I am, and always have been, a big Muppets fan. I watched The Muppet Show as a child, I dutifully watched Muppets Tonight as a teenager, I watch The Muppet Christmas Carol every Christmas Eve and if I could find a way to be abused by Chris Langham, you’d have a hard time stopping me.
While I’m not dismissive of the post-Jim Henson Muppet films — I think that Christmas Carol is not only one of the strongest Muppet films but the best adaptation of A Christmas Carol there’s ever been — I concede that they’ve been stuck in a bit of a rut these last few years, so I was looking forward to seeing what a new team could put together.
The Muppets is a strong return to form. While Amy Adams and Jason Segel are disturbingly and unpleasantly saccharine, the script is funny, the songs are superb, the fourth-wall breaks often and I look forward to future generations not recognising any of the celebrity cameos. Seriously, go back and watch the original films – Edgar Bergen? Milton Berle? Cloris Leachman? Tommy Godfrey? Peggy Aitchison? That last one doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. 20 years from now, who will recognise Selena Gomez? I don’t even know who she is today.
My only issue with The Muppets is that I could never shake the feeling that the target audience was me, an adult who was a child during the ’70s and ’80s. The film lays on the references to times past, with jokes about modems, New Coke and Molly Ringwald alongside references to the old show and classic Muppet films, placing it firmly in the “Hey, remember Thundercats?” school of conversational gambits. Space-hoppers, eh? What were they all about?
The conceit of The Muppets is that the cast are no longer relevant to children today, so it’s unfortunate that by the end of the film they haven’t really shown otherwise. Instead they’ve shown that, like modems, New Coke and Molly Ringwald, their relevance is limited to thirtysomethings like myself.
I loved the film, I loved hearing The Rainbow Connection and seeing the classic Muppet intro sequence again, but you know what? I can see those on Youtube as well. So, I’m hoping the next Muppet film doesn’t rely so much on reminding me of things past, and works a little harder on something new.