happiness and cheerfulness and friendliness for all.


We wish you the happiest, the happiest, the happiest, yes the happiest,
We wish you the merriest, the merriest, the merriest Yule cheer,
And the happiest new year.
The happiest and the friendliest, and the merriest, the cheerfullest,
And the happiest new year.

So, yeah. The most remarkable thing about “We Wish you the Merriest” is that it took three massively famous people to make it. The music and chorus were conducted by radio/TV personality/bandleader/singer Fred Waring. Not really known today, Waring was a huge star back in his time. He actually was the financial backer and namesake of the first ever electric blender, the Waring Blendor. This brings up two important points. First, Fred Waring was the original George Foreman; and second, Blendor would be a kickass He-Man villain. Waring was best known, however, for his TV program, where a bunch of guys would sing songs. Yeah, it took a lot less to impress back in those days. As long as you were on the Tv, you could do pretty much anything, and people would be rapt. I’ve never seen the show, but I’ve heard the singers, and these guys are so white they make “Sing Along With Mitch” look like “Soul Train”.

The other two singers highlighting the track have been slightly better remembered by history. That is because they are Frank Fucking Sinatra and Bing Bloody Crosby. Now, my shock at their appearance in this horrifyingly bad song is entirely based on their legendary fame, not their talent. Frankly, I think both of them are boring and unpleasant to listen to, with smirks and smarm dripping from every word, Crosby far more so than Sinatra. Frankie could put out the occasional song that’s bearable, but frankly, he had a style he would not deviate from. Crosby had the same thing, and since his style was “Smug, immovable-faced douche”, I have less to make me like him. Besides, Sinatra was in The Manchurian Candidate and Crosby beat his kids. So after the extra credit points are tallied, the divide is even more pronounced.

“But Brian,” you say, “Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby are amazingly talented national treasures!” Well, first of all, thanks for reading my blog, college roommate Sean Murphy. And may I point out that the main subject of this little note is “We Wish You the Merriest”. And have you seen those lyrics? I had to harp on the creative team. There’s nothing I could say about the song itself, because it is so self-evidently shitty I can honestly not think of any way to mock it other than just writing the words down. It’s the blog-snarker’s nightmare. It’s so clearly bad it resists all attempts at mockery. When I heard it on Christmas Radio, I just sat in the car, dumbfounded that such a product could exist. And the people singing it! Despite their droning and unpleasant voices, they had made their entire careers out of being groovy, swinging hep cats, and they were just intoning the same words over and over with no thought to rhythm or style… Cheerfullest isn’t even a word! So I give you “We Wish You the Merriest”. A song that begets no scorn, no derision… Just bafflement and wonder.

COMING UP NEXT: A Hallmark movie, you say? Starring a bunch of sitcom and cop show stars that NBC happened to have lying around, you say? A musical, you say? Ah, how could I refuse. Tune in shortly to witness Stave the Fourth - Kelsey Grammer!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bah Humblog: Stave the Second - The Muppet Christmas Carol


(Good Movie Poster)

THE GOOD - The original puppets look good, the classic puppets look good, and what puppeteers as remain alive do a marvelous job. Also, they have Gonzo following everyone around, acting as a narrator, which is a good idea for two reasons. One, it gives them some funny visual bits in the draggy parts; and two, it gives them an easy excuse to use Dickens’ narration as he wrote it, instead of awkwardly working it into dialogue like so many other productions.

(Horrifying DVD Cover. I love how Michael Caine is just sort of hovering in the back.)

THE BAD - Jim Henson and Richard Hunt died before this movie went into production. You may think it unfair to put this in ‘The Bad’, since it’s not really the movie’s fault, but if you don’t like the way I run things, you can write your own blog. You could probably update more often, too, you lazy bastard. Anyway, I have to put the blame on these deaths for the fact that the movie never really comes together. They had Jerry Juhl writing, Paul Williams songwriting, Brian Henson directing… that should be Muppet gold. But instead, it’s more like a collection of concepts. It works, it doesn’t, it never really comes together as a whole work. Oh, and the “Streets of London” set is pretty tiny. They’re obviously stretching to make it look expansive at some points, when it’s obvious they’re just walking like 30 feet.

("Hey, Bean!" "Yeah?")

