276 Days until Dragon*Con 2012…
And I seriously need to get my gameface back on. I had a run of about a week there where everything conspired against me and my fitness goals…
1st. My sister had her 40th birthday at a restaurant that is very tasty, but has nothing that could be considered remotely healthy. Plus, everyone looks at you like you’re a heel when you say you don’t want any birthday cake. I don’t know why, but people act like you stole their birthday from them if you don’t eat a piece of cake.
2nd. Obviously, Thanksgiving. This means turkey, which isn’t too bad for you. But it also means Sweet Potato Something (souffle? casserole? seems the proper name for this dish depends on where you live), Green Bean Casserole (cream of anything is not a good thing), punkin pie, etc. And that’s not to mention the leftovers which, if you are poor like us, you refuse to throw away until it is all eaten.
3rd. My birthday. On my birthday, I ate cookies, a giant burrito, punkin pie, and other stuff that I don’t remember because I was in a sugar-induced birthday haze.
The good news is that I have only missed a couple days in the JFZ lately. Today being one of them. After a week like this one, and not much sleep, I took this morning to sleep in and drink coffee.
What does this mean? Well, for starters, we can’t go back in time and make different decisions. Don’t even really know if I’d want to. So, what it means is that I must just get back on the horse and act like nothing happened and pick up my workout/eating routine where it left off… if maybe a pound or two heavier.
Now that that is off my chest, on to the business at hand…
Yeah, the new one that is at theatres right now.
I think I mentioned last week that I had plans to go see this on Thanksgiving night as part of my routine to go see a movie with my old friends every Thanksgiving night to kick off the holidays.
I also mentioned that I was going into this movie as “pessimistically optimistic”: not really expecting anything great, but nothing too bad either.
Right up front, I’ll say this: it was better than I expected.
The original songs were good. Not “Movin Right Along” great, but good, and more than acceptable. The song that Jason Segel and Walter sing together, “Life’s A Happy Song” is actually fairly catchy and reminiscent of some of the great Muppets moments from bygone times. I wish there had been less covers and less non-original background music.
There are several things that I was nervous about that the movie either avoided completely, or were very briefly mentioned/done:
1. The C Lo Green song, sung by the chicken chorus. I saw this in the trailers and hated it and it made me very nervous about how good this movie was going to be. This song is already kind of dated, what about 10 years from now? Rainbow Connection is timeless because it is original to the film. Thankfully, this was kept very brief.
2. Whoopi Goldberg. I know she goes back a long way with the Muppets. Good on her, for that. But she sucks and is annoying. I heard she had a cameo in the movie, which made me audibly groan, considering I blame her completely for that ‘Letters to Santa” nonsense a few years back. Again, her cameo was, thankfully, very brief. Which brings me to another thing:
3. Celebrity Cameos, particularly by “celebrities” who would only be recognized by 12 year old girls. This did happen, there were several short shots of people that sent a gasp and murmur through the ‘tween groups in the theatre, but whom I had no idea who they were. You may be thinking, “Don’t be a hater, dog, just because you are old and out of touch.” You know who the guest cameos were in the original Muppet Movie? Here’s a short list: Edgar Bergen, Milton Berle, Mel Brooks, Steve Martin, Bob Hope, etc. Do you think any of the kids in the audience recognized the significance of having Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy in a Muppet (i.e. puppet) movie? No, they didn’t. I know because I was one of them. It was only as an adult that I realized how influential the guest stars in the Muppet Movie were, and still are. This new Muppets movie, while including cameos by the current stars of the ‘tween scene, at least kept them very brief, and I think there were some thrown in there who didn’t even have a line. Good for you, Muppets. I guess you could include “pop culture references” into this third point also. I was scared there would be a lot of references to crap like “Dancing with the Stars”, but there was not, thankfully. Although the nincompoops I was sharing the theatre with (not my party, of course) probably would have loved that.
Those are three things I was worried about that the Muppets movie didn’t do, or they at least held it to a minimum. Here are things that they did do wrong:
1. Too much human action. Jason Segel and Amy Adams, in the words of the oldheads out at the railroad, “can go catch a rabbit”. I don’t think they are bad actors, I just think their roles were too big in a “Muppet” movie. In my opinion, this movie should have been called “Goofy Playdough-Face Guy and Smokin Hot Redhead Meet the Muppets. Featuring: the Muppets.” This is the same trap that the Transformers movies fell into (I’m not comparing the two. The Muppets is, at the least, one zillion times better than the new Transformers movies). Not enough of the characters you came to see. This includes Walter, a new Muppet that I liked, but I was really there to see Kermit, Animal, Rowlf, Gonzo, the Swedish Chef and Fozzie. Walter was the character that all us old-school Muppet fans were supposed to identify with… and then imagine if we got asked to join the Muppets, which to be honest, does make my insides feel all funny.
