For weeks I was torn between seeing two movies; The Adventures of Tintin and The Muppets. I wanted to see The Muppets so badly, but everyone and their brother was telling me to go see Tintin. Ultimately on the basis of those recommendations Tintin won out and I saw it first, and as you know I loved it. It seemed like nobody I know was going to see The Muppets, so I had no idea if it would be any good, and my nostalgic love of the show made me hesitate because I didn’t want to be disappointed. But the desire to watch it never left, and eventually Chantelle saw it. She gave it a passing grade and finally the other night I sat down to The Muppets.
♪It’s time to play the music, it’s time to light the lights…♫
It’s hard to express how just those few lines make my heart warm up, and I’m transported to the past. I definitely grew up on the Muppets, just like the main character in the movie, Walter. I was also obsessed with Muppet Babies, and A Muppet Christmas Carol is my favourite Christmas movie, hands-down. So while I was able to go into Tintin with no expectations that could be dashed, I went into The Muppets full of trepidation. And, thank Kermit, I liked it!
The Muppets, both movie and characters, operate based on the conceit that it is perfectly normal that humans and Muppets can coexist, that felt frogs and pigs can live in Hollywood, own houses, and drive cars. And that they are performers known for their talents and not that they are animated puppets. And this newest movie also purports that in a set of brothers one could be a Muppet and the other human. It’s a little strange, and I had to rationalize it away by thinking of Muppet as an allegory for dwarfism (particularly during the scene when Walter needs a step ladder to reach the bathroom sink).
It’s been a long time since a Muppet movie had come out, so while it’s not a reboot by any means, they did have to invest some time in reintroducing us to the characters, by way of audience avatars Jason and Walter. Amy Adams is there too, but seems to be a bit of an after thought. That actually may be intentional though, as the crux of her plot is the neglect she feels from her fiance Jason as he directs all of his attention toward Walter who in turn is focused on helping the Muppets.
So, why do the Muppets need help? Because there is an evil oil baron trying to destroy their old landmarks to get at the precious oil underneath. Billy face-palmed when they revealed Chris Cooper’s character, as he felt it was too stereotypical. I disagree though – I felt like they went just over the top enough with him that it worked (like Ben Stiller’s character in Dodge Ball). My favourite thing about the movie is his inability to laugh, and how he has to say “maniacal laugh” instead of doing it. Cracks me up, even weeks later.
I liked this movie a lot because I think the makers found an excellent middle-ground between nostalgia and appealing to a younger, modern audience. The Muppets had always been about current celebrities, so the inclusion of Selena Gomez and Neil Patrick Harris feels natural instead of forced. There’s only one moment in the film that I felt was desperate pandering which was when Chris Cooper raps! But instead of being cringe-inducing, it caused in me a weird state of rapture. It was so awful it was awesome, and I respect Chris Cooper even more for committing to it.
Was it better than Tintin? No, probably not (Tintin was just so good!), but that’s a false comparison and should be avoided. The Muppets was a fantastic Muppet movie, and I think even after all this time they are still as relevant as they ever were, which I find comforting.