Finally saw THE MUPPETS
I went to see The Muppets today, figuring by now the theaters would be empty enough that there wouldn’t be a lot of noisy kids to contend with (indeed, there was only one well-behaved toddler). It was entertaining and had some good gags and musical numbers, but I’m afraid I’m underwhelmed by it on the whole. For one thing, it was too much about playing on nostalgia and things the Muppets had done in the past. So it felt a bit derivative. For another, some of the story elements didn’t make much sense to me. Like, if they had so many celebrities showing up for the telethon, big names like Whoopi Goldberg and Neil Patrick Harris, why just stick them on the phones instead of having them perform? Which leads me to another disappointment, which is that the celebrity cameos were mostly so minor. In the previous Muppet movies, the celebs often played bigger roles, and even the cameos were more than just one or two lines. I would’ve liked to get more than just the brief glimpses we got.
But my main problem was with the characterization of Kermit. He was just so passive and hopeless here. Kermit’s supposed to be the eternal optimist, a source of inspiration to others, a leader who brings people together and brings out the best in them. But here, Kermit was this mopey sad sack who didn’t believe anything was possible and spent most of the movie giving up too easily and needing other people/Muppets to talk him into trying things. It would’ve been okay if that had just been his initial characterization and he’d been back to his old self by the second act, but it just went on so long here that by the time he gave that “It’s okay because we’re all together” speech near the end, it was too little, too late. This wasn’t the Kermit I used to know. The script made him too weak and defeated so that Walter could be the hero and the source of inspiration instead. Or maybe they were trying so hard to make Kermit a nice guy (something that I gather was an issue that came up in the rewrites) that they forgot he could be bold and assertive and daring as well. I mean, Kermit was the alter ego of Jim Henson, who was not just an easygoing guy but an innovator who strove to push the envelope and readily took risks.
So it was a nice bit of nostalgia and maybe it’s fine for younger audiences as a reintroduction. And I enjoyed it for the most part while I was watching. But in the wake of it I feel a little empty and sad for the loss of what the Muppets were in their prime.