SATURDAY

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is really the gift that keeps on giving. Each year, the novella is adapted on stages all across the world, often with bold new presentations or interpretations. And every desperate sitcom—which is to say every show in its third season—has shamelessly filched the plot for a holiday special. So it’s not surprising that the Muppets donned their gay apparel for a romp in the snows of Xmases past, present, and future. What is surprising is that it took them until 1992 to join the fray. In true Muppet style, cleverness abounds: Fozzie Bear becomes Fozziwig; Marley’s ghost doubles into Statler and Waldorf; Kermit Cratchit shivers convincingly. (Not to be a Grinch, but The Muppet Christmas Carol was the first Muppet feature made after the untimely death of creator Jim Henson, which means he’s not the voice of Kermit—a situation that some still find hard to digest.) Oscar the Grouch, a logical choice for Scrooge, might have strolled over from Sesame Street, but someone decided it was necessary to cast at least one human, so Michael Caine was imported. Naturally, this Carol is also a musical, with songs by the very Muppetlike Paul Williams. These combined factors moved the folks at TV Guide to rate the film one of the 10 best Christmas movies (No. 10, in fact). But for my money, the best version of the story was made three decades prior. The 1962 animated TV special Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol even has better songs—by Jule Styne, no less. The lesser film screens at 10 a.m. at the Publick Playhouse, 5445 Landover Road, Cheverly. $5. (301) 277-1710. (Dave Nuttycombe)