Thursday, December 1, 2011

Some Random Thoughts on The Muppets

Disclaimer- I wrote this a while ago (last edited in December) but never completed it. Figured I'd post now after I rewatched the movie on DVD.
These thoughts are in bergeronian order. They mostly deal with or are inspired by The Muppets but also deal with some general Muppet stuff. There will be movie spoilers, so if you haven't seen it yet, feel free to not read:

1. Before I say anything else, let me say that The Muppets was generally fantastic. Anything negative I write about it here is complete nitpicking. It was just a terrific movie.

2. The cameos were slightly off. Not as a whole. But unlike the early Muppet movies The Muppets was trying to emulate- The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, and The Muppets Take Manhattan- a large percentage of the cameos in the new film were the actors making cameos by playing themselves making cameos. Neil Patrick Harris, John Krasinski, Whoopi Goldberg, Selena Gomez, Rico Rodriguez, and James Carville all simply appeared (mostly very, very briefly) as themselves at the Muppet Telethon. In contrast, the brief cameos where the celebrities were playing a character were much more entertaining. David Grohl as Animool of The Moopets was inspired, Emily Blunt essentially recreated her The Devil Wears Prada role, and celebrities randomly popping up in small roles- Donald Glover, Sarah Silverman, Ken Jeong, Kristen Schaal, Alan Arkin, Zach Galifinakas etc. was much more in touch with previous Muppet film cameos.

3. There are two cameos I intentionally did not include in that last point. One was Jack Black, who's extended role may not even qualify as a cameo. He was a pretty perfect celebrity to have as the "host" of the telethon. Second is Jim Parsons. The past couple years, Parsons as Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory has become insufferable- and won two Emmys. In interviews, it always appears Parson's personality is frighteningly similar to the character he plays. So my excitement over his appearance in this movie was tempered at best. And he may have been the single best part of the film. His unique mannerisms and physical comedy skills were perfect for the role he played. His interview with Jimmy Kimmel where he discussed the role is embedded right here.

4. Is Dr. Bunsen Honeydew nearsighted or farsighted? I mean, he has no eyes. Are the glasses real or just to make him look smart? Has he ever been seen without glasses?

5. Jason Segel and I grew up during different eras in Muppet history. His focus was primarily honoring the legacy of The Muppet Show and the original three movies, my main memories of the Muppets is from Muppet Treasure Island, Muppets from Space, and Muppets Tonight. So I was glad to see Segel include some of the post-Henson era Muppets. The most prominent in the Muppets universe has been Pepe the Prawn, and he got a brief scene. In most of the post-Henson movies and specials Pepe has been a fairly prominent character. If the first tier has been Kermit, Piggy, Fozzie, and Gonzo, the second tier has probably consisted of The Electric Mayhem (particularly Animal, Dr. Teeth, and Janice), Rizzo the Rat, Pepe, and occasionally Rowlf, and a third tier with Scooter (who was in the second tier before Richard Hunt passed away), Rowlf (same with before Henson passed), Bunsen and Beaker, the Swedish chef, and Statler and Waldorf. In this film, Rowlf and Scooter had probably their biggest roles since the original films and series, while Rizzo, a major character in   Manhattan was simply a background character. Anyway, Clifford, as host of Muppets Tonight was a fairly prominent post-Henson character who did not show up, but Bobo the Bear, the security guard from Tonight played a fairly substantial role as one of Chris Cooper's henchmen. It also pays respect to Muppets from Space, where Bobo played a similar role to Jeffrey Tambor's villain.

6. There were some Muppets who did not make the cut. Like any Christopher Nolan Batman movie, there was no Robin. Bean Bunny, a character who became randomly big in the 80's as a Muppet Baby and in the various Disney World shows, does not show up. And unlike the earlier movies, The Muppets featured no Sesame Street crossover, as they are now owned by different companies.

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