Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Lovers, The Dreamers and Me - Review of "The Muppets"

When I was little - this is before I even went to kindergarten - my family was dirt poor. To be fair, I was born a little over a year after my parents got married so they were still in that "poor, young, dumb, newlywed" stage of life.  As a result, we didn't have the shiniest, bestest toys.  But one thing we did have was an old dial TV (a hand-me-down from my grandparents) with a VCR my parents got from their wedding.  We didn't buy a lot of movies and this was way before we even thought about cable.  But we did have blank VHS tapes.  So, Mom and Dad taped movies from TV for my sister and I to watch after "Sesame Street" and "Mister Roger's Neighborhood" was over and all there was to watch was crappy soap operas and Mom wanted to clean the house.

We had many things recorded on those tapes - anything shown on Magical World of Disney counted, as well as innumerable Mickey Mouse and Goofy short cartoons (I have a picture of my three-year-old self zonked out on my dad's easy chair because I insisted on watching Goofy cartoons before bedtime and I didn't make it through the whole tape).  There was "The Chipmunk Adventure" and "Pete's Dragon" - and there was "The Muppet Movie."

I certainly didn't understand anything about time periods or how things got "dated" over time.  For all I knew, "The Muppet Movie" was brand spanking new in 1988.  I didn't really recognize the celebrity cameos and I truly didn't care.  I just wanted to watch Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo and Miss Piggy (okay, I admit that I did care about the Big Bird cameo).

So here I am in 2011 - legally I'm a grown-up (though I will deny that I have any kind of boring, grown-up qualities in my personality).  I understand that "The Muppet Show" was sort of a big deal back in the day, but I didn't experience it (weep silently for me).  But I did get to experience "Muppets Tonight" on TGIF in the late 90s.  And I maintain that the very best version of A Christmas Carol is "The Muppet Christmas Carol."

The point of all this sentimentality? I love it when something from my childhood gets to come back and be made new and relevant again.  I went into "The Muppets" expecting a Muppet movie like "Muppets Take Manhattan" or "Muppets in Space" where the Muppets are just part of the scenery along with their human actors.  But "The Muppets" is actually about revisiting old times and realizing that they are still good and important and deserve to be passed down in our culture.  It's like finding that one book or that one toy that you loved as a kid, but you haven't used it in years.  Not because you were deliberately neglectful, but just because life gets in the way (see also - "Toy Story 3").  Thank goodness for the creators of "The Muppets" for reminding the rest of us who loved the Muppets as kids that we still love the Muppets, even though we're older now.

And kudos for staying faithful to the spirit of the material!  There's a scene in "The Muppets" where Kermit and the gang go to ask Mr. Richman if they can just have the old studio back.  Richman has this little song-and-dance number that basically plays to idea that the world is cynical and the goofy Muppets stuff just doesn't cut it anymore.  Then he unveils the Moopets, which is basically the Muppets if Jim Henson was from the south side of LA.  This reminded me of the "edgy-fication" of certain well-beloved characters.  It works with some (like Batman) but for others (like the Looney Tunes) eh... not so much.  There are just some things that you don't do that with.  The original formula works fora  reason - because it resonates.  People want to have the good and silly stuff that's just - fun.  Everything isn't all doom and gloom and gritty realism.  There's still a place for absolute silliness.

"The Muppets" stuck with the old formula and it works like a charm.  Even lampshading that they're gathering up the old gang in a montage and driving to Paris by way of a map in the glove box - that's what the Muppets do and that's who they are.  I did get a little nervous when Fozzie pulled out the fart shoes (because the Muppets do NOT have to resort to bathroom humor) but Kermit and everyone told him to give it a rest and everyone kept it classy.  The addition of Walter was cute - I especially loved the song with him and his (human) brother Gary singing about being men and Muppets (and what about Jim Parsons as the human Walter? I nearly busted a gut when I saw that!)

And no, I did not get all weepy and crap when they all came out to sing "The Rainbow Connection" there at the end.  Nope, not at all *sniff* (aw hell... anyone got a tissue?)

Bottom Line: "The Muppets" is a fun and heartstring-tugging way to bring my childhood back into my adult life.  It has me hoping and wishing for a a rebirth of "The Muppet Show" because that was one thing I sort of missed out on, but I would love to have it back.

Seriously - who doesn't love the Muppets?

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