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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Muppets Honors Jim Henson's Spirit After All

Posted By on Tue, Nov 22, 2011 at 4:00 PM

click to enlarge The jury's out for Waldorf and Statler. - THE MUPPETS
  • The Muppets
  • The jury's out for Waldorf and Statler.

We emerged from a Saturday morning sneak preview of The Muppets having experienced an enormous wave of the best kind of nostalgia. The strongly positive reaction of an audience that was largely made up of kids who had never been introduced to these characters before was uplifting.

We laughed, we cried -- it was even better than Cats. Most importantly, we thought it would be something that the late creator Jim Henson would have appreciated.

It was only later that we learned of the concerns of several key former Muppets players expressed in a Hollywood Reporter feature story. After reading the script, they had reservations about how their beloved friends would be portrayed in this new feature film, and whether its screenwriter and human star, Jason Segal, would steal the spotlight.

The article, entitled "Kermit as Mogul, Farting Fozzie Bear: How Disney's Muppets Movie Has Purists Rattled," describes the fears of several of Henson's colleagues upon reading the script. After having viewed the final result, we think that certain elements that might have come across as cold on the page warmed up considerably by the time they made it to the screen.

For example, the "Muppet Insiders" argued that Kermit would never lord over a mansion. But in the final film, we learn that -- SPOILER -- he was basically just keeping the lights on in what was meant to be his love nest with Miss Piggy, who built it in her typically extravagant style. And Fozzie The Bear wouldn't have needed a fart shtick to get through the day, the insiders complained, but in the movie he's also spent years languishing in a sub-par Muppets cover band in Reno and couldn't be blamed for resorting to such non-Muppet material. What's ultimately preserved here, though, is Fozzie's gloriously meek optimism which we fondly remember from days of yore.

The film also offers a kindhearted portrayal of a new wide-eyed Muppet named Walter, whose ardent fanboy love for the forgotten characters sparks all the action. His role is one of powerful reverence and respect. We believe Henson would have approved.

Remakes and revisits are often blundered, a blow to those who hold dear memories of an original. This is so pervasive that we typically enter such scenarios with low expectations and a high detection level for continuity. And while Henson has sadly been unable to lend physical voice to Kermit for many years, his spirit still shines through this modern adaptation of a deservedly-revived classic.


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Tamara Palmer


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