by Alexander Huls Wednesday March 21, 2012

The Muppets

Movies can elicit a lot of reactions – enjoyment, disappointment, admiration, disdain, indifference, intellectual stimulation, and boredom to name a few. These are all common everyday feelings for a movie watcher. Joy isn’t. Joy is something of the proverbial holy grail of film emotions.

Now, I’m not talking about the joy that comes from enjoying a great movie. I’m talking about the pure unadulterated joy that springs up from something that blows right past all your objectivity and roots itself right in the essence of what makes you genuinely happy as a human being.

Watching The Muppets is that kind of joyful experience. It makes me happy. It fills up my chest with the warmth of freshly baked bread or shirts put on right out of the dryer.

Let me get the elephant in the room out of the way though and say this doesn’t mean my objectivity is entirely absent. Is The Muppets perfect? No. Whether as a movie, or a “true” Muppets movie – the latter being something not only film critics but also Frank Oz and the original performers have argued.

Whatever my nitpicks and complaints though – Walter’s underwhelming final talent, Kermit’s curious commitment issues, the forcedness of “Me Party” musical number and Jason Segel’s plots with Amy Adams/Walter – it’s hard to escape that feeling that sort of makes everything okay. My objectivity isn’t absent, it’s simply circumvented. After all, at the risk of testing your sentimental gag reflex, it’s like having a romantic partner/dear friend. Undoubtedly they have their idiosyncrasies and flaws, but it doesn’t ultimately matter because of how that person makes you feel and how you feel about them.

That’s not to say there aren’t a lot of things that The Muppets does right. It’s sweet, it’s funny, it’s charming, and captures the Muppets spirit in the same way a good adaptation is loyal to a source material, not a slave to it. It’s also a borderline brilliant script that is metatextual and layered in how the movie’s plot of the Muppets climbing back to relevance exactly mirrors what the movie is attempting to do (based on its box office success, it seems to have thankfully succeeded).

In the end though it keeps coming back to that feeling the movie and its lovable characters instill. There are many things The Muppets accomplishes, but few of them matter more than two in particular. One, for those of us who know them, the movie nostalgically reminds us why we love Kermit and the gang. Two, for those who don’t know the Muppets, the movie makes clear why these puppets have remained so beloved for decades through good times (The Muppet Show, Muppet Babies) and bad (Muppets from Space).

Because that’s what it comes down to: the Muppets and how loveable they are. We live in a time that makes it easy to succumb to cynicism about the world and those who live in it. The Muppets have always been about honest to goodness goodness –friendship, sticking together, believing dreams can come true, and doing the right thing. All the proof you need of that is all in their most famous song: "Rainbow Connection". Miraculously it’s never been treacly or sentimental, just always believable, admirable, and something to aspire to. The Muppets movie doesn’t just know that, it celebrates that.

That’s what makes The Muppets such a joyful experience. It’s not just my nostalgic love for or the endearment of the characters and their values. It’s that The Muppets themselves don’t just represent mere escapism, they might represent something close to hope. Which might be an even rarer movie emotion than joy.

The Muppets Blu-RayAbout the Disc: Disney has a formidable reputation for producing some of the best Blu-Ray transfers and The Muppets is no exception. It is, however, a particular pleasure to watch in high definition simply because of the vibrant colors throughout the film that just cuddle your eyeballs.

As for the features, perhaps the cutest and most fun one comes up the moment you hit pause while watching the movie: an Intermission featuring the fun antics of our favorite Muppets. It can a little bit annoying getting in and out quickly, it’s still tempting to not want to watch the approx. 8 minutes of unique material the feature provides.

The “Scratching the Surface” making-of is an often hilarious unconventional making-of, the Deleted Scenes are the usual assortment of justified cuts, and the “Explaining Evil: The Full Tex Richman Song” gives you a bit more backstory if you care. The definite highlight is the Blooper Reel, solely for the reason to marvel at the puppeteers’ and voice actors’ ability to improvise on the spot with their puppets – facial expressions and all. You almost forget the Muppets aren’t actually real actors.

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