THE OTHERWISE WORTHY OF MENTION - Quite surprisingly, this is not a comedic parody of A Christmas Carol, or even a funny version of the story, like Mickey’s. This is a straight-up honest adaptation that happens to feature funny puppets in some supporting roles. And while I can’t fault them for… Oh, wait, yes I can. FAULT The Muppets take supporting roles in their own movie. FAULT There are long stretches where nothing funny or interesting happens on account of there’s no Muppets around. FAULT FAULT FAULT. Anyhow, it’s still a good movie, and a good version of the story, but apparently the original intent was to have Scooter, Piggy, and Gonzo be the ghosts, and it would be much more of a comedy. Wow, Muppets and jokes. We wouldn’t want that in our Muppet movie.


SCROOGE - Played by Michael Caine. I like Michael Caine. I like Michael Caine’s voice. I like it when he putts an upper-class edge on it, as here. It sort of makes you feel like Scrooge was a dirty London boy who made good. It sort of makes you wish the actors playing young Scrooge had got the memo. I mean, everyone knows what Michael Caine sounds like, you’d think they’d try it. (Oh, and I like when he does an American accent, because it’s HILARIOUS.) Anyway, Caine plays an effective, if low-key Scrooge. Whereas McDuck’s was sort of avuncularly evil, with a clear sense of humor, Caine’s comes off as a very bitter sort of mean, and his scraggly haircut and overbite make him the second ugliest Scrooge I’ve ever seen, after Alistair Sim. Frankly, I’m less than impressed.

("We left the key in one of these...")

MARLEY - Marleys, actually. If you need Muppets to play elderly men who delight in cruelty, you’re obviously going for Statler and Waldorf. And so Jacob Marley gets a brother, Robert. (Get it? GET IT?) They sing a good song, put in some of their trademark zingers. It’s a good time for all. The one thing that bugs me is that when they do the face in the door knocker bit, only Statler is there. You’d think they could have put Waldorf’s face on the doorknob or something. They float in the air, which kind of makes the chains seem like not such a big deal, but the chains multiply and lengthen during their extremely groovy song, and that’s such a neat touch I’ll let it slide. Also to note: Statler and Waldorf were originally played by Richard Hunt and Jim Henson. Now their characters are ghosts. SPOOOOOOOKY. Of course, Kermit and Beaker turned out fine, so they’re 50/50.


PAST - I’ve never seen The Dark Crystal. This is partly because the opportunity has never really presented itself*, and partly because the Gelflings really freak me out. And so does the Gelfy Ghost of Christmas Past. It just sort of floats around amorphously, twitching its horrid mouth and scaring the fuck out of me. It looks like a fetus.

*This is a lie. My girlfriend did suggest we watch it once, but I decided I’d rather see Labyrinth again. If I’m going to watch something Henson/Froudy, I’d rather it have David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly, and David Bowie’s huge unit in it. And I’m not fixating on it, but seriously, that bulge deserves third billing. It practically had backstory and motivations. It probably has fan fiction about it. Probably? Who am I kidding? Hey, this footnote is longer than the main bit!

(You ever notice how no one ever bumps into them?)

PRESENT - Present is my favorite, and a huge part of that is that while still modeled after the Dickens description, he looks Muppety and is voiced by Jerry Nelson, one of the classic Muppeteers. He gets a musical montage. Christmas present is made for a musical montage. There are five musical adaptations I am aware of, and I’ll bet there’s a musical montage in the Present scene of at least four of them. Ignorance and Want (Who, by the way, are the second freakiest things Dickens ever wrote up, after Miss Havisham.) do not appear, which is too bad, since they could have been great in spooky Muppety form. Or they could have been Lew Zealand and the Swedish Chef, which would be even better.

("It only hurts when I do this.")

FUTURE - To everyone’s surprise, it’s a tall guy with a big black hooded robe. WOW. It’s a cool one, though. The robe looks more like a shroud, and his neck and arms are crazy long, and his legs are tiny. If he has legs. He sort of glides. Actually, he looks like a really skinny 14-foot-tall guy who’s had his legs amputated and now moves about by means of personal hovercraft, hiding his shame in a big cloak. And since they never say he’s not, I plan on assuming he is. It alleviates the bleakness of a ten-minute stretch of film without any jokes.

(Kermit is the most well-dressed Cratchit ever. I guess being naked since 1955 helped him save up.)

