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Film / It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie

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Take the basic story of It's a Wonderful Life. Add The Muppets. This 2002 movie is what you get.

An angel named Daniel (David Arquette) watches Earth on Christmas Eve in horror. Kermit the Frog and his friends, through a series of mishaps, misplace their theater's December rent payment to the wicked Rachel Bitterman (Joan Cusack), who wants to tear down the theater to build a nightclub. Determined not to let the despondent Kermit give up on his dreams, Daniel appeals to his Boss (Whoopi Goldberg) to review the situation and intervene.

Daniel himself is sent to aid Kermit, who is so distraught by the events that he wishes he had never been born. As in the original film, the angel grants the wish, taking Kermit on a crazy trip through an alternate existence in which Miss Piggy is a theatrical has-been who does telephone acting, Fozzie is a pickpocket, and Gonzo is homeless, among others. Then when Kermit tries to un-wish the situation, Daniel's not entirely sure how to put the world back to normal...

The last major Muppet production before Disney bought the franchise in 2004, this film is one of the select Muppet movies not on Disney+, due to it being produced by broadcaster NBC. Followed by 2005's The Muppets' Wizard of Oz and seasonally by 2008's A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa, all of which shared the same principal Muppet performers and director. Despite the Disney sale, the latter also aired on NBC.

This film provides examples of:

