December 02, 2002 12:00 PM

NBC(Fri.,Nov.29,8 p.m. ET)

Let the record show that the official title of this holiday offering is It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie. But I can’t call it very good.

Most Muppet fare pleases all ages, with warm fuzzies and unadulterated silliness for kids plus some hip humor to keep grownups alert. This tale, unfortunately, is overloaded with showbiz in-jokes and gratuitous mentions of NBC shows. Miss Piggy hams in a hospital scene with the Scrubs cast. (She’s not classy enough for ER?) Rizzo the Rat is served as a snack to a contestant on Fear Factor. Sure, Kermit the Frog terms that series “disgusting,” but a plug’s a plug.

Somewhere in all this there’s a so-so homage to It’s a Wonderful Life. Though Joan Cusack is too strident as a greedy banker plotting to evict producer Kermit and his troupe from their theater, David Arquette is funny as the requisite bumbling angel.

BOTTOM LINE: Should be merrier

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