Sunday, December 18, 2011
Film: The Muppets (2011)
I won't give too much away from the plot. Basically, it is the story of Walter who is the world's biggest Muppet fan. He and his brother Gary (Jason Segel) and Gary's girlfriend of ten years Mary (Amy Adams) plan to visit Muppet Theatre while on a vacation in Hollywood. However, they learn that the theatre is in trouble and only Kermit and the gang can save it. Problem is that the gang has long since parted ways. So, in the most classic of film traditions, the trio has to help Kermit get the gang back together and to put on a show.
Like Walter, the newest Muppet character, I was a huge fan of the Muppet Show back in the late 1970's. I watched it faithfully each week all through out my junior high school years and into my high school years until it finished its run in 1981. I was part of the generation that grew up on Jim Henson's creations, going back to my childhood and watching Sesame Street. They have always been something that spoke to the kid in me.
And the new film tries to capture that same magic and to show that the Muppets can still be appealing and relevant to a whole new generation. Like the show and the previous theatrical films from the 80's and 90's, there are guest stars here too like Jack Black and a number of celebrity cameos in the film (I won't spoil any of those - some are playing themselves, others are random people that the cast encounters - that's part of the fun and charm of the film to see who you recognize).
Clearly there was a lot of passion for the franchise put into this new film. Segel, a huge fan himself, was the one to convince Disney executives to revive the franchise, and he co-wrote the film as well. There are a lot of little touches (audio, visual, staging, etc.) that are love-notes to all us fans. Heck, I even think I had a little something in my eye when the crew came together to reprise a certain song (again, no spoiler from me).
I was happy that my sixteen year old son decided to humor his old man and go to the film with me. We've watched some of the early season episodes on DVD together, though I think he did it more to humor me than for a real love of the characters. Still, we enjoyed it as did the other families with their kids in the small theatre showing we went to. I am sure many of the parents were of my age group and wanted to provide some wholesome entertainment for their kids. And, maybe, spark a new generation of fans.
I know the film has been doing well so far. My hope is that Disney decides to capitalize on the new-found interest and moves forward with future Muppet projects. While other films would be good, I would really like to see them back on TV with a regular weekly show. It has been too long since the short-live Muppets Tonight revival from 1996 to 1998. For me, the thirty minute show format really works the best - allowing for a variety of different sketches, musical numbers, and the like. That format can best tailor things too to the week's guest star. The old show spoofed emergency room medical dramas with "Vetinerarian's Hospital" and sci-fi shows with "Pigs In Space". I can easily see those revived along side some kind of on-going spoofs of reality shows or other things.
Time will tell. I just hope we see something else before another decade goes by.