I can’t imagine a harder franchise to revive than The Muppets. They’re so innocent, so low-fi, so much a product of the 70s and 80s… is it possible for them to garner new fans, or are kids today just too busy and cynical to give felt a chance? The verdict is out (at least until the weekend box office results are in), but as a big fan of Kermit and the gang, I was surprisingly pleased with Jason Segel and director James Bobin’s reboot.
These aren’t new and improved Muppets. They aren’t reimagined or enhanced. Aside from two or three forgivable liberties, they’re the same old Muppets I grew up watching on PBS Sunday nights. Does nostalgia and sentimentality color my opinion of the movie? You betcha. Did I cry? Yeah, kinda – couldn’t help it. The movie deals too openly with the past and the notion of outliving your relevance for it not to. Did I love the musical montage set to “We Built This City” by Starship? Hell, yes. (I also rejoiced over a fleeting moment where the Swedish Chef, fearful of losing the Muppets’ beloved theater, pulls his chickens near: “Oh, chickees…”)
I didn’t care for Jason Segel or Amy Adams’ characters or their dopey romance. But the new character of Walter is certainly sympathetic and the musical numbers are pretty good, even if they pale to Paul Williams’ work in the original feature film. (The best song in the movie is actually a reprise of Williams’ masterful “Rainbow Connection.”) If you love the Muppets, I think you’ll at least really like the new movie as I did. What I love best of all, however, is that these characters are back. Back in the spotlight, back in popular culture, and back in my life. And they’re welcome to stay forever.
With Chris Cooper.
Academy Award: Best Song (“Man or Muppet”)