Muppets Redux Review

So I’m probably not gonna make a habit of this, but in light of the experience I had last week seeing The Muppets with my family, I feel like it’s totally relevant to the whole idea of this blog. So today I’m gonna talk about the movie, the Muppets, and what they mean to my generation.

First of all, the day was great. We took Ryder to see a 10am show at Disney’s El Capitan Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. I had been there once before years ago for another nostalgia trip – an anniversary screening of TRON – and while that film just don’t hold up as well as the memories of it do, I remember being very impressed by the El Capitan. It smacks of Hollywood glamour and a devotion to the movies that you don’t get anywhere but here in Hollywood. It’s a gorgeous building, and for The Muppets it’s been bedecked in holiday style, with displays of faux presents all over the walls, as well as a preshow singalong event with Kermit and Miss Piggy, which was, indeed, awesome. Followed by snow. Yep, snow. In the theatre. Ryder loved it, and the medley of familiar holiday songs set the tone for the day. This was also Julee’s first experience in a Hollywood movie theatre, so here eyes were just as wide as Ryder’s as the LED curtains rose and the snow fell. Pretty great second moviegoing experience for the boy, but I gotta be careful not to set a standard that he’ll come to expect. Them seventeen-dollar tickets add up.

Anyway, the curtains rose and the movie began, and I was swept up in the magic of The Muppets just like everyone else in the theatre. First, it lives up to the hype. Jokes were spot on, songs were great, and even tho it’s probably a little too long for a kid audience, Kermit can still make me choke up like nobody else. Oh yeah, it’s loaded with opps to cry, and I’m surprised I made it thru the movie without having to change my shirt from all the tears. Cry Moment #1 came in Kermit’s office, as the camera pans past a wall of celebrity photos, and featured right in the middle is a picture of Jim Henson himself smiling with Kermie. That’s where the waterworks started. Cry Moment #7 or maybe 12 or more came near the end when those three sweet chords on the banjo echoed thru the theatre. I had “Rainbow Connection” playing in my head the rest of the week, and it was lovely. I knew going into it that they had to play that song at some point, and I couldn’t wait. It was like coming full circle for me, and I had a great time.

And this is what I really want to talk about – my own connection (and, by proxy, my generation’s connection) to the Muppets. I touched on this last week, and it’s been brewing in my head ever since, so I knew I had more to say about it. See, I grew up with the Muppets. They’ve been a part of my life since I can remember – they’ve always been there, and they’ve rarely disappointed in that time. My mom credits my early reading to a regular dose of Sesame Street, and I’m innoculating Ryder the same way (along with reading all the time with him myself – I don’t credit it all to the Muppets). I saw the first Muppet Movie with my dad and I’ve seen every subsequent Muppet film in the theatre as well. I never missed The Muppet Show. I cried along with everyone else in high school the day Jim Henson died, and while I’m still a fan, I can tell the difference between Kermit’s voice now and then. Jim’s unique quality just isn’t there, and I still miss it.

So I never outgrew the Muppets, and judging from the success of the current film, neither did anyone else my age. The Muppets were instrumental in shaping the collective mind of my generation. We all took Kermit’s lessons to heart, and we live by them to this day. The people who made the new movie knew that, and in all honesty, The Muppets was made for our generation, not for our children. Sarcasm and irony are huge components of the Muppet sense of humor, and it’s part of the reason my generation loves sarcasm so much. We grew up with puppets who made smartass comments to real people and to each other, so it’s no surprise it’s how we joke with our friends now. So in a sense, the Muppets contributed to the postmodern Zeitgeist of Generation X. How’s that for a mouthful of big words?

But it’s true. The movie was made with us in mind. Kids will dig it, because it’s the Muppets, and the Muppets are funny and cute and, well, they’re puppets. But they relate to it the same way we did when we were their age, and they don’t fully grasp all of the humor yet. Neither did we. Give ’em time, and it’ll come, but the  film is aimed at the adults who are simply thrilled to see their beloved friends on the screen again. The movie is about nostalgia. The plot revolves around this idea and does so extremely well. But think about it – the Pixar movies do the same thing, and who makes the Pixar movies? Kids who grew up on the Muppets. Who writes for The Office? Hmm?

See? I was right about the Zeitgeist thing. It’s how we all connect to each other, and it all starts with the Muppets.

So I’ve gone out of my way to try to share my experience with the Muppets with my son, in the hopes that it somehow builds a connection between us as well. I saw The Muppet Movie with my own dad, and while I’m sure he enjoyed it because I enjoyed it, it wasn’t really made for him. It was made for me, and it still is. But there’s a chance that, with the right effort, Ryder will grow up with the same love for the Muppets that I did. Well, not exactly the same, but similar, and it’s something that he and I will be able to share for the rest of our lives. Let’s face it, his clothes will be ridiculous and his music will be too goddamn loud, but hopefully we’ll both love the Muppets.

So when the new movie comes out on DVD, I’ll buy it, and Ryder and I will make a point out of watching it together for the next ten years or so, and then after he gets over his bitchy teen years we’ll watch it together again as adults, and maybe this time he’ll get all the jokes the same way I do. And maybe he’ll make it to the very end of the movie without fidgeting. But next time we watch it there won’t be a twenty-minute preshow.

Oh, and Jason Segel should never be allowed to dance. Never.

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