  • 13 Is Unlucky: Bitterman's office is on the thirteenth floor of her building.
  • Accidental Misnaming: Because Daniel is nervous and mutters when dealing directly with The Boss for the first time, he tells her his name is, "D-d-d-dan... Danny... el...". For the rest of the film, The Boss calls him "Danny-elle". (This could be interpreted as "Danny L," and is written as such on the Blu-ray subtitles, when you find out that Daniel was named after Jim Lewis's son.)
  • Actor Allusion: Whoopi Goldberg plays God in this movie. She also played a divine being in Captain Planet and the Planeteers. Yoda also briefly appears after Kermit makes his wish; it’s almost like Frank Oz was already on set…like he performs some of the Muppets or something! (Yoda in this film, however, is performed by Eric Jacobson, who also takes over Oz's former roles as Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, and Animal.)
  • Adrenaline Makeover: More of an Adrenaline Costume Change; Piggy changes into a martial arts ensemble really quickly to face off Bitterman.
  • Asian Speekee Engrish: The security guard at Bitterman Banking and Development has a difficult time interpreting basic English words.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Pepe after Statler and Waldorf heckle him by making seafood puns.
    • Miss Piggy whose rage continues to build each time Miss Bitterman hits her, eventually prompting Miss Piggy to don her karate gear and take on Bitterman which is eventually interrupted by an interference from Kermit who gets caught in the path of one of Miss Piggy's karate chops.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Rachel Bitterman plays Pepe the King Prawn like a fiddle to get what she wants, manipulating him into betraying the muppets knowing he is Distracted by the Sexy, but when she is talking to an associate, she reveals to him that she thinks of Pepe with nothing but contempt.
  • Big Bad/Corrupt Corporate Executive: Rachel Bitterman.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: After Daniel wonders aloud how Bitterman could take control of so much in the Kermit-less universe, Kermit comments, "Corporate synergy... it's out of control." He then crosses his legs, revealing the NBC logo on the bottom of his foot (this special was produced by NBC). Ironically, the Muppets would later be bought by Disney, which actually owns rival network ABC.
    • Three note NBC chimes are used as the passcode to The Boss' office.
  • The Cameo:
    • Several celebrities appear as themselves, including Carson Daly, Kelly Ripa, and Regis Philbin.
    • Yoda has a brief cameo while Daniel is attempting to send Kermit to the Kermit-less reality.
    • The cast of Scrubs appeared during the scene showing Miss Piggy's brief "professional acting career" on that show (she plays a dying patient who is lying motionless under a sheet the whole scene).
  • Cardboard Box of Unemployment: Implied. The Big Bad is trying to take over the Muppets' theater, and snidely tells them that if they need help moving out, there are discarded boxes behind a nearby business that they can use.
  • Celestial Bureaucracy: Heaven, or at least the part where Daniel works, is a giant cubicle farm.
  • Coincidental Accidental Disguise: While carrying a big sack of money, Fozzie gets covered in green paint and is mistaken for the Grinch by a Who girl who randomly appears for this gag.
  • Company Cameo: When Daniel asks how Karen Bitterman could own so much property in the Kermit-less universe, Kermit remarks "Corporate synergy, it's out of control", as he lifts his flipper to reveal the logo of producer and broadcaster NBC on his sole. (It's this bit that is most likely preventing the film from appearing on Disney+.)
  • Continuity Nod: In the Crapsack World, Kermit is horrified to see the popularity of Doc Hopper's Frog Legs.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: Piggy has been reduced to one of these in the reality where Kermit never existed. She has numerous cats wandering around and she worries about leaving them alone when Kermit asks her to spend time with him.
  • Cross Promotion: Evident since the special aired on NBC. One of the events in Kermit's Bad Future is Rizzo being used as a meal on Fear Factor.
  • Cue the Flying Pigs: Courtesy of Miss Piggy; Bitterman still refuses to believe it though.
  • Darker and Edgier: The world in which Kermit was never born.
  • Determinator: Fozzie goes through a lot in his attempt to get the payment to Bitterman.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Pepe has this reaction while clinging to the bottom of the chair in Mrs. Bitterman's office after he finds out he's been replaced.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The Safari Animal Tracker who chases after Fozzie is a parody of Steve Irwin, even talking in an Australian accent like Irwin. According to Word of God, the Muppet Wiki's page on Steve Irwin states Irwin himself was originally considered for the role of the Safari Animal Tracker before Cameron McDonald was cast in the role.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: When Kermit sympathetically glances at Miss Piggy in her apartment, she thinks he regards her situation as pathetic, and indignantly sends Kermit out of her apartment.
  • Eye Scream: To get to the alternate universe, Daniel sprinkles snow into Kermit's eyes. To get out of it, Daniel actually spits into Kermit's eyes.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Pepe the prawn, who leaves the Muppets to work for Bitterman, followed by his inevitable Heel–Face Turn back.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Rachel Bitterman has moments, where she speaks to the muppets in the manner of a kind and sweet lady as if talking to her dog, but it does nothing to mask her contempt and her plans which spell trouble for the muppets.
  • For Want Of A Nail: Apparently, if Kermit had never existed, the Muppets would have each suffered miserable existences.
  • Foreshadowing: When Fozzie reaches Bitterman Bank, the security guard mishears Fozzie, believing he has Ms. Bitterman's laundry (instead of money). When he reaches her office, they discover that his sack of cash is actually a sack of clothes from the Salvation Army folks he bumped into earlier.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Bitterman Bank And Development (B.B.A.D.)
  • Gender Flip: Bitterman fills the role of Mr. Potter.
  • Get Out!: Piggy sends Kermit out of her apartment when he quietly and sadly glances at her, and she interprets this as thinking her situation is pitiful.
  • Gift of the Magi Plot: Played in the beginning of the film, when several Muppets exchange gifts only to discover that they've given up prized possessions to do so.
    • Subverted with Johnny Fiama and Sal, because while Sal has sold his moped to buy Johnny a solid gold record player, Johnny apparently hasn't even thought of getting Sal anything.
  • Hate Sink: Rachel Bitterman. She is a world class bitch who doesn’t believe in dreams, and she says this straight to Kermit when he tries to convince her not to tear down the theater. She has very few likable qualities.
  • Harmless Freezing: Kermit is frozen while sitting in the park after losing the theater, Daniel sends him flying into a nearby trash can before warming him up with no ill effects.
  • Hong Kong Dub: Briefly during Piggy and Bitterman's showdown.
