You have to understand: I remember seeing Kermit the Frog, in drag, singing "I've Grown Accustomed To Your Face" on the Ed Sullivan Show when I was a kid. Maybe I was in seventh grade -- I thought it was earlier than that (according to online info it was 1967), but the fact remains that I fell madly in love with Kermit that very night. Easily alluded to on the Web, there is no film footage that I can find (for free) of that outstanding performance. Kermit was so genuine, so gentle, so green ... so convincingly frantic when he was nearly eaten alive.
We watched the TV series, The Muppet Show with relish; Beaker, the Swedish Chef, Dr. Teeth and Animal, we cackled at the creation of Miss Piggy, a cariacature of Peggy Lee. Oh, wait, that's apocryphal, even though she was first introduced as "Piggy Lee."
When Jim Henson, the voice and power behind Kermit the Frog, died in 1990, I thought that Kermit had to meet his end, too.
Last Thursday, when Bernie asked me if I wanted to go see The Muppets, I had to admit -- yes. Yes, I wanted to see Kermit again, even if his voice was different, even if I was to be disappointed.
Steve Whitmire's voice is not quite the same Kermit I loved for so long, but I have to admit, he did a good job. And Eric Jacobson also gave the movie a convincing Miss Piggy.
So much for sentimental remembrances.
The Muppets is about a pair of brothers, one of whom is "normal" and the other, a puppet. Their differences become apparent as they grow up, but their mutual interest in "The Muppet Show" leads them to an adventure in Los Angeles as they track down Kermit the Frog in his run-down mansion and enlist his help in trying to preserve the Muppet Museum and Studios from becoming an industrial complex.
Utter silliness ensues.
This is not a movie for anyone seeking an answer to the afterlife from the not- dead Muppets; there is no religious message, no lifestyle roadmap. This is the world in which there are Muppets, and they are down on their luck, but they are Muppets, and they will make things happen, in their very own crazy, crazed way.
I've read other reviews that, while favorable, bemoan that there wasn't enough Animal, there wasn't enough Beaker, there wasn't enough Swedish Chef. The fact is, there wasn't enough of all of them, there wasn't enough Muppets even though they were most of the movie. When you miss Muppets, you miss them all, and you want them to be back on tap for the times when you want to see a cook chase a chicken around the kitchen with a cleaver, or see some grubby nutcase with a load of dynamite and a detonator, or see a hapless lab assistant cheerfully abused by his director.
Or when you want to see the frog you loved as a young girl pick up his banjo and play a song that captured your heart as a young adult.
Missed you, Kermit. So good to see you again.
Sand says it all, and says it eloquently. Can you do a Muppet movie without Jim Henson and Frank Oz? The answer is actually yes, but there is a caveat: this movie has a different soul.
The Muppets is an honest tribute to Henson's genius, and was very definitely a well-done, fun movie. If you are new to the Muppet characters (and I'm not sure how that could be unless you are under the age of three), this would be a good introduction. For those of us who know the Muppets, this movie is a pleasant reunion.
However, just as we've seen with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Popeye and many others, when the original creative energy moves on, there is gradual deterioration of the product. It's almost inevitable. There have been exceptions of course. The recent Battlestar Galactica series was actually a vast improvement of the original series at every level. (I mean I vastly preferred the Grace Park version of the character Boomer to the original Boomer, but then I could watch Grace Park if she were cast as Bugs Bunny.)
When we lost Jim Henson, we really did lose an incredible creative talent. Frank Oz, an integral part of the Muppet original magic, for whatever reasons chose not to participate in this movie. I'm sure he had his reasons. Without Henson and Oz, I could not help but feel this movie was counterfeit, and there may never been another genuine Muppet movie.
But I hasten to add, in all fairness, that this is a good movie. As Leonato says of Beatrice: "There was never counterfeit of passion came so near the life of passion as she discovers it." As a good family movie, it really is worth the price of admission.
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