Friday, December 30, 2011

Mad About Muppets

Today we took my husband's little girl to see The Muppets.  To be honest, we were just waiting for an excuse to see it, and introducing our daughter to something we loved as kids was a better excuse than any.  I mean really, who doesn't love the Muppets?  Who doesn't tear up watching Kermy sit on that log in the swamp, strumming his banjo while singing "The Rainbow Connection"?  Who doesn't feel their heart skip a beat when the intro to The Muppet Show comes on?

One of the most interesting things about the entire franchise is how self-aware the Muppets are.  In all of the movies, including the new one, the Muppets use such metafiction practices as talking directly to the camera and openly commenting on the fact that they are making a movie.  In any other piece of fiction, these types of things would jerk the viewer right out of the story and tear down the magical curtain that allowed one to view the story as real.  Oddly enough, seeing a Muppet talk to the camera about the current film's budget doesn't jerk you out of their world.  If anything, it makes them more real.  I feel like I wouldn't be surprised if Kermit showed up on my doorstep one night. Well, maybe just a little. 

The only thing I didn't like about today's film was the obvious product placement of the iPad2, Cars 2, and Red Bull.  I get that they're trying to update the franchise by bringing them into the new generation, but in this scenario, the obviousness just doesn't work.  Seeing the Cars 2 poster not just once, but twice even, jerked me right out of the story...at least until the next musical number started.

But overall I loved the film, and I don't think it was just out of nostalgia.  Jason Segel, not only the star but also the brainchild of the film, brought something fresh to the franchise that, in today's world of electronic entertainment and superficial relationships, quite frankly, was desperately needed.  We old folks will always love the Muppets, but the youngsters need something new to latch onto, and I think that this film has it.  Yet, at their core, the Muppets are the same as ever.  They still offer unshakeable morals and 1950s ideals, but in a believable and endearing way that doesn't make you feel preached to, but instead makes you ache to join them.  And of course, today's film was again self-aware.  The entire plot revolved around the Muppets leaving their lives as washed-up has-beens to find relevance and fame in the new world--but not, of course, for the sake of relevance and fame, but rather to save their cherished Muppet Theatre.  What's more idealistic (and worthy) than that?

The Muppets was beautiful, touching, and real in the most absurd use of the term. After seeing it, I don't think I could ever call them puppets.  I hope that today's generation will feel the same, and keep the Muppets alive.

Read more about the film at The Muppets.

TJ