November 28, 2011
Family Film Blogging: The Muppets
Posted by Christine Hurt

While others in our family chose to go see their alma mater's football team get crushed, a more fortunate crew went to go see The Muppets.  We were definitely happier at the end than the other group.  I think Winston Churchill said something like "If you don't like The Muppet Show when you are 10, you have no head.  If you don't like it when you are 40, you have no heart."

A lot has changed since I watched The Muppet Movie over and over on HBO one summer in elementary school.  First, the muppets are now owned by Disney, which is sort of jarring for those of us from the Sesame Street generation.  But, this allows for everyday miracles to happen, like The Muppets being opened by a Toy Story short (Small Fry)!  (This was very big for us, seeing as how we had just purchased the Cars2 DVD for the Toy Story Hawaiian Vacation short.)  The Disneyfication of the muppets may also be jarring for those viewers sensitive to product placement throughout the movie.  The second change is that Jim Henson isn't alive any more.  If you really listen, Kermit doesn't sound like Kermit.  And that was a little sad.  Also, Frank Oz is alive, but he was not the voice of Fozzie the Bear or Miss Piggy.  Miss Piggy sounded the same, but Fozzie did not.  (There seems to be some controversy over Frank Oz not liking the new movie's script, but you can google that as well as I can.)

Not being a muppets purist, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie (and so did the kids with me, aged 3, 4, 7 and 12).  But, my particular point of contention was that Disney had already made this movie.  I am about one of only 28 people who have seen The Country Bears, so I'm sure that Disney thought this could go by unnoticed.  Joseph Conrad told the same story a few times, so why can't Disney?  But, as probably the only person who really loved The Country Bears, it stings.  So, in TCB, Beary is a small animatronic bear living as the son of a decidedly human family.  Accordingly, he always feels different and out of place.  The only joy he has comes from the very popular band, The Country Bears, made up of large, animatronic bears.  He is their biggest fan.  But, the Bears broke up.  When Beary runs away to take a tour of Country Bear Hall, he finds that it is going to be torn down by an evil banker, Christopher Walken, unless the Bears come up with $50,000 to save it.  To come up with this money, the Bears have to "get the band back together" to play one last reunion concert, forcing two of the Bears to drive around in a bus with Beary to round up the other Bears, who have fallen on hard times (one is a roadie, the other is addicted to honey and one is a wedding singer).  In the end, the Bears get back together, do a great concert, and save Country Bear Hall.  In the meantime, Beary finds peace with his human family, including his human brother.

Now, take the preceding paragraph and replace "Beary" with "Walter" and "animatronic bear" with "muppet," and you have the plot of The Muppets.  Walter is the muppet brother of Gary, a human.  Walter has gotten through life by enjoying The Muppet Show.  He and Gary (and Gary's girlfriend, Mary) head off to tour Muppet Studios, only to find out that the studios are about to be sold to an evil oil baron, Chris Cooper, unless Kermit comes up with $10 million.  So, cue to montage of getting the muppets back together, putting on one last show, etc. 

What makes The Muppets a little different, and probably more popular, is that it is hip.  There are funny references to the '80s.  There are funny pop culture references (Miss Piggy is a fashion editor a la Devil Wears Prada, complete with Emily Blount as her assistant).  The cast repeatedly breaks through the "fourth wall" (when Kermit says they can never get the gang back together because they've all lost touch, Mary, played by Amy Adams, says, "this is going to be a short movie").  And, the movie is chock full of celebrity cameos, particularly of actors that you don't associate with kids' movies.  Unfortunately, unlike in other muppets movies, Jason Segal and Amy Adams became more the center of the movie.  Kermit was not the star.  That just wasn't in the script.

All in all, it was an enjoyable afternoon and the kids really enjoyed the show.  There are some really catchy songs (some not as catchy), and the mood is very light and happy.  Very nice.

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