The Muppets

a film by James Bobin

It's time to play the music
It's time to light the lights
It's time to meet the Muppets on the Muppet Show tonight.

It's time to put on makeup
It's time to dress up right
It's time to raise the curtain on the Muppet Show tonight.

For anyone of my generation, the so-called Generation X, these words should bring back the most fun of nostalgic feelings. For the final four years of the 1970's and the first two of the 1980's, these words, accompanied by a slew of brightly coloured felt marionettes and puppets, collectively known as The Muppets, hitherto seen in children's programming, would greet viewers every week on a new, hip show that would combine the giddy childish things of youth with the more sardonic humour of adulthood. These words should bring back visions of Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and Gonzo the Great, The Swedish Chef, Rowlf, Link Hogthrob, Dr. Bunson Honeydew and his assistant Beaker, and of course, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, complete with wildman/muppet Animal on kick-ass drums.

With a TV show, six feature films and a slew of television specials behind them, The Muppets have come and gone as a cultural pop phenomenon. Pretty much unknown to a new generation (although some sporadic TV appearances have popped up now and then, the last time these fuzzy nutballs hit theaters was Muppets in Space twelve years ago) but still hanging on to a rather strong cult and toy collecting fanbase, these once wildly popular denizens of pop culture are reaching out for a full on most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational comeback. And to get things started (why don't you get things started! It's time to get things started!) there is a brand new Muppet movie in many many (or is that Mana Mana?) theaters near you.

Produced, co-written and starring man child du jour, and long time Muppet fan Jason Segel, this new Muppet movie, matter-of-factly called simply The Muppets, is irreverent, silly, ridiculous and sometimes batshitcrazy - just what any movie featuring the Muppets should damn well be. The new film takes on the somewhat true-life story (at least on the sad surface of lost pop culture) of how the Muppets have become forgotten by society, and must get the old gang back together to stop an evil oil baron from tearing down Muppets Studios down and dig for oil. Featuring not just Segel, but also a brand new Muppet named Walter as his brother and world's biggest Muppet fan, Amy Adams as Segel's girlfriend and Chris Cooper as Tex Richman, evil oil baron, the film is, as any good Muppet production should be, filled to the veritable brim with goofy cameos from everyone from Neil Patrick Harris to Jack Black to Mickey Rooney and many many many more.

Still though, even if this new film has much of the silly flair of the Muppets of old (even if not the same voices), including breaking the fourth wall and using its own pop culture chewiness to garner laughs, and you get to see Chris Cooper rap for, as far as I can recall, the one and only time on film, and some of the cameos are rather ingenious (the appearance of a certain TV star as the human version of a Muppet elicited the biggest laugh in the theater), and it was quite fun to see that aforementioned old gang back together again, there is something missing. Perhaps it is the fact that nothing ever lives up to the memory one has of something, or perhaps the corny humour just does not translate to this more jaded world. Whatever the case, the movie, from the pathos of Kermit to the Catskillesque humour of Fozzie to the insanity of Animal to the one-liner critiques of the balconied Statler and Waldorf, is still pretty much a blast for this old Gen Xer. [12/07/11]