I remember when I was 17 years old and a movie called The Mighty Ducks came out. The Mighty Ducks starred Emilio Estevez as a man court ordered to coach a pee wee league hockey team. You could tell every element of the movie from the initial trailer. You knew that the character (Gordon Bombay) was going to be embarrassed initially by the kids. You knew that Bombay was going to bond with them. You knew that there would be a rival hockey team and that Bombay would end up needing the victory as much as the kids. There was probably a pitch meeting where some guy said ‘Its Rocky meets The Bad News Bears on ice!’
[Warning! Contains high level spoilers from The Muppets (2011) film.]
There was even a Ducks hockey team owned by Disney that plays in the NHL. The point is that there was no real surprise to the movie. Why is it one of my all time favorites? Because, at the time, it was a journey I needed to take. I needed to see the Ducks win that final game. I needed a reason to just stand up and cheer. My cynical 17 year old self needed that movie more than I would ever let any one around me know. Secretly, I thanked Disney and Estevez as well as pretty much everyone associated with the movie for it being there right at the time in my life when I needed it. I still love The Mighty Ducks.
A few months ago, I decided to take a journey with my kids to Indiana. Indiana is where my Mom and my brother lives as well as where my Dad is buried. At that point, I had not actually seen my father’s gravesite and had not seen my family in years. Looking forward to November, I saw that an old familiar friend would be coming to the theaters. It was at that point that I knew I needed The Muppets. I am not going to be entirely objective about this. I do now and always have loved The Muppets. I also pretty unabashedly love Peanuts, Winnie The Pooh, and the works of Dr. Seuss. I love the paintings of Norman Rockwell. The point is that in my heart I love syrupy sweet things with a heart created by men. I love it when they can not only inspire a plush toy but also bring a tear to the eye. I love this partly because I know how hard it is to write something down those lines.
I have tried. I would love to go to my grave being known for a concept like ‘Cuddle Bum Bears.’ I wish I had a Garfield kicking around some where in my brain. A lot of times when I sit down to write works of fiction – it somehow always turns dark on me. All I really want to do is write something simple and uplifting with a fair amount of anamorphic animals thrown in. It is November of 2011. I needed to see my Dad’s grave. I also, on some level, needed The Muppets to tell me it was OK. From practically the opening frame, The Muppets lets you know that its OK. Its OK to just be that unabashedly goofy dork that you secretly always are. Its OK to be an optimist. It OK to not only be you but also sing in the streets about it. Life may be the The Twilight Zone but occasionally The Twilight Zone is the The Night of the Meek.
The plot is spelled out to anyone who has seen the commercials (which were brilliant by the way.) Gary, Mary, and Walter (who never grows and looks a little plush) are going to Los Angeles to celebrate Gary and Mary dating for ten years. Gary is played by Jason Segel and Mary is done by Amy Adams. Walter wants to visit the old Muppets Studios only to find that needlessly evil people have an evil plan to tear the studio down. A quest begins to find the Muppets and save the studio. Along the way, every one finds out what they are meant to be. In the end, the studio is saved (somehow) and the Muppets are back together. There are cameos galore and everything just has a simple beauty to it.
Of the individual scenes that caught my attention, there were three that especially stood out. The first is where the Chickens Bock their way to the Cee Lo Green song … ahem … “Forget You.” This was really a nod to how the Muppets started. This is the Muppets that played early in the morning on Washington D. C. television stations. This is the Muppets that were early regulars on Saturday Night Live. It was a wonderful acknowledgement that despite all of the sappy sweetness, the Muppets were not exclusively for children. The second scene was when Walter was singing to a mirror. The song is basically a turning point where Walter realizes he belongs more with the Muppets than he does with the humans. Walter (who is an obvious Muppet) looks at the mirror and sees himself as a human. The visualization of Walter as a human is Jim Parsons (who plays Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory). It was one of the more well placed cameos that I have seen in a movie in the last few years.
The third was a moment that was completely unexpected but personally I really needed. It is never fully explained but the implication is given that Kermit and Miss Piggy have been on the outs for years. At one point, Kermit tells Miss Piggy that it is time to do their duet. The curtain opens and Kermit is holding a banjo in a stage swamp. He starts to lightly strum and the whole experience becomes worth it in the realization that you really are going to hear Kermit the Frog sing ‘The Rainbow Connection.’ That was the moment I knew I could show emotion on this trip. Then my fifteen year old daughter and I started to sing the song to each other. It has been a pretty emotional year and once again at this point a movie got me unexpectedly with tears. Two days later, I would see my Dad’s grave and in the background of my mind, ‘The Rainbow Connection’ would be playing.
The Muppets is a wonderful film that can be enjoyed by people of all ages on a variety of levels. I would advise anyone go to see it. I am not guaranteeing that you will have an experience with it like I had. I am not even hinting at it. When I was younger, people would always direct me to have dates or schedule things in places where they had found magic. In some cases, all I found was a park bench, a wall, a place to eat with bad service, a fortune teller who had no insight to me, or a really cold ride staring at a horses’ ass (literally.) The Muppets does not inherently have magic. Magic can be found watching The Muppets. Like most anything else in life, the magic is either in you or in your belief that magic can exist. In those moment, you can find God in a card trick or tears in a song. I just know that The Muppets helped me when they were needed.
I think the it was all best summed up by Kermit The Frog “Maybe I didn’t need everyone’s love. Maybe I only needed the love of one.”