“It’s time to play the music; It’s time to light the lights; It’s time to meet the muppets on the Muppet Show tonight.”
I loved this song – every week it called me and my family around the television to see the latest zaniness offered by the Muppets. “The Muppets” movie opening November 23, 2011 is a return to the mix of sly humor, slapstick, musical numbers, poignant moments, and “I can’t believe they just did that” laughter that characterized the Muppet Show.
The movie starts a bit slowly as it establishes central characters Walter, Gary, and Mary. The pace picks up as the trio travels to Los Angeles and hears the underhanded plot by oil tycoon Tex Richman to purchase and tear down the Muppets Studio. At this point, the movie is reminiscent of the Muppets Movie (1979) as they find Kermit and pull the Muppets together to save the day. Even Kermit recognizes this with his wisecracking reference to the original road trip to find his compatriots. In true Muppet fashion, the team endures fractures, faces challenges, experiences moments of introspection and enlightenment, pulls together, overcomes obstacles, (breaks a few laws), and triumphs over evil and self-doubt – all while poking fun at themselves in between musical numbers. Oh, and they are not afraid to let you know that they know they are in a movie and you are an active participant.
What makes this Muppet movie different? Since Jim Henson’s death, the Muppet movies seemed to trend towards a young audience. As much as I enjoyed the Show and first movies, I just couldn’t get into the recent films. I went to see this movie planning to take my nieces later in the week. Now, I want to take my parents. I understand why they loved watching the Muppet Show with us. Kermit and his pals offer insight into our hopes, dreams, and fears – using a strange mix of honesty, self-deprecating humor, wide-eyed hope, and laughter. Entwined around the main plotline about putting on one last show to save the studio, two subplots provide the real commentary of the movie. The first – coming of age and finding yourself. The second – dealing with faded dreams and finding yourself. I have to think Jim Henson would approve.
Don’t get too philosophical. While I certainly cried during the movie (Rainbow Connection always gets me), I laughed almost constantly (even while sniffling) and walked out of the theater with a huge grin while humming the theme to the Muppet show under my breath.
If you loved the Muppets like me, or just liked them – go see this movie. If you never watched the Muppets – go see what you were missing (although Muppet fans will “get” some inside humor that you might miss). Kids should enjoy it – the kids in the theater with us had their own laugh track going. But the adults – they’ll remember why they tuned into the Muppet Show in the first place.