I Took August and Déla to see The Muppets this afternoon. I would have taken Ciárán, but there was a scene in the trailer he didn’t like, so he was adamant about not going. The three of us were lucky to brave Black Friday traffic and crowds, got tickets to the early afternoon showing we wanted, and while we had to wait around for about 15 minutes before the previews started, it was totally worth it.
I grew up watching “The Muppet Show” as a kid. I used to record songs on my cassette player from the television to listen to during the week. I still have The Muppet Show Book which was published in 1978 which contains scenes from the first couple of seasons. I saw The Muppet Movie in theaters. Twice. I grew up watching these characters when they were first broadcast, not in syndication. I remember the first season. I was there. I continued to be there. My kids now watch “The Muppet Show” on DVD, as I want to help them understand they can be entertained without hard edges.
While I may be biased in favor of The Muppets, I’m also not blind. Times change.
There are parallels to The Muppet Movie, such as putting on a show, getting the gang together, etc. This was intentional. In many ways, this is almost like a reboot, but one that honors and keeps the integrity (and even the continuity) of what came before.
No, it’s not perfect, but it’s good. Real good. Let me get my complaints out of the way, then I can gush. First, there were too many songs sung by humans. They were good songs, sure, and that first number is great, and so good I might pick up the soundtrack. But the Muppets themselves should be singing most of the songs. Secondly, and this is my biggest complaint, the voice of Fozzie was off. Within the same scene the voice would sound right, then horribly wrong. It was distracting.
Okay, and my third gripe is using AC/DC for the first montage scene. The band doesn’t seem the right fit for the Muppets.
Early-ish in the film when Walter, Gary and Mary are touring Muppet Studios there’s a brief shot of the interior of Kermit’s office. In the background are a bunch of pictures, and one of them is a picture of Jim Henson and Kermit. It’s something you wouldn’t notice necessarily, even if you are a “hardcore” Muppet fan, but I saw it. I teared up. Towards the end of the film, when the cast busts out “Rainbow Connection” I skipped tearing up and went straight into crying. The nostalgia was too much.
See, the thing is, despite the missteps, The Muppets is a great film. Kermit’s eternal optimism has been chipped away at so much over time, he’s downtrodden, but certainly not cynical. Instead, his character arc is natural, and he rediscovers the wonder and magic of his friendship with the rest of the Muppets, much in the same way we as an audience do. He isn’t naive, which could be considered one of his character traits in the 70s and 80s, but instead starts out as weary, but still a positive character.
Walter is a fantastic addition to the regular cast. His introduction leads the audience back into their world, as well as telling a new story. He has that innocence, that childlike sense of wonder we’ve come to associate with these characters (mistakenly so, may I remind you – go watch “The Muppet Show” and The Muppet Movie). Jason Segal may be known for some more adult comedic roles, but his love for the integrity of the franchise is apparent. His role as producer, co-writer and actor (Walter’s brother) showcases not only more of his well-rounded talents, but also demonstrates the Muppets can move forward into this new (whatever it is) age.
I want Disney to green-light a sequel. I don’t want them to wait for the final weekend box office returns. There’s a lot of “good will” pouring out over the return of the Muppets to any sort of prominence. Disney needs to act quick. Give them a prominent television special, produce a weekly television series, or at the very least give the okay to start another movie. Do not let this franchise languish. The studio bought the Muppets in 2004, and did nothing for years. I don’t want to wait another lengthy period of time before I get more Muppet entertainment.
Disney, please keep this forward momentum going.