Monday, 24 December 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1992: Michael Caine in The Muppet Christmas Carol

Michael Caine did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Ebenezer Scrooge in The Muppet Christmas Carol.

The Muppet Christmas Carol is an enjoyable adaptation of the story because although it inserts Muppet style humor it never forgets to give proper respect to the source material.

I break my currently scheduled year to cover something fitting of the day as well explain why Caine is in my top five for the year of 1992 in leading actor. Muppet movies really are not known for their seriousness and a lot of the human actors sometimes wink to the screen a little more than they should. Caine is the true lead of the film, and the Muppets only ever support him. Where usually the humans in these films have at least a certain degree of self awareness that they are surrounded by Muppets Caine plays it deadly serious as if he was portraying the part for the most prestigious adaptation of A Christmas Carol ever made.

Scrooge is a great part for actors, and there is at least one other actor who will find themselves nominated for playing the part in an alternate line up, as he undergoes a transition from greedy miser to a truly generous man. In portraying the cold side of the part many actors botch it like Reginald Owen in the 1938 version who makes it seem like Scrooge has more of an anger management problem more than anything else. Caine though takes the right approach with the part having a great bitterness and chill that perfectly fits his icy surroundings. He makes Scrooge as he walks through the ice and snow seem a perfect fit for it with his heartless expression as he turns to mockers.

Something notable about Caine's performance early in the film as the cold mean Scrooge is how direct he is in the part. He makes the brutality of Scrooge's spirit something just naturally in his blood that requires no effort on his own part. Caine is proper in that he creates it as much more of the history of the man in display and his lack of empathy for anyone is simply part of him. A side note that is quite interesting though is Caine is even humorous in the role without ever breaking the spirit of the role. For example when he throws out a man (well a Muppet) pleading for help, Caine is actually quite hilarious here becuase how humorlessly he does it, by playing the part as if he was not in a Muppet movie he is actually does far more for the film.

A great deal of what goes into playing Scrooge after the initial scenes of bitterness is his reactions to what is shown by the ghosts who appear to make him change his ways. Caine gets less help than many Scrooges as the film is shorter than many, and with a lot less complexity than many other versions as well. Young Scrooge for example just seems to be a jerk already, and there is not change, but this is not a flaw in regards to Caine's performance. Caine is terrific in portraying first the fear in apprehension of seeing the ghosts believably, even though they are Muppets. As Scrooge sees his past simplified, Caine does not simply the emotions internalizing well the feelings of sadness and nostalgia in his eyes beautifully. 

Caine even overcomes the flaws of the film with his honest performance that rejects any notions of falseness. Even with a overwrought musical number about the love lost in Scrooge's life that really does fail to achieve what it is seeking is saved by Caine in his simple moments as he tells the ghost to leave him be, and Caine is quite heartbreaking fully realizing the loss in his expression of grief in a far more able fashion than the whole song tried so hard to do. Caine is moving and effective in portraying the change in Scrooge over being shown his past. He carefully continues to show some stubbornness to the right degree, but eases properly on it to indicate the change is coming in Scrooge.

During the Ghost of Christmas Present scene there is a considerably better musical number about the joys of Christmas and Caine is terrific in the way he is able to portray the growing joy in Scrooge over just 2 minute scene as he moves from reluctance to happiness during the song. Equally effective though is Caine is in the last Ghost that shows a melancholy future. Despite the film talking about the death of a Muppet, and later having Scrooge having to plead for his life in from of giant Muppet Caine never fails to bring the proper weight to the scenes. His impassioned performance absolutely ignores his surroundings and brings out the power of the material wonderfully well.

The final scenes of the final that show Scrooge as a changed man are pretty much handled in a single song sung by Caine. Caine is not a master of song by any measure but he carries the song but more importantly he is able portray through the song the love of life Scrooge now has. It is a great moment in because Caine infuses so much genuine charm and joy into the song that properly establishes Scrooge as a man who has finally found happiness. This is in many ways a rushed depiction of the character, and a lesser actor would most likely have been self aware to the version of Scrooge they are in. Caine ignores any notion that this depiction of the story shall be taken less seriously and gives a moving as well as convincing performance as Ebenezer Scrooge.


RatedRStar said...

haha I really adore this version, I also love the Alastair Sim version a little bit more but still Caine is great, I'm also happy that you liked Tony Leung Chiu Wai in HardBoiled (He is Hong Kongs biggest star) lol.

dinasztie said...

I've never heard of this version. :))) But it must be great. I hope your X-mas was great. :)

RatedRStar said...

you should see a Muppet movie, even if u have a heart like stone, a Muppet movie will always melt a persons heart =D.

RatedRStar said...

ive just watched The Ox Bow Incident, quite sad =(

houndtang said...

I trust the incomparable Sim will be the other actor nominated for playing Scrooge? :o) Caine was actually not bad though

Louis Morgan said...

RatedRStar: I would agree that is the best version of the story.

Also the Ox Bow Incident is indeed very sad.

dinasztie: I did, thank you.

houndtang: Well I completely agree about Sim, and intend to review him for 51.

RatedRStar said...

I will definately put a vote for both Dana Andrews and Anthony Quinn (he looks so youthful =D) who I cryed for =(.

While the other scrooges that I would put my vote for would be Alastair Sim and Albert Finney who wasnt as good as Sim but for his age I thought he was quite skillful playing a much older version of himself.