"Hey, did you know there's going to be a new Muppets movie?!"
For me the Muppets begin and end with Jim Henson. After his death in 1990, the Muppets have never truly been the same. Enough residual original elements were still in place in the mid-90s that some of the post-Henson stuff was okay, but none of it compared to the truly creative stuff Henson was in charge of.
Henson was a creative pioneer. His early puppet work was experimental and genius. And he was able to grow that into magnificent stories and ways to tell those stories. He was always looking for the next, new thing. After working on Sesame Street, he wanted to do something else more geared for grown ups. That became The Muppet Show. At the height of its popularity, he walked away before it got stale and moved onto something completely different, Fraggle Rock. He never stopped telling new stories, even if he got dragged back into using older characters.
The simplicity of it all was genius as well. From the writing standpoint, a lot of credit is due to Jerry Juhl, but Juhl had Henson's sensibilities and shared the same vision. So much of the writing was sharp, quick, and even very subtle at times. And the characters had such charm and personality. They were a delight to see on the screen.
This new movie is nothing new. In fact, it already sounds like it will be a retread of The Muppet Movie. It almost seems reminiscent of Superman Returns which was a retread of Donner's Superman: The Movie. The charm and personality seems gone. In the trailer, the characters seem flat and not true to form. The Muppets have stopped being characters and have become simply a property. They're marketing tactics have dabbled in parody rather than true irreverent humor.
They are not my Muppets. They haven't been my Muppets for a long time. They have become something else with the same name and same faces (though different voices).
And that's okay. I realize it's not about me. I try to be conscious of that. I've gone down this road before. The Star Trek '09 movie, the DC Reboot, and even the commercial failure of The A-Team movie make me realize that I am no longer the target audience for anything. That's fair enough. I've got the old stuff or I can look for new things that are more my cup of tea now.
I'm not trying to be a hater. I'm not the only one who has these feelings. In fact, this thoroughly written article, brilliantly entitled "Weekend at Kermie's," spells it out much better than I ever could. I don't begrudge Disney for picking up the Muppets and trying to do something with them. More power to them. I hope the movie has tremendous success and a lot of people enjoy seeing it. I really do. It just won't be something that I'm going to get excited about.
More important than anything I've written thus far, I hope this movie finally prompts Disney to release seasons 4 and 5 of The Muppet Show on DVD. Season 1 was finally released on DVD on August 9, 2005, over six years ago (with a few cut scenes at that...grumble-grumble). Season 2 followed almost a year later and season 3 a little less than a year after that in May of 2008. It's now almost September of 2011 and we should have had season 4 and 5 by now and even could have moved onto Muppets Tonight or something else. I don't know what the hold up is, but it's time to light the lights on this and finish out the release of these DVDs. And they better not pull any stunts with a complete set that includes stuff the other individual releases didn't have. (Oh, and they could re-release the first two Muppet movies on Blu-ray as well while they're at it.)