16 April 2012

Even Frogs Have Rainy Days

At the time of writing, I am depressingly well into my third decade of existing. Although twenty-three is quite young to some people, if you work it out in dog-years I should have died a long time ago. However despite being so close to the end of my natural life, I had never really been exposed to The Muppets. Other than Return of the Jedi which was one glove puppet away from being the original Muppets in Space, the only thing I had seen- and only recently- was The Muppet Christmas Carol.

Although I did quite enjoy the film, my main issue was that it was a Christmas movie. To me, Shitmas is just an excuse for people with similar blood to pretend that they dont hate each other whilst celebrating the alleged birthday of some magical Chuck Norris. I dont like being reminded of it. Having said that, Michael Caine in The Muppet Christmas Carol is amazingly realistic - he looked so much like the real thing that I am in awe of the puppeteer who presumably controlled him via the traditional method of hand-up-the-arse-hole.

So beyond who Kermit was, my knowledge of The Muppets was moderately lacking. Other than that, I also knew that Miss Piggy was the one who looked like a slimmed down Vanessa Felts and that like AIDs, The Muppet Show was a phenomenon that had peaked during the eighties. I was therefore a little bit of a newcomer to this furry cult when I recently sat down to watch their new film The Muppets.

The movie starts by introducing us to Jason Segel and his muppet brother Oscar. At this point, the Muppets have become old news. Like the Nazi's, they've split up and all gone their separate ways scattered around the world. Kermit has become a recluse who, presumably, collects his piss and wears shoeboxes on his feet and the old theatre is now being used for tours. Their anniversary is coming up and to celebrate a year of fucking Amy Adams, Jason Segel has decided to take her there as a holiday. Oscar ends up going with them too because he's the Muppets biggest fan and the gooseberry is presumably hoping for an incestuous, cross species threesome with the other two. Personally I'd never shag a Muppet, if they're going to enjoy being fisted there's just no point in doing it.

So anyway, they go on the tour and Oscar finds out that Chris Cooper wants to destroy the building in order to reach some oil underneath. Because he’s a Muppet, Oscar would much rather help his own species than aid our worsening fossil fuel crises and so decides to try and save the theatre. This involves recruiting Kermit and all the other Muppets, putting on one last show and raising enough money to be able to retain ownership of the place. If they'd have said they were doing it for charity too they would have made their money a lot quicker. Although I guess the filmmakers didn't want the Muppets to go down the ‘exploitation’ and ‘fraud’ route for some reason. Whatever…

Just to put it out there, I loved this film. It was brilliant. It was kind of like going to a gig for a band you don’t know and slowly realising that you really like them. You end up wishing you’d been into them to start with, just to enjoy the show even more. Kind of like losing your virginity to a model: there’s no denying you had fun but it would have been even better if you had previous experience to draw on.

Like a band’s live show, this film is a celebration of all that is great about the Muppets. Although it’s made for anyone, those who are already fans will be particularly overjoyed with all the references to the Muppets’ history. In the end, even I felt nostalgic for things that I had no knowledge of- a bit like whenever I hear an old person go on about ‘the good old days’. I wasn’t alive then, but I start to think that, yeah, despite two world wars, the holocaust, mandatory racism and Russia’s nuclear threat, the past was a better place. To me The Muppets was an effective advert for the television show. I’ve fallen in love with the characters and now I want to catch up with everything that they’ve done.

One of the things that I genuinely loved about this new film was how sad it was. I was once told by an ex-girlfriend that I didn’t have a heart and that I, instead, had a swinging brick on some rope. If that was true I would have used it to make her shut the fuck up. Contrary to what the sow thought, my heart is made up of meat and cholesterol just like everybody else’s. To me, the film was all about regret and loss. The Muppets who were once loved by each other and the world are now all down in the dumps, forgotten and alone. The plot is less about saving the theatre and more about reuniting a group of friends and restoring their happiness. If I had been a kid I think I’d have cried all the way through this. Kind of like when I was six and my parents thought it would be a good idea to let me watch things like E.T., Bambi and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

At the risk of contradicting myself here, the other thing that was so good about the movie was just how cheerful it was. There was a very definite vein of sadness running through it, but like in Drive, all the characters were just so nice. The songs by Bret Mckenzie were ridiculously catchy, upbeat and everything was just unusually but refreshingly un-cynical. In the real world, cynicism is a weapon that we need to be able to survive. In the world of The Muppets, everybody can be taken literally at face value. You get the feeling that in this world if Kermit had spent the night with a whore, he’d be more at risk of falling in love with her than having his wallet stolen. I guess the film made me feel sad for the characters but happy about life which is an achievement. It usually takes a lot of marijuana, four hours of cartoons and a big bag of quavers to give me a shot of optimism like that.

The plot is kind of simple, but who cares? That just gives us more chance to get to know the characters and watch the weird things that they do. If I have one criticism of The Muppets however, it is the celebrity cameos which are just a little poor. They spend the whole movie building up to an A-List celebrity who will host their show, only to reveal it as Jack Black. Firstly Black had already been in the film, and secondly, is he still famous? I know he had a stint about 6 years ago with King Kong and School of Rock but he’s done fuck all since. I heard he’d spent the last few years touring around a few music festivals but in all honesty, I’d assumed that was as a roadie. In fact the most famous person in this movie was probably Whoopi Goldberg and even she hasn’t done anything decent since starring as the title character opposite Arnie in 1987’s Predator.

But then maybe that was the point. Maybe they didn’t want to bring in someone that would take the attention away from our band of misfit heroes. Or maybe the point is that the Muppets were now so un-famous that Jack Black was the best they could get? I guess the fact is, I like this film so much that I’m not only willing to forgive the appearance of Whoopie Goldberg, but also that bearded retard from The Hangover. He crops up at one point as a tramp in a role I can only assume is preparation for the day the world realises he’s as unfunny as that smug, morning after franchise. I’ve never had a hangover but that franchise still managed to give me more than a headache.

By the time the film reaches its conclusion, the only way to not feel good about life would be if you had been raped mid way through watching it. It may be a kid’s film but I still loved it. Pixar aside, this has got to be my favourite Disney movie since Pulp Fiction. Like Batman and James Bond, the Muppets have now also been rebooted for a modern audience and I can’t wait for the sequel.

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