Statler: That’s what I like about it.
Much to my enjoyment, The Muppets, those beloved felt creatures that transcend their puppet origins to become something altogether magical and unexpected, have finally found their way back into the modern pop culture landscape. They would never fall entirely into obscurity because their body of work would certainly live on in the hearts of all who have been fortunate enough to have let them in. For a while though, Jim Henson’s marvels were struggling to find relevance, but the 2011 film, THE MUPPETS, changed all that, making it clear that The Muppets would always find an audience as long as their original values were upheld. And if you want to get a real sense of what those values truly are, you needn’t look any further than their very first film, THE MUPPET MOVIE, which in now nearly 35 years old.
THE MUPPET MOVIE was the very first feature film for The Muppets, and the only one to be directed by a Muppet family outsider, James Frawley, who went on to work extensively in television. Up until this time, The Muppets had worked exclusively in television themselves and it was not clear whether or not their transition to the big screen would be a successful one. It ultimately was, as the film was a success with both critics and audiences, and went on to garner two Academy Award nominations for Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher’s score and original song, the now classic, “Rainbow Connection”. It is this very song that opens THE MUPPET MOVIE, with everyone’s favourite frog, Kermit, strumming a banjo contently on a log. The film is meant to tell the story of how The Muppets came together originally and this moment epitomizes what The Muppets stand for. As Kermit warbles, a Hollywood agent just happens to row by him, informing him of the need for charismatic frogs in Hollywood. Kermit was doing just fine on his log but the opportunity to make millions of people happy is just too great for him to resist and with that motivation in mind, he decides he will be that frog that makes the people happy. This is why I personally worship at the temple of Kermit.
THE MUPPET MOVIE is not terribly complicated, aside from the technical mastery of bringing The Muppets to such grand life, but it doesn’t need to be really. Kermit must get to Hollywood and he meets and picks up all The Muppets we know and love, from Fozzie Bear to Miss Piggy to Gonzo and Camilla, along his journey. The film is one long road trip musical. They drive around aimlessly and break out into songs to pass the time, while eluding the clutches of Doc Hopper (Charles Durning), an ambitious frog legs fast food chain owner, who wants Kermit as his spokesfrog. Getting to Hollywood is the goal, as there is clearly no question as to whether they will all be embrace or not once they arrive, but getting there is the fun part anyway. In fact, you won’t want the journey to end because spending time with these furry folks is just so darn funny. Their humour has always been sharp and pointed and this first feature is a fantastic reminder of just how long they have been this great.
How many sheep would you give The Muppet Movie?