  • Hotter and Sexier: Well, okay, it's still the Muppets, so for the most part it's kid-friendly... but man, did they manage to cram in a lot of innuendos in this movie.
    • They put on a show based on Moulin Rouge! with Miss Piggy singing "Santa Baby" with Miss Piggy asking Kermit if he wants to sleep with her in French at the end - to which Kermit replies, "Say WHAT?"
    • The cage-dancing Scooter in the bad timeline.
    • Pepe's many suggestive remarks to Ms. Bitterman, who almost buries his head in her breasts at one point.
    • It gets taken even farther with the business associate that Bitterman meets to disclose her plans about the Muppet Theater. She says that he needs to come help her "decorate her tree" and "oil her chair". The executive makes suggestive remarks about this until Bitterman tells him that "not everything is an innuendo." Yeah.
  • Ice Queen: Rachel Bitterman, who is so cold that even the Muppets can't melt her heart.
    Bitterman: I hate you Muppets!
  • Impossible Theft: In the alternate reality, Fozzie picks Kermit's pocket and steals his wallet. Daniel lampshades the impossible part when he points out that Kermit doesn't have pockets.
  • In Mysterious Ways: The Boss invokes the trope toward the end of movie.
  • Irony: Doc Hopper's wanting to capture Kermit to advertise for his Frog Legs restaurant in The Muppet Movie becomes this when in the Kermit-less reality, his restaurant has soared to popularity without Kermit's aid.
  • It's a Wonderful Plot: Kermit needs to be reminded that he has a wonderful life, hence the story. Daniel explains that this is actually required when someone says they wish they'd never been born.
  • It's All My Fault: Fozzie, regarding the rent money mishap and impending closure of the theater.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Played with and subverted with Pepe the King Prawn. He’s a Jerk With A Heart Of Gold and he ditches the muppets after being distracted by the sexy, but when he realises the true extent to Bitterman’s plans, he wastes no time rushing back to warn Kermit and is welcomed back with open arms.
  • Lampshade Wearing: Scooter does this at the party.
  • Landmark Declaration Gambit: How Pepe the Prawn saves the Muppets' theater from destruction.
  • Laser Hallway: Fozzie goes through one of these to deliver the money, but the lasers burn him instead of setting off an alarm. Then he realizes he left the bag at the entrance and needs to go through two more times.
  • Let There Be Snow: The finale has all the Muppets out in front of the theater, singing carols with the neighbors in a beautiful snowfall.
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: Pepe, towards Miss Bitterman.
  • Malicious Misnaming:
    • Bitterman continually calls the Muppets "Muffins" and Pepe "Pee-pee".
    • Glenn (who apparently is second-in-command in Daniel's part of Heaven) keeps calling Daniel "Dan" or "Danny", despite Daniel repeatedly telling him in their conversation that he prefers to be called Daniel.
  • Meaningless Villain Victory: Bitterman's plot to move up the due date for the Muppets' loan works but Pepe applies and gets the city to name the Muppet Theater a historical landmark, meaning it can't be torn down no matter who owns it.
  • Meaningful Name: Rachel Bitterman is a very bitter, cynical individual. Averted with her father, with whom the Muppets are implied to have had a good relationship.
  • Morally Bankrupt Banker: Ms. Bitterman again.
  • Moving the Goalposts: Bitterman moves the deadline for paying the loan six hours earlier.
  • Mythology Gag: While in the park, Kermit sees a statue of himself with some children, which has this (first movie-inspired) inscription: "For the lovers, the dreamers, and you..."
  • Parental Bonus: As usual with the Muppets, particularly the scenes in the alternate reality.
  • Parodies for Dummies: Daniel is given the book Performing Miracles for Dummies.
  • Post-Kiss Catatonia: Not quite, but very nearly when Kermit kisses Piggy toward the end.
  • Pronouncing My Name for You: When Luc Fromage is promoting his musical number:
    Luc Fromage: Behold, I give you my theatrical masterpiece!
    Kermit: "Cirque Du So Lame?" Luc, I don't think it would be nice to have the word "lame" in our show.
    Luc Fromage: It is not "lame"! It's "Lah-MEHY"!
  • Race Against the Clock: Bitterman is counting on the Muppets failing to pay the rent by the time specified on the modified lease so she can evict them and tear down the theater.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: It's a Wonderful Life WITH MUPPETS!
  • Santa Claus: Fozzie accidentally gives the rent money to a street-corner Santa (actually a Salvation Army volunteer) instead of delivering it to Bitterman by the deadline.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Muppets' stage show is a very drawn-out Shout-Out to Moulin Rouge!, complete with color-change, "funny green root beer", and "Saltine" the performer. Heck, just look at its name: Moulin Scrooge.
    • In the beginning, a snowman narrator tries to introduce the special, before being chased away by a film crewman, who derides him as a "Burl Ives-wannabe".
  • Show Within a Show: A few, starting with the play being performed in the Muppet theater.
  • Spelling for Emphasis: In the scene where Kermit is wishing he was never born, he says, "I wish I'd never been B-O-R-N, born!"
  • Station Ident: Because the movie originally aired on NBC, there's a humorous moment where Kermit displays the NBC peacock logo on the bottom of one of his feet.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Daniel and Kermit both remark that the clothes the Boss gives Daniel make him look like an ice cream man from Hello, Dolly!.
  • Sympathetic Wince: When Fozzie Bear is trying to deliver a bag of money to Rachel Bitterman, the path to her office is blocked by a Laser Hallway — not one that triggers an alarm, but one with military-esque grade lasers that actually burn anyone or anything passing through them. Desperate to deliver the money on time, Fozzie just runs through, realizes he left the bag at the other end of the hall, runs through again to retrieve it, and then runs back one last time, getting scorched the whole time. Bitterman winces constantly as she observes this whole sequence.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: After Joe Snow's efforts to narrator the special are thwarted twice, he takes part in singing "Everyone Matters" alongside the Muppets and a bunch of carolers during the ending credits.
  • Tongue on the Flagpole: A Running Gag features a frog attempting to pull his free, and instead stretching it to ridiculous lengths.
  • Wham Shot: What spells out that Kermit is in a world where he was never born? The sight of a Doc Hopper's Frog's Legs stand.
  • Wildlife Commentary Spoof: A No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Steve Irwin (credited as Safari Animal Tracker) shows up to tranquilise Fozzie.
  • Womanchild: You would think Mrs. Bitterman would be a good sport about losing to Miss Piggy, but you couldn't be more wrong as she gets angry at Kermit and the rest of the Muppets present in the room (Bunsen included who she gets so angry with his glasses fall off his face). After she gets done being a less-than-good sport about her defeat, she stomps off angrily, shoving Bobo in the process.