I know it’s been a while since The Muppets was released… and since I watched it. As a HUGE Muppets fan (I have two Muppet tattoos and “Rainbow Connection” was my wedding song), I’ve had a hard time articulating how I felt about the newest film, the first theatrical release in over twelve years. Sitting in the theater, watching my old friends come together in celebration of what they had once been… I felt so happy that people still cared. It’s clear that Jason Segel was fundamentally shaped by his nights in front of the tv watching The Muppet Show. The songs are playful and catchy, the guest stars “all in,” as Muppet guest stars need to be, and the gang is all together. The story about fitting in and finding your voice, be it as a man or as a Muppet, but always with people you love.
However, I don’t know if it’s because Kermit isn’t voiced by the late Jim Henson anymore, or that Frank Oz wasn’t playing Miss Piggy or Fozzie in this film, or that there’s some new puppet, Walter, I’m supposed to care about when I already have all the other Muppets I already care about… but I just didn’t love it like I hoped I would. It’s reverential, in the best way, and is bursting with love for the singularly amazing creations of Jim Henson. But it’s also clearly the creation of people who grew up with the Muppets, not a film made by the Muppets. Perhaps that’s an unfair distinction, but it’s one my inner child couldn’t overlook. For me, I felt more joy when watching Segel’s vampire puppet opera in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. You can see how the Muppets shaped this young actor and musician, but it’s wholly his creation. It’s not playing at being the Muppets. I want more vampire puppet operas. I want to see all the crazy things my Muppet-influenced generation of actors and writers and creators can dream up. As the Muppets sing, “Life’s like a movie, write your own ending. Keep believing, keep pretending.”
The truth is, I can’t bare to give The Muppets any less than 3 Mittens, even if I’m not sure how I feel about it. It has so much heart and so much good-natured Muppety-ness. It’s a sweet ode to something that shaped so many of our inner lives. Plus, people are talking about the Muppets again, watching the old shows and the old movies… Sure some of the talk was about how the Muppets are communist radicals, but everyone knows that the Muppets aren’t into politics. They believe in love and laughing and friendship and making the world better, in any small way we can. Okay, I guess that is leftist in today’s Fox News-brainwashed America…
In the end, I suppose you could say that I didn’t fall in love with The Muppets… but I did want to give it a big hug.
I’ll leave you with the most warm-fuzziest of songs in the history of the world and one of my favorite quotes from Jim Henson:
My hope is to leave the world a little better for having been there.