Movie Review: A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa
Length: 60 minutes
Release Date: December 17, 2008
Directed By: Kirk R. Thatcher
Stars: 3 out of 5
A new generation of fans has discovered the puppets, known as The Muppets, thanks to the 2011 film of the same name, but these little creatures have delighted fans for years. From the original television series to the cartoon featuring the characters as toddlers, millions of people fell in love. Disney purchased the character rights in 2004, and the company created several films, including "A Muppets Christmas," also known as "A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa."
Originally released as a television film in 2008, the film is now a staple in many homes during the holiday season thanks to the DVD release. The film follows the adventures of beloved characters such as Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, and Kermit. It's opening day for a brand new post office, and the group decide to mail a series of letters to the North Pole, including one that belongs to Claire (Madison Pettis, "The Game Plan") who lives next door.
While dealing with the crowds of people rushing to the post office, Gonzo accidentally forgets to mail three of the letters. Instead of giving up, he decides that the Muppets should board a flight from North Pole Airlines and deliver the letters in person. They pick up other Muppets along the way and sing cheerful songs that remind viewers of the holiday season.
"A Muppets Christmas" has elements that will appeal to the young and old alike. Disney toned down some of the shocking and adult-friendly jokes found in the stories and this one is no exception. The difference is that the film goes back to the roots of the characters, creating a believable story that long-time fans and newcomers will appreciate. When Gonzo makes a joke about Camilla, fans will chuckle at his relationship with the chicken, and when Miss Piggy and Kermit hug, even new fans will have to smile.
The film also brings in newer characters like Pepe, who interacts brilliantly with old-time favorites like Sam the Eagle and Animal. Giving those characters some screen time might remind some viewers of the days they spent watching the original show as children. Though some of the characters only appear in the background or in small scenes, they add a joyful touch to the film, and some fans might keep their eyes peeled for an appearance by the Swedish Chef (Rowlf).
While the film aims its story towards children, it adds some famous faces that adults might recognize. Tony Sirico and Steve Schirippa, who both appeared on "The Sopranos" pop up as mobsters, while New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg turns up playing himself. Fans will also notice Uma Thurman ("Kill Bill Vol. 1"), Nathan Lane ("The Birdcage"), Jane Krakowski ("30 Rock"), and Jesse L. Martin ("Law & Order").
"A Muppets Christmas" represents everything that is pure and innocent about the holidays. The characters truly believe that Santa not only exists but that he delivers presents to children around the world. As they rush to the North Pole, viewers will find themselves holding their breath and hoping they make it, even though they know how the story ends. The Muppets previously celebrated the holidays with "A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie" and "The Muppet Christmas Carol," and this film is just as strong as those offerings.
The film has its humorous moments, most notably when Beaker and Honeydew pop up to show off their newest invention. The humor occasionally gets a little old, which isn't surprising given that this is a children's film. Some adults might find themselves wishing for a little more action or comedy, but the film is still entertaining enough for the whole family.
Disney did a smart thing by hiring Paul Williams to create new songs for the film. Williams worked on several songs for the Muppets in the past, including the iconic song "Rainbow Connection." While none of the songs in this film have the same heart-warming feeling as that piece, families shouldn't be surprised if they find themselves singing along with the film after a few viewings.
A good Christmas film has heart, and "A Muppets Christmas" has that in spades. Though the film rarely shows the characters interacting with poor Claire, viewers understand why the Muppets care about her, especially when they learn a little more about her backstory. Suddenly, it becomes clear why Gonzo feels so badly about his mistake and why the other characters help him on his mission. "A Muppets Christmas" combines everything that fans could want, including a relatable story, joyful songs, and iconic characters.