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Monday, November 28, 2011

The Muppets

It starts when we're young. A show off at school. Making faces at friends. You're a clown and a fool. Doing prat falls and bird calls and bad imitations. Ignoring your homework. Now that's dedication. You look in the mirror. You're getting standing ovations.
You're burning with hope. You're building up steam what was once juvenilish is grown up and stylish. You're close to your dream. Then somebody out there loves you. Stands up and hollers for more. You've got a home at the magic store.

The Magic Store from The Muppet Movie (1979)

I believe in the way back machine.

So when I decided to write a review of The Muppets, I went back to 1979 when The Muppet Movie came out. I even had to go back a few years earlier to Saturday Afternoons/Evenings at 6:30 when I would watch first runs of The Muppet Show.

This is good, I have gone 4 paragraphs without a rant or an aside. When it comes to discussing Muppet Films this is a huge step for me. So before I go any further let me just clear the air and take my pet peeve for a quick walk . . .

Sometimes in conversations with people about movies I will mention that The Muppet Movie is my 2nd favorite film of all time. They will often politely ask which Muppet Movie. After taking my blood pressure meds, I will inform them that there is only 1 Muppet Movie.

Sure there are several films that have Muppet in the title. They are, in order of release: The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, The Muppets Take Manhattan, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island, Muppets in Space and The Muppets. 7 Muppet films only one The Muppet Movie.

Now that there are 7 films there is a muppet film one for each day of the week. If they do an 8th then we will simply need a new day of the week. I have been pushing hard for Kermit's Day for years so I say bring it on.

Okay the italics have ended that means I can get back to my review. Back to my way back machine train of thought. For me, watching the Muppet Show was like having a home at the magic store. The Muppet Movie gave a back story that not only captured that magical experience but expanded it. In the Muppet Show the muppets home was the stage they performed on. In The Muppet Movie, the world became their stage. Singing in swamps, peddling bikes, riding in Studebakers and buses we saw the muppets in a way we never imagined.

More than 30 years has passed and the world has changed in ways we never imagined. In 1979 a laptop was the tray table you used on airplanes. In 1979, if you wanted to connect to a computer from your home you needed a modem and a monitor. Yet here I am in my house typing this review on a laptop with a wireless connection to the Internet.

With all the many technological wonders of the last 3 decades, It is easy to think that Kermit and other marionette puppets have become a museum piece. This is literally the case as I discovered from my trip to the Smithsonian last year.

The Muppets, in a sense is an exploration of this thought process. Is there a place in the world of today for the inspirational and muppetational?

The film is about relationships It is a story about brothers different as different can be, yet also the same. It is a story about love lost and found. The film also is about quests. The quest for finding your place in the world. The quest to bring the Muppets back together. The quest to save the Muppet Theatre.

The theatre is an analogy to all things muppets. It is the magic store. As the movie continues the viewer comes to realize that the theatre is not the transcending point of the Muppets. Their reality is. My wife has a saying, she says: I like movies about real things, like the muppets.

Putting aside my wife's very tenuous grip on reality for a moment, let's just say that she's right.

The Muppets is a successful movie because it is steeped in reality. Sure, muppets aren't people. Dog's aren't people, but they're real. In the reality of The Muppets, muppets are real and interact with others who treat them like they are real. This gives an authenticity to their world even when we can see their strings. Another successful part of the muppet franchise are the cameos. The Muppets does not disappoint on this score. Mickey Rooney and Jack Black are my favorites.

Speaking of score, there are some fine musical numbers in The Muppets. There are several songs that are performed by 2 sets of characters. I really enjoyed the way they were able to intertwine multiple character and plot points in the same song.

Another standard muppet fare was what I will call muppet zaniness and The Muppets had this in spades. They also bring back some of these zany jokes later in the movie with great comic success. There are some great homages to both The Muppet Show and The Muppet Movie and while it is not 100% necessary to have a muppet background to see the movie it does greatly enhance your enjoyment.

The Muppets is a great movie and works on a number of levels. It is fun for the whole family. It's not the best muppet film ever, nor is it the worst. What is the best muppet film of all time? The Muppet Movie, of course. The worst? Also a no brainer, The Muppets Take Manhattan. So where does The Muppets come in? I would say definitely in the top 4. I'd have to watch it again to be certain.

And be certain, I will watch it again. I've got a home at the magic store.


  1. Great post, I enjoyed ready reading it!

  2. I have to say, The Muppet Movie will always have a special place in my heart. I saw it with my grandma, and she got such a kick out of Miss Piggy. But I'm glad to hear the new movie lives up to the Muppet tradition.

    Peace and Laughter,


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