As the story goes, Jim Henson came up with the idea for Fraggle Rock when he was trying to come up with a television show that would help bring about World Peace (ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp). What makes this such a great (if apocryphal) story is that if any guy could have pulled this off, it would have been him.
Seriously, he gave us Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, The Dark Crystal, Yoda, Labyrinth, The Storyteller, and Dinosaurs.
The thing that strikes me the hardest when I think about any/all of these is how they positively refused to talk down to their audience (presumably children) and were more than willing to discuss loneliness, fear, sadness, and even death intelligently and honestly… and in such a way that you didn’t mind discussing loneliness, fear, sadness, and even death. Even the lighter fare (for example, The (original) Muppet Movie) had moments where Kermit’s responsibility and self-doubt are brought into focus and explored. This fearlessness when it comes to places they’re willing to go helped make these little piles of plush and foam rubber into archetypes that seem real. Even realer than real. (The conversations where Fozzie and Kermit are the only ones still awake and staring up and talking about their various hopes (“Kermit?” “Yeah, Fozzie?”) have more verisimilitude than all of the 2010 and 2011 movies mentioned on the Wikipedia Page for Romantic Comedy Film combined.)
Which brings us to The Muppets.
I feel like if I said “I didn’t love it” would give the wrong impression. I very much enjoyed it, I did not begrudge the money spent on purchasing the tickets and snacks, and, perhaps most importantly, I did not think about my butt falling asleep or having to pee until the credits started rolling. These alone are the highest praises that I can give any movie.
Walking out to the car, however, had me feeling kinda melancholy. Where the movie was at its most charming was where it reminded me of The Muppet Movie. Where the movie was funniest was when it made callbacks to jokes made in previous years/decades/millennia. This is not to say that the movie was not funny nor that it was not charming. It was overflowing with all sorts of charm and humor.
But compare to these two little camera tests from 1979:
(According to accounts, this banter is all improvised.)
When you are watching “Very, Very Good Indeed” and are reminded of “Absolutely Perfect”, it creates all sorts of inner conflict. While I enjoyed the Muppet Movie, it made me remember, more than anything else, the old movie. To that, I suppose, I owe it a debt of gratitude. It is good that this movie was made even if it couldn’t achieve the magic that Jim Henson was able to create seemingly effortlessly. Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp!
Your post made me realize how important Kermit’s habit of swallowing is to his character, and how wonderful that is.
There’s a magnificent little short (I think it’s the one made where -allegedly- Henson is trying to sell the company to Disney just before he died*) where he shows all kinds of little tricks he used to make Kermit come alive despite being the simplest Muppet he had. Like always showing him leaning forward.
*the one where he and Oz (and Kermit) are sitting on stools; can’t find it on youtube now
I can’t watch anything with muppets after the loss of Jim Henson. Especially since he was in talks with Disney and they appear to have taken it over. I don’t consider Farscape to be muppets.
That second one is epic. Kermit and Piggy always crack me up.
Jay, two things.
Check my wall on the Facebooks and check out what Sue gave as a comment on one of my offhand posts about muppets. It’s cool if it’s true.
Next, a pox upon you for posting that video of the Toys R Us video because that damned song has been running in my head since it was posted here.
They knew how to make commercials back then, didn’t they?
The thing of it is that Absolutely Perfect still makes me cry….
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