2. Bad plot. Stolen from “the Blues Brothers” and countless other “we got ta get the band back together to save something” movies. If this was meant as an homage to the Blues Brothers, then that is fine. And I realize that the plot is secondary to zany Muppet action. So I don’t count too many points off for this one. Also, they could have turned it into some kind of bullshit political commentary, since the main bad guy is an oil baron type villain, but they didn’t. So no points taken away for that.
3. Voice acting was off, and some of the Muppets acted out of character, to me. Frank Oz is not dead. I checked. Whoever did Fozzie’s voice needs to go watch Muppet Family Christmas again. There were times when the voice was so off that it took me a second to figure out who was talking. That should not happen in a Muppet movie. In fact, a Muppet movie should be able to work as a radio drama, the voices are that distinct. Also, it didn’t seem to me that Miss Piggy was quite crazy enough. This is a mild complaint, being as Piggy is probably my least favorite Muppet, but since she is one of the perennial mainstays of the Muppets, her character should be jumping through stained glass windows on a motorcycle. Not really a problem, as she does do some crazy stuff, but she should have beat the mess out of that fake Miss Piggy.
Those are some small gripes, so that is good. Here are a few things that I feel the movie got right:
1. The main thing. No cynicism, no sarcasm, no irony, no snarkiness. There is no place in a Muppet movie for self-awareness, because there is no need for it. Movies like Shrek and Enchanted (Amy Adams again) have made it popular for movies to make fun of themselves or their medium. I hate that. The world today is mean and cynical enough as it is, I don’t need self-referential humor from the Muppets to make me enjoy the movie, or feel that it is appropriate for my adult self. Not only is there none of this in the film, but they even say that the bad bizarro-world Muppets (the “Moopets”) are “cynical Muppets for a cynical world” or something like that. Taking this, the Muppets movie actively fights against cynicism, and I like that.
2. The Muppet Show. I can’t even remember all the references to the original Muppet Show. Some critics seem to think that these references make the movie more for old grouchy Muppet fans like us, and that kids today might not enjoy the film because of it. We took my 8-year-old sister-in-law to the film with us and, when asked what she rated the movie, she said “10 out of 10”. The perfect movie! We have finally found it! Clearly kids will like this movie, and the grouchy Muppets fans (as my friend referred to us) will be pleased by all the nostalgia.
3. The Rainbow Connection. The only gripe I have with this brief scene is just that: it is too brief. But they nail it, no doubt. For the record, I did not cry, but I was very pleased with this scene. In fact, you could use this scene as an example of the entire second half of the movie. The first half is the set up, but after the gang gets back together, it’s about 45 minutes of payoff, which is about 44 minutes more of good stuff than your average movie.
I liked the movie. If you are a grown-up Muppet fan, go see it and take your kids, or someone else’s. I think that, like a trip to Disneyland, this could be one of those things that is fun for adults, but having a kid with you gives you a bit of perspective on the whole thing.
Of course, there were plenty of things that could have been done better, but there are also quite a few things that they nailed. I’m hoping this means a return of the franchise. Knowing Disney, if it makes them money, then they will continue it whether it completely blows or not.
Overall, I’ll give it a 7 out of 10. But you hafta realize, briefly, that here are my ratings for a few other Muppet movies:
the (original) Muppet Movie: 10/10
the Great Muppet Caper: 8.5/10
Muppets Take Manhattan: 9/10
Muppet Christmas Carol: 8/10
Muppets From Space: 7.5/10
Muppet Treasure Island: 6/10
Muppet Family Christmas: 10/10
Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas: 7/10
A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa: 2/10. If there were no Muppets in it, this would be a goose egg.
I know this was boring, what with no pics and all, but I’m sorry, I just wanted to get my review out there, as a lifelong Muppet fan, for all the other lifelong grouchy Muppet fans out there.
Tomorrow: More Muppet action!!!!!!!!!!