Good news. This is my 100th post. I’ve been strategically posting for exactly this topic. Get ready because my thankfulness this Thanksgiving comes in the form a bounty for just one man.
The last year I’ve been nervous. I’ve been anxious. I read reviews of the screenplay. I read reviews after the premiere.
Here’s the deal. I grew up around the Muppets. I grew up engrossed in the Muppets. I come from a family that watched “the Muppet Show.” When I was sick I watched “the Muppet Movie,” “the Great Muppet Caper” and “Muppets Take Manhattan.” We had a taped from television copy of “Muppet Family Christmas” on VHS. We had taped from television documentaries about Jim Henson. About the Muppets. I had John Denver and the Muppets Christmas album on vinyl. And by the time I was a kid I lived in the world of “Muppets Tonight” trying to come into fashion. I’m a purist. That said.
I knew then, I wasn’t a fan of Clifford as a host for “Muppets Tonight,” but still comprehended that doing “Manah Manah” as “Phenomena” in the seventh episode of “Muppets Tonight” was a direct nod to the first episode of the “Muppet Show.” I enjoyed “Muppet Christmas Carol” and “Muppet Treasure Island.” I like Tim Curry, but I wasn’t satisfied with them. They weren’t Muppet-centric original stories. They were someone else’s stories starring the Muppets. That didn’t satisfy my Muppet heart.
So when “Muppets from Space” came out I was jazzed. I was 12. A NEW Muppet movie about the Muppets! Not someone else’s story. It was a story about the Muppets. I was dis.a.ppoin.ted. Very. The beauty of Gonzo is that, yes, we all suspected he was an alien, but no one really knew. He didn’t really know. No one knew. But everyone loved and accepted him anyway. The moment you explain him it takes something away from him. Not to mention it shows a complete lack of creativity on the part of the writers. It was a travesty.
So over the last year or more I’ve been anxious. I’ve been worried. I knew that Jason Segel loved and valued the Muppets as much as I do. I knew, but there’s still that fear of another disappointment. I made claims like “I won’t be able to watch ‘How I Met Your Mother’ anymore if it’s awful,” and I like “How I Met Your Mother.” So as we got closer to the day I knew I’d have to see it. I knew, and I wanted to. I just didn’t want to be mad at the Muppets. I didn’t want to be mad at Jason Segel.
I asked my friend Trey. We don’t agree on Muppets. He doesn’t have my history. He liked “Muppets from Space.” We aren’t allowed to discuss them. We fight. We argue.
November 23, 2011, came. I’m nervously sitting in my seat next to Trey at the Huntington 7. We make jokes, which distracts me from my possibly impending rage. 9:25 p.m. hits and it begins. I’m laughing. I’m recognizing old characters back again. I’m enjoying recycled jokes. I’m enjoying cameos, good cameos. Not just nobodies. Somebodies. Somebodies are back with the Muppets. Songs are back. Awful puns are back. The beauty of a Family of friends working together to make something wonderful together is back. No one is wearing some stupid new shirt. No one is trying to out Muppet himself. Its genuine, beautiful Muppetainment. I didn’t leave the theater even remotely angry.
My little Muppet-loving heart even had me crying a few times. Kermit walking onto the stage hearing himself introducing Bob Hope. Kermit in his hallway looking at the portraits of his family pining for togetherness. It’s that feeling I love that Kermit brings out. “Together Again” is playing over and over again in my head. I couldn’t have been more satisfied or moved. For that, Jason Segel, I thank you.
Now that you know I love it, you’ll get to know the 2% that bothered me, because I’m a complainer and don’t know how to be satisfied.
First the thing that hurts me as a purist. On May 16, 1990, James Maury Henson died after selling over his beautiful Muppets to Disney. When Jim died it was decided that Rowlf the Dog would be silenced in memoriam of his legacy. Kermit obviously could never be quieted, and Rowlf was one of Jim’s trademark characters. And it was a beautiful thing to do. It was sad for sure. I, personally, adore Rowlf. He’s in my top 5 favorite Muppets, but I love Jim enough to understand why. Rowlf was silent for three cinematic releases, but not for any made for tv specials. So it isn’t the fault of this movie. Not at all, but to see Rowlf on a big screen talking again it hurt. I shouldn’t be so easily affected, but I am. Have him sing in big group numbers when you can pick out his voice. I’m okay with that, but not Rowlf. Not talking. For the sake of Jim. Please?
Second, more directly a movie problem. It was troublesome to have the main characters not be Kermit or Fozzie or Gonzo. At first. Because once the movie really gets going it does become about those characters we love. And I can make myself okay with it, because it is a great way to bring it all together. However, I get caught on this one thing. And that thing is Amy Adams.
Amy Adams who has been in 10 movies in the last three years. She isn’t choosy. Maybe she is, but she doesn’t feel choosy about her roles. But more than that her character was a distraction from the Muppets. If she never sang I think I wouldn’t be as bothered, but she did. Two songs. Two songs and the movie wasn’t remotely about her. She at best was a means for forcing Gary and Walter separate. That particular factor in a film does not require two songs. It can’t. She didn’t do anything Muppet-related at all, and she got two songs. It didn’t even feel cohesive. Her character didn’t blend into the movie. She was an annoying commercial break from the movie I wanted to be watching. She was a means of bringing in an audience. Of somehow giving the movie credibility. 10 movies in 3 years apparently makes someone qualified to bring about credibility. Again, if she’d be in it without having two numbers to herself. Or one number to herself and duet with Miss Piggy. I wouldn’t have been distracted by her.
Jason Segel, thank you. Thank you for restoring the Muppets to everything they ever were. Thank you for having comedian friends for cameos. Thank you for loving the Muppets enough to take care of them.
If you like the Muppets, even a little, go see it.