Someday we’ll find it

Well, I’ve just finished watching The Muppet Movie for the first time in… man, I bet it’s been 25 years. Some of you aren’t even that old!

I thoroughly enjoyed the film, but it also made me a little melancholy. I think that was the intent, actually. It’s a funny movie with lots of great lines (“I’ve seen detergents that left a better film! Ah hah ha hah!”), ridiculous running gags, and enough Chekhov’s guns to give a ’90s Rob Liefeld character lower back pain from hefting them all at once.

At the same time, it’s also a very wistful movie, and that makes me doubly melancholy. Not only from the on-screen musings, but also from the knowledge that a movie like this could never sneak through the Hollywood machine these days. Hollywood doesn’t do sincere anymore; it does big, it does explosive, it does obnoxious. Genuine sentiment, however, can only sneak through when it’s veiled behind a repulsive veil of irony.

I mean, look at The Muppet Movie. It’s a film that begins with a long, slow aerial zoom into a swamp, where a frog plays the banjo as he sings an existential ballad about rainbows. Midway through the movie, the crew stops in the desert and a buzzard-like plumber who loves a semi-sentient chicken serenades the midnight sky. This is a movie about the heartfelt hopes and aspirations of puppet animals, for crying out loud. And it’s beautiful, and it’s funny, and occasionally it’s bittersweet.

I secretly hope the new Muppet film can slip past the film industry’s mandate of cynicism and gloss. It seems unlikely given the quality (i.e. lack thereof) of the past few Muppet projects to see the light of day (although the random viral videos they’ve been sneaking onto the Internet are unexpectedly good), and nothing Muppets could ever be as great as it was before Jim Henson died. But Jason Segel actually gives the impression of being an earnest guy with a genuine love for the ridiculous and for the Muppets, and his Dracula puppet musical absolutely justified the cost of admission to the otherwise rote “rom com” Forgetting Sarah Marshall. (That, and the vignette of Segel passing his days of unemployment by pretending to be Gandalf.) Maybe there’s hope! But just in case the sincere heart of Hollywood has truly withered away to a shriveled black lump of bitterness, I encourage everyone to stream or rent or buy the original Muppet Movie. It’s 90 minutes that couldn’t possibly be spent better.

20 thoughts on “Someday we’ll find it

  1. Yeah it’s great. Rainbow Connection is heartbreaking every single time.

    Henson was a genius and it makes me sad that there aren’t more of his kind around today.

  2. My favorite will always be the Great Muppet Caper. Come on, how can you ever beat Miss Piggy crashing through a stained glass window on a motorcylce then leaping on top of a cat burgler?

  3. I’d like to think Pixar could make a movie like that if they wanted to go down that road. Their last few films have been profoundly entertaining as well as emotional.

      • I find myself skeptical as well. I hate to see them revisiting properties that shouldn’t probably be revisited.

        Still, the original Cars was great. I thought it would be lame, but Pixar is really good at taking stuff that I don’t think will work and, well, making it work. I’m not a big fan of Larry the Cable Guy, but he _nailed_ it with Mater.

  4. I thought Muppets in Space was actually pretty funny. I also thought the first 1/3 of Sarah Marshall was painfully, realistically funny (having gone through a breakup like that myself), until it turned into every other movie.

    So uh, when’s that Parish/Rogers podcast coming out?

  5. Oh my heart. The moment I saw this post’s title in my RSS feed reader, I sung the rest of the line to myself unaware of the post’s contents and felt really sad. I miss Jim Henson so much.

    @Daniel, I was just going to say, the only people that approach entertainment like Jim Henson did is Pixar. That would be a killer combination writing-wise, but I don’t think actual physical Muppets ever need to be replaced.

  6. As much as I enjoy the happy fuzzy Muppet stuff I am a much bigger fan of the darker side of the Jim Henson Company (Labyrinth, Dark Crystal, The Storyteller).

    I would be thrilled if they ever decided to make something genuinely creepy and terrifying – something along the lines of Pan’s Labyrinth. It would truly be something to behold.

  7. While I enjoyed the first couple of the Muppet movies back in the day, I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed the newer ones though. I’ve always thought it was due to recasting of the voices to people that sounded kind of the same, etc. But I think you hit the real reason on the head…it just boils down to heart.

  8. I disagree – I think Hollywood does plenty of sentimentality these days, they just don’t do it WELL. They tend to either go ironic, or they handle it poorly and make it maudlin.

  9. Jim Henson was the bomb. That he was from my home state is just icing on the cake. :)

    We all know Hollywood has been going downhill for years. They’re either entirely too safe, or they’re too busy pushing the boundaries of taste either through over-the-top violence or sexuality. I think it’s a dearth of real writing talent, which leads them to take creative shortcuts. And it’s one of the reasons I’m disturbed when I see video gaming follow the Hollywood route as well.

    I guess I should stop being curmudgeonly and go watch The Muppet Movie, huh?

  10. I’m waiting for Hollywood to rerun more classic movies in theaters. It’s gotta cost the studio execs a lot less than making new ones, right?

  11. Blast you Jeremy, get out of my head!

    We were just talking about Jason Segal, Forgetting Sarah Marshal and The Rainbow Connection yesterday at work, and then you post something like this?

    Someday I’ll find it!

  12. Man, the Muppet Movie is awesome, and it’s been a while since I’ve watched it myself. Not 25 years long though, but I should really watch it again.

    I thought the Muppets would be okay without Henson when Muppet Christmas Carol came out, but by the time Muppets from Space came out, I figured it was gone. I’ll be watching news of this movie and staying hopeful. That Dracula puppet musical was worth the price of admission to Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

  13. This might be a very weird and probably misguided recommendation in the context of this conversation but I found the recent live action Speed Racer movie to be a refreshingly sincere film.

Comments are closed.