Saturday, November 26, 2011
Why the Muppets
A friend once asked me that. Why was I so obsessed with the Muppets? What did they mean to me? Apparently, they meant the same thing to me as they meant to screenplay writer Jason Segel who, as the story goes, is the man responsible for dragging the Muppet franchise up out of their made-for-TV squalor and bringing out the magic that many thought had died with Jim Henson.
The Muppets is the story of a young boy named Walter who isn't like the other kids because he's a puppet. Being a puppet can be depressing sometimes, as it turns out, and one day he's down in the dumps over it, and then he and his non-puppet brother, played by Segel, watch an episode of The Muppet Show. That night, Walter's world changes. He has hope. He believes in magic. Suddenly he understands that what makes him different makes him special, and he's obsessed with the Muppets from then on.
Fast forward 20 or so years. Walter's big brother is a grown man now, and Walter's still, well, a puppet. Sort of like the Muppet version of Webster, I suppose. Anyway, Walter, his brother Gary, and Gary's girlfriend Mary embark on a trip to LA and a visit to Muppet Studios. The Muppet Studios, however, have fallen into neglect. The Muppets drifted apart many years ago, you see, and no one has seen many of them in many years. The Muppet Studios are crumbling and dusty; all the magic is gone.
While there, Walter accidentally discovers that Tex Richman, a heartless oil tycoon played perfectly by Chris Cooper, plans to buy the Muppet studios and tear them down. Now Walter must find the Muppets and convince them to reunite to save their studios. Adventure and hilarity ensue.
I can't remember ever having laughed so hard and so often at a movie. Even Fozzie's terrible puns had the whole audience struggling to keep from having their slushies shoot out their noses (not a pleasant experience, I assure you).
As in the days of old, the characters often break the fourth wall to point out the sorts of plot holes and movie conceits that other, more serious films try to sweep under the rug. I might be reading more than necessary into it, but I think this is one of the many ways the Muppets refuse to pander to their audience. Jim Henson never wanted his characters to be mindless entertainment for kids. In fact, his first show, Sam and Friends, (this according to HowStuffWorks.com) was a TV program started in 1955 and geared towards adults. In the 60s, however, Henson decided that kids could be a pretty sophisticated audience, and that's when Henson created Sesame Street.
From then on, the goal of the Muppets franchise was to create entertainment that's appropriate for and amusing to kids that's also great for adults. Stuff that sails over the heads of kids is hilarious to us grown-ups. Ew, I just called myself a grown-up. The celebrity cameos and guest stars, of course, are a treat for the youth-impaired among us too. Seeing Chris Cooper, whose roles are usually so serious and intense, be over-the-top silly was fantastic. I could go on for a million years but there's no time. You have to drop whatever you're doing, right now, and go see the movie. Shoo. Go on, get.
What are you still doing here?! Go! Go! Go!
at 11:44 AM