Christmas Movie Smackdown: ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ vs. ‘The Santa Clause’

To read more of Sharp’s Christmas Movie Smackdown, click here.

There’s a fan theory floating around the Internet about James Bond. The idea was that all Bond movies, from Dr. No on down, represented one unbroken narrative, where James Bond was an identity—a sort of code name—given to various men throughout the years. When one Bond retired, a new Bond takes his place. Unfortunately for the conspiracy theorists, the last two 007 flicks basically rebuked the idea, as they illuminated more of Bond’s personal backstory. Still, it was a good idea.

But, the theory was not without precedent: it’s basically the plot of The Santa Clause. In fact, maybe the most interesting part of The Santa Clause is the absurd rules it proposes to explain the existence of St. Nick. In The Santa Clause universe, Santa is still magical, but he’s not immortal; Santa is a reward, or punishment, that goes to the person who vanquishes the previous Santa, Highlander-style. While all Christmas movies, in order to find the broadest audience, try to strike a balance between the secular and spiritual aspect of the holiday, The Santa Clause, with its morbid Santa-origin story (which is thankfully glossed over. HA, SANTA DIES!), its focus on gifts as a pre-requisite for faith, and a head elf that is clearly Jewish, resides clearly on the secular side of things. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — it’s inoffensive family fun, after all. But to be best Christmas movie ever, the balance between spiritual and secular should be more, well, balanced.

This is why A Christmas Carol in all it’s incarnations is such an enduring holiday narrative. It’s about redemption, charity, and eternal punishment and rewards, all without explicitly being too Christian. A kind of non-denominational exploration of what Christmas is about, without mention of why Christmas is a thing in the first place.

And then, you add the power of childlike wonder and fun that The Muppets represent, and you may just have one of the best Christmas movies of all time, especially since it’s hues so closely to Dickens’ original story (the last line of the film, in fact, is Gonzo encouraging kids to read the book — when was the last time you heard that from a movie?).

While it’s fun to think about the implications of a world wherein anyone could be Santa Claus, so long as they murder the previous one, A Muppet Christmas Carol, because of its source material, actually gives you something to ponder. Like how each ghost represents a different kind of motivation: the Past signifies regret, the Present is love and generosity (and a rousing musical number!), and the Future uses fear. Lasting personal change often depends on all three, whether you’re Scrooge, or just need to lose weight.

Plus, Rizzo the Rat is way funnier than Tim Allen, any day.

THE WINNER: A Muppet Christmas Carol

06B_xmas bracket