CRATCHIT - Continuing our tradition of the nice guy corporate icon playing Bob, here we have Kermit the Frog. He does well, but Cratchit relies too much on nice-guy Kermit. The reason I love Mr. The Frog is because of his short temper and razor wit. In the old Muppet Show episodes, he can be downright mean to Piggy, Fozzie, and Gonzo, not that they notice. By the time the movies started, he had calmed down a lot, but still cracked jokes at a rapid pace and could get all fired up when the need arose. Since about the third movie, and especially since Jim died, he’s been more and more mellow and more and more the straight man. And playing a role like Bob Cratchit makes him all meek and submissive. Kermit ain’t no wimp! Kermit’s the boss! Emily Cratchit is played by Miss Piggy, which fits because Dickens wrote Mrs. C. as kind of a crabby firecracker, and because she‘s the only major female Muppet, and as such, is required to be Kermit‘s love interest in every movie. They have four kids, of which the boys are frogs and the girls are pigs. That is not how biology works! I would have liked to have seen some baby figs, along the line of Kermit and Fozzie’s dad from the Great Muppet Caper. But then we wouldn’t have…

(When they say Tiny in this movie, they mean it.)

TINY TIM - Played by Kermit’s nephew, Robin. I’m actually not as bothered by Kermit having a nephew as I am with the Disney guys. I think it’s because Kermit is more like a real person. We know what his job is, for instance. He’s MC and stage manager of a variety show. What does Mickey do? Who the hell knows? So it’s easy to imagine Kermit has a brother or a sister. Anyway, Robin, like Kermit, loses his edge playing a Cratchit. He was always a cute little guy, but with a sort of resentment at being the cute little guy. As Tim Cratchit, he plays the cute card to the max, and does it well. Jerry Nelson’s cute little guy voice is marvelous, and his gimpy puppeteering is excellently pathetic. What pisses me off is that Scrooge steals his classic line. At the end, he says “God bless us,” and Scrooge says “Yes! God bless us, every one!” Fuck you, Scrooge. I thought you’d learned your lesson. You wanna go back in the ghost-hole? I WILL THROW YOU RIGHT IN!

(Hey, dig it, it's the Acoustic Mayhem.)

FEZZIWIG - That’s Fozziwig, because if you can make an easy joke like that, why not? Fozzie is a natural fit for Fezziwig, because his one scene consists of him throwing a party, and he gets the opportunity to tell some stupid jokes. Mrs. Fezziwig is portrayed as Fezzy’s mother in this, because they probably hadn’t used the Fozzie’s mom puppet in 15 years or so. Oh, who am I kidding, it’s just Fozzie with a wig. Fezziwig’s profession is given in this version as rubber chicken manufacturer, which is a great place to imagine Ebenezer Scrooge getting his start, and I’d like to see that in a more serious adaptation.

(What is that, a scarf, or a curtain?)

FRED - Rather disappointingly played by a human. I was rather hoping for Scooter or something. I mean, the guy does a good job, but what with the ghosts being custom jobs, we need all the real Muppets we can get. But I guess there’s no human/Muppet crossbreeding allowed. The kid’s decent enough, in a British David Cassidy sort of clean-cut way.

("We're collecting for the mute and the possibly blind...")

CHARITY CASE - Played by Bunsen and Beaker, because there’s two of them, so hey, why not? There’s actually a wonderful moment with them at the end. After Scrooge gives them his donation, Beaker takes off his scarf and gives it to Scrooge as a gesture of gratitude. The look on Caine’s face is wonderful. This is the first Christmas gift Scrooge has received in a very long time, and it came from the heart. I love it when the wacky comedy versions of a story can do something better than the legit versions. Of course, if they’re going to do something that well, there’s tradeoff, and it comes from Bunsen leaning on Scrooge’s desk with his hand on cheek and swirling his finger on his other hand around in a manner that can only be described as flirty. It’s creepy, and wrong, and it makes me picture Michael Caine having sex with a chartreuse volleyball. Actually, it doesn't, but now you're seeing it. Ha ha.

(I started typing the same hat joke as last time, then remembered I'd already used that, and you know, I now have nothing to say about her.)

