Monday, November 28, 2011

The Return of The Muppets

I have been a fan of the Muppets ever since I can remember. In fact, I have more Muppety memories from childhood than I ever did of Bewitched. The Muppet Show premiered the same year I did and I do remember watching it when I was younger, most likely in reruns. I don't remember when I first saw my favorite Muppet movie, The Great Muppet Caper, however, I do remember that every time my dad would go to rent videos and a VCR I would always request it. For my eighth birthday, I went with my parents and my friend Shantel to see The Muppets Take Manhattan and for my tenth birthday the traveling exhibit The Art of the Muppets came to town so my mom paid for me and about 10 of my friends to go see it. Up to that point it was the best day of my life as the actual Muppets were there, albeit in cases, but still! Even Big Bird, my favorite Sesame Street Muppet was there! My bedroom was filled with Muppet posters that I got at the store or out of the Muppet Magazine (which I totally regret destroying as they are highly collectible).

What did I love about the Muppets? I loved that they were full of dreams and ambitions that they achieved, that they tried to be very professional even amid Fozzie's terrible jokes and Gonzo's crazy attempts at feats of daring like jumping through a hoop of fire while his chickens clucked the William Tell overture. Most of all I loved the outrageous zaniness of the resident band, the Electric Mayhem, particularly Dr. Teeth and his far out way of talking and Animal, the crazed drummer who could lose control at any moment.

My career goal was to work for Jim Henson and in fact, for career day in about fifth grade, I dressed up like a hippie and brought my babysitter Vanessa's Animal puppet so I could demonstrate how I was going to be a Muppeteer. Of course, every other boy was a fireman or doctor, so I stood out like a sore thumb, and I was told that it wasn't a very good career goal, which I didn't agree with at all.

In September 1990, Jim Henson (Muppet creator) sadly passed away and the world wondered if the Muppets would continue, no one more than myself. Shortly after his death the newest big screen Muppet movie A Muppet Christmas Carol was released and was also the unveiling of the new Kermit's voice. I was apprehensive, but it was OK, though I felt something was a bit off. Piggy was hardly in the movie and the Electric Mayhem, who had seemed to be a big part of every other Muppet movie, was a mere blip.

In 1996 Muppet Treasure Island was released and I have to admit I forced myself to like it, but it mainly just sucked. There was something missing! That year also saw the release of a new Muppet TV show - Muppets Tonight - which was all right, but it was certainly no Muppet Show, though it did introduce a new favorite Muppet, Pepe the Prawn.

The last big screen Muppet vehicle was Muppets from Space (1999) which was not that great at all. My Muppets were known for their great songs and all this movie had was musical montages to 70s songs.

A little after that Palisades began releasing Muppet action figures which literally was a dream come true. For years I've had dreams of going into what looked like the old Crossroads Mall into a shop in a deserted corner to find Muppet action figures everywhere and when these were released, I literally bounced a check at Toys R Us to buy Kermit, Piggy, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Dr. Teeth. That last one made me smile as big as he did as there was never any Dr. Teeth toys before! But soon, Palisades stopped their productions and the Muppets came out with a few TV specials that were far from special. It truly seemed that any Muppet magic was a thing of the past.

But then came along Jason Segal (How I Met Your Mother).

About four years ago it was made known that Jason wanted to head a new Muppet movie as he was a huge Muppet fan and in fact, had his own puppets he made. I wasn't sure about how all this would go down considering the most recent Muppet projects were ill-making to say the least, aimed towards pre-schoolers.

Then, starting last year, photos from the set and promotions started happening and it looked like maybe there was hope that someone had finally realized that us Muppet fans love ALL the Muppets like Thog, Sweetums, the Newsman, etc, because those Muppets were showing up in pictures and then in the previews.

Fastforward to this past week, Thanksgiving evening to be precise, I saw the new movie (simply called The Muppets) with my brother, my nephew Mayson (who I've indoctrinated with the Gospel of Muppet via the Muppet Show DVDs and the movies) and some of my friends.

So what did I think?

I LOVED it!! In the very first few moments the title of the movie came up and THANKFULLY not in the font with the M looking like a contorted Kermit, but with the old school Muppet Show looking font. I had the biggest chills when Gary (Jason Segal) and Walter (his Muppet brother) were shown watching The Muppet Show back in the 70s where Walter realizes there are others like him. When his room was shown with tons of Muppet stuff, I heard my brother tell Mayson, "That's Uncle Dave right there!"

I thought the songs were kinda cheesy, however, I can't get "Life's a Happy Song" out of my head. And I totally related to "Man or Muppet" where Gary tries to decide how much of a man or a Muppet he is and finally comes to the conclusion that he's a Muppet of a man.

The best part of the movie, though, was when Kermit and the reunited gang, put on a show harkening back to The Muppet Show, and when Kermit announced through the O of what was now the word "Telethon" the special guest star, I thought I would pass was AWESOME!! Especially seeing all the Muppets in the archways.

I also really liked the inclusion of Uncle Deadly, a little known Muppet, but an awesome one.

Of course, the movie did have it's faults like the over all depression of Kermit, the Electric Mayhem not having a musical number and Beaker and Bunsen hardly being in the movie, however, those were minor gripes.

I loved the movie so much I went and saw it again and hope to see it at least once more before it's out of theaters. I really feel like MY Muppets are back, the ones that had an adult sensibility but who could also play to children a like, and not just be focused solely to kids.

What I really like is that my nephew, who is five years old, is about the same age as I was when I really began to begin my love for the Muppets, and now it seems that he's going to be able to have the same opportunity.

I hope the success of this movie means even more movies and maybe, just maybe, a new Muppet Show utilizing the old set.