Friday, March 28, 2014

Muppets Most Wanted

Muppets Most Wanted
seen @ Jamaica Multiplex Cinemas, Jamaica NY

The superb movie site The Dissolve wrote a piece recently about Muppets Most Wanted from the angle of how a movie like this can't help but recycle certain themes from past Muppet movies because these days, that's the safest way to guarantee that people will actually go see it:
...Is there an inherent limit to what talking, singing animal puppets can do in a movie? Or are studios simply too timid to push those limits? On the big screen, the Muppets have generally run through two basic plots: "Let's put on a show right here!" (The Muppet Movie, The Muppets Take Manhattan, The Muppets), and "Let's re-enact a beloved story that's safely in the public domain right here!" (The Muppet Christmas Carol, The Muppet Treasure Island, The Muppets' Wizard of Oz). Only Muppets From Space doesn't fit the mold, and it's an oddball in the series for numerous reasons, as it focuses on Gonzo instead of Kermit, and has no original songs. But that film aside, the Muppets operate in a small number of modes, and "Let's get involved in a caper of some sort right here!" has become the third thing the series can do. Or at least it's the only other option Disney seems willing to try.

I'm not about to dispute this claim. Indeed, MMW has lots of call-backs to earlier Muppet movies; some obvious, others less so. But you know what? I find that I'm okay with that. I still found it amusing, if not quite on the level of the earlier films, and if Disney's not willing to stray too far from the formula, I suspect that that'll be alright by me.

I don't want the Muppets to change too much. That's simply how I feel. The Muppets, as I explained last time, mean a great deal to me, from the time I first watched them on TV. Fair or not, appropriate or not, the image I have of them is the one from my childhood, when Jim Henson was still alive, and it's difficult to adjust. I find it strange seeing them do things like operate cellphones or computers, or interact with modern celebrities, or even sing modern songs! And now you expect me to entrust future Muppet movies with anyone other than the Henson family?

Well, I'm not completely dense. I realize that the Muppets can't stay exactly the same. But you know, so many other things from when I was a kid have changed - it'd be nice to have some things stay as close to the same as possible. I realize how this sounds, but I don't care: if Disney wants to recycle old plot points, I say let 'em!

Why? It's hard to explain. By way of comparison, let's look at another intellectual property from childhood: superheroes. As I get older, I start to think that forcing the superhero genre to "grow up" may have been the worst thing to happen to it, because 95% of the time, "growing up" has meant dumbass "very special episode" type stories that compromise the integrity of the characters and cheapen the real-world issues they're trying to address. (Here are a few examples.) And while the potential for a Muppet equivalent to Watchmen may exist, frankly, I don't need to see that. I just don't! (Also, before you shove Rule 34 at me, may I remind you that those who indulge in that sort of thing are far, far off the beaten path and are easily avoidable.)

And anyway, while MMW was derivative, it did have its moments: a Kermit doppleganger in a fight scene; some terrific songs; Tina Fey, whom I finally got to see in a movie for the first time (and I can see her appeal) and the usual guest cameos, some of which were even funny. To coin a phrase, MMW is what it is and I do not expect nor want too much deviation from the formula.

Though if Walter's gonna be a regular now, he desperately needs more in the way of personality.


  1. I hear you. When I want Muppets, I want the Muppets that mean something to me. It would help if I recognized all the celebrities in the cameos, but that's my own fault.

  2. I recognized most of the cameos, although clearly some were more popular than others. For instance, if you Google "muppets most wanted" under "images," there's an entire section devoted to Tom Hiddleston (Loki from the 'Thor' movies). In fairness, he did have a funny scene.


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