Monday, December 23, 2019

“Why, It’s Old Fezziwig!” | Michael Caine (1992)


The Muppets Ghost of Christmas Past doesn't like to travel the same way twice. She flew Scrooge from his apartment to the school, but from the school to Fezziwig's they sort of hyper jump and warp into the street. It's a cool effect, but looks a bit odd in the Victorian setting.

The sign on the warehouse says "Fozziwig and Mom, Ltd." As much as I dislike Fozzie's having such a small role in the movie, I can't fault anyone for casting him this way. It's too perfect. And I love that Scrooge identifies the building as Fozziwig's old rubber chicken factory. Because of course it is.

Fozziwig himself comes outside to enjoy the evening and the lamplighters and just Christmas Eve in general. He's not as jovial as I expect, in fact he's downright sentimental. But the effect is the same on Old Scrooge. "As hard and as ruthless as a rose petal," he chuckles, clearly fond of his former boss.

True to his name, Fozziwig is Fozzie in a wig: the white, old-fashioned kind that's become the shorthand for identifying so many versions of this character. As he goes back inside, he announces that it's time for the party to begin, and Old Scrooge gets excited. He's eager to relive this memory.

Fozziwig's announcement was actually meaningless, because the party has already begun. There's no scene of anyone setting up; all the humans and muppets are milling about with drinks and chatting together. But Fozziwig has a few words to say to open the festivities and after some problems getting everyone's attention, he does. Heckled of course by Young Statler and Waldorf as the Young Marley Brothers.

Fozziwig's speech is super short and the music starts right after. Instead of a fiddler, it's Dr Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. They're not on Fozziwig's desk of course, but they are on a raised platform. They start with a slow number until Animal gets bored and starts rocking out, bringing the rest of the band along with him.

At one point, Young Ebenezer appears, extremely well-cast. I don't know if the makeup department did some extra work on Raymond Coulthard's eyebrows, but he looks a lot like a young Michael Caine. At any rate, Ebenezer has been going over the books and has some concerns with how much the party is costing the company.

Fozziwig gently chides him about Christmas and generosity and how Ebenezer needs to enjoy himself. We've seen different Ebenezers have different reactions to the party, but this is the only one who's actually objected to it. As we saw at the school, Scrooge has replaced his empty family life with hard work and dedication to his career. He came from a miserable home where he didn't feel loved, so he gets his sense of value from succeeding at work and accumulating wealth. The Muppet Christmas Carol is especially simple and on-the-nose about this, but that's not a bad thing. I appreciate its spelling out some things for me.

Speaking of simplistic, there's also not much detail about Fozziwig's character in this version. We meet his Mom, but he doesn't appear to be married or have any children. The guests are a hodgepodge - we get to see Rowlf and the Swedish Chef - but puppets causing chaos is a Muppets staple and it doesn't seem like Fozziwig has any special, particular compassion for social outsiders as a group. He's weird, so his friends are all weird, too.

There's no Dick Wilkins in this version and the Ghost never challenges Fozziwig's generosity. The only person who does that is Young Ebenezer himself who never quite follows Fozziwig's advice about having a good time. And yet, Old Scrooge remembers the party fondly and was excited to revisit it. I don't think it's because he met Belle there, because that's also a painful memory. I don't know how many Fozziwig Christmas parties he went to, but it seems like the celebration is what he remembers fondly, even though he was complaining about it. He may have tried to resist, but deep down, these parties affected him. As simple and kind of dumb as he was, Fozziwig affected Scrooge.

As I mentioned, Ebenezer meets Belle in this scene. Later in the festivities, he accidentally bumps a beautiful girl whom Fozziwig is talking to. Fozziwig introduces Ebenezer to her as "the finest young financial mind in the city." I don't know if he's just being hyperbolic there or if Ebenezer really does have that reputation, but I can believe it based on what we've seen of Scrooge so far: his single-minded dedication as a young man and his obvious success as an old one.

Fozziwig introduces Belle as "a friend of the Fozziwig family" and there's an instant connection between her and Ebenezer. The Ghost asks Old Scrooge if he remembers the meeting.

"Yes," he says, deeply emotional about it. "I remember."

"There was of course another Christmas Eve with this young woman. Some years later."

He looks frightened. "Oh, please," he begs, turning back to look at Belle again. "Do not show me that Christmas."

But she does.

1 comment:

Caffeinated Joe said...

Nostalgic memories. Been a few years since I have watched this one. Will make a point of it this coming Christmas season. Caine is so good here.

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