Like most of the people who are extolling the virtues of their newly-released movie, I grew up with the Muppets. I watched them on Sesame Street during the day and on The Muppet Show at night. My local library had the book Of Muppets and Men:The Making of The Muppet Show, and it introduced me to the men behind the characters, to Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz, and all the rest. I went to see The Muppets on its opening night this week, and I spent most of the movie with a big goofy grin on my face. I even got misty-eyed during The Rainbow Connection.
The Muppets totally lacks the mean-spiritedness that’s so common in today’s entertainment. Think about it; how many action films revolve around the audience rooting for the hero to violently kill the villain? How many reality shows encourage us to mercilessly mock their contestants’ failures? There’s none of that in The Muppets. Quite the opposite, in fact. Case in point: instead of doing the normal idealistic-youngster-gets-disillusioned-by-the-celebrity-he’s-always-idolized thing, when our protagonist Walter meets Kermit, he’s kind and welcoming. The movie is two hours or so of good, old-fashioned Muppet mayhem. But is it enough for today’s audiences?
As I left the theater, I realized that the movie was made specifically for people who’d grown up with the Muppets, for people like me. And there are not a lot of people like me. I enjoyed TRON:Legacy, for crying out loud. But will the things my generation loves about the Muppets also appeal to the same mass audiences that gobbled up scene after scene of brutal robot-on-robot violence in Transformers 3 this past summer? I don’t know. I guess we’ll have to wait for the box office returns to find out. If nothing else, we got to see an honest-to-goodness Muppet movie done right. And that’s not such a bad deal.