BELLE - There’s a video online called “How a Muppet Christmas Carol is meant to be watched” or something to that effect. It plays the scene with young Scrooge and Belle right up to where she starts singing, and then fast forwards past the rest. And that’s about the size of it. She absolutely grinds the film to a halt. There’s no Muppets in her big scenes. There’s not even any Michael Caine. And her song sucks. Would have been much better if she was a Muppet. I don’t know who, though. Probably Janice. Or Camilla. Now that would be hilarious. For the record, I didn’t have to watch the song. It was cut out of the theatrical version for pacing reasons, and put back in the home video release because Paul Williams’ mom really liked it. Or something, I don’t know. But my DVD gives me the option of watching the theatrical cut in widescreen, or the VHS edit in fullscreen. Since I have some taste and class, I chose widescreen and was rewarded with not having to watch this shitty song.

(When I get my teacher certification, I'm totally wearing that hat everywhere.)

OTHERS - Bean Bunny plays the young lad who tells Scrooge what day it is. In a nice bit of consolidation, they combine the part with the young caroler Scrooge refuses to give a coin to, and add pathos by showing him shivering in an alley shortly thereafter. The sight of Bean Bunny homeless and freezing is very funny in a very guilty way. Sam the Eagle cameos as Scrooge’s old teacher, and manages to be a patriotic American in 1800-ish England. The background supplies some classic Muppets, the best of which is Bobby Benson and his Baby Band as carolers. The major addition, though is Gonzo as the Narrator. Officially, he’s identified as Charles Dickens, but there’s no real reason for that. He shows up in a lot of odd jobs depending on the scene, so he’s sort of like D*ck van D*ke in Mary Poppins, except with a better English accent. Which is to say, no attempt at an English accent. He’s paired with Rizzo for the first time ever, for no real reason. Rizzo was barely more than a glorified extra before this, and I think they just needed someone for Gonzo to talk to, and wanted to get Steve Whitmire another big part. But hey, it’s worked out.

(Hey, don't blame me. That's the first Google result for the song title.)

A CHRISTMAS CAROL - Continuing our theme of sexual innapropriacy, let’s take a look at “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. This charming little ode to date rape is a duet sung by a male, trying to get a woman to stay in his sleazy bachelor pad, and said woman, frantically making excuses to leave. The male and female voices are identified in the original sheet music as “The Wolf” and “The Mouse”, which I guess would make sense if wolves ate mice. Or fucked them, I suppose. The lyrics are… well, here’s a sample…

I really can't stay - But baby it's cold outside
I've got to go away - But baby it's cold outside

Okay, so far, not too creepy, but then…

My mother will start to worry - Beautiful, what's your hurry
My father will be pacing the floor - Listen to the fireplace roar

Oh, so she still lives with her parents. Nothing odd about that, but she also has a curfew… Well, that was probably more common in 1949, and there’s no reason to believe she’s 16.

I ought to say no, no, no, sir - Mind if I move closer?
At least I'm gonna say that I tried - What's the sense in hurting my pride?

AAAAHHHHH!!! Not cool, The Wolf! That might have worked in the back seat of your dad’s Austin 7 when you were in high school, but now… Well at least she’s only admitting this is maybe a bad idea, she’s not BLATANTLY saying no…

I simply must go - But baby, it's cold outside
The answer is no - But baby, it's cold outside

Damn it.

My sister will be suspicious - Gosh, your lips look delicious
My brother will be there at the door - Waves upon a tropical shore

I’m becoming convinced at this point that the reason her whole family is there is because they’ve reported her missing and are waiting to hear from the police. And The Wolf’s lyrics are quickly becoming nonsensical.

My maiden aunt's mind is vicious

Hee hee. Old virgins are mean and gossipy! This song won an Oscar, by the way.

You've really been grand - I thrill when you touch my hand
But don't you see - How can you do this thing to me?

Oh, yeah. It’s her fault. Everything this guy says is like an example from one of those pamphlets on keeping your virginity. Oh, and just when you think he can’t get anymore manipulative…

There's bound to be talk tomorrow - Think of my life long sorrow
At least there will be plenty implied - If you caught pneumonia and died

Of course, there is a reason she’s so susceptible to his greasy advances…

The neighbors might think - Baby, it's bad out there
Say, what's in this drink? - No cabs to be had out there

Flunitrazepam. Maybe GHB.

And so, with Wolfie’s final line (“Get over it”) we end it. And in case you’re wondering if there’s any circumstance where I’ll like this song, there is. If an effeminate Scotsman sings it to an elderly alcoholic and they throw in little one liners and trade parts halfway through. And that’s why I treasure my recording by Alan Cumming and Liza Minelli.

COMING UP NEXT : We'll see George C. Scott hating Christmas, and liking yelling! Also, I understand he played Scrooge at one point.