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"The Muppets" isn't the Muppets

Discussion in 'Muppet Headlines' started by Reevz1977, Jun 29, 2012.


Do you think "The Muppets" was the Muppets?

  1. Yes

  2. No

  3. Not sure


  1. Reevz1977

    Reevz1977 Well-Known Member

    First off...any haters or overly sensitive people please don't continue to read. The last thing I want to do is offend, hand on heart! And, can I also state for the record that I loved "The Muppets"...


    I don't know if any one else has experienced this, and I personally find it rather baffling, but I really haven't met anyone else who enjoyed "The Muppets" outside of fellow fans. Now normally I'd write this off as "well they just don't like the Muppets" but that would actually be wrong. A number of these people, whilst not being "fanatics", are very fond of the Muppets. Take my brother for instance, he was a big fan as we grew up. He has bought my nephew many old-school Muppet DVD's which he still enjoys but, unlike me, he really moved on from the Muppets as he aged. Last week, after me really insisting he watch the movie, rented it and his exact words were "I hated it!!!". My best friend, a guy who shares the exact same (read: warped) sense of humour as me watched it and said "what happened to the Muppets". These sadly aren't just two isolated reviews. Every other person who knows I love the Muppets has come to me and said the same thing. It really got me thinking about something that may be a tad controversial...

    Could it possible be, because many of us have followed every single Muppet production, publication, viral-video etc etc over the years that we, the fanatics, have perhaps forgotten who the Muppets are???

    Now I know, I know, for gods sake put the pitchforks down, that makes little or no sense but the people who I am talking about were fans of TMS and the three Jim Henson movies and have since "grown up*". Other than maybe the Muppet Christmas Carol and at a push Treasure Island, I don't think any of these friends/family/colleagues would have been aware of other Muppet productions since the death of Jim Henson. Could it be because we "the fanatics" have closely followed and accepted (to an extent ;) ) newer Muppet productions that we have actually forgotten the Muppets that people remember? It's just a thought...and perhaps a crazy one at that, but the thing that people keep saying to me about the movie is "it just wasn't the Muppets".

    Now I've said...alot...that I really struggled with Fozzie. Gonzo also was very muted, not helped by his lack of screen time, but to me every other character seemed right on the money...until I got thinking.

    Once I stopped and thought about the characters, without the post-jim productions, the characters really are...different. Certain dynamics have changed. Personality traits that were once an element of a character have BECOME the character. Before I get the rants from people who think that I am being disrespectful about the Muppets, I challenge you to do the same. Take away everything you know about the characters in the interim years and I suspect a great deal of you will see what I mean and why, when people have seen the movie and claimed "it just wasn't the Muppets" they may actually be right.

    Food for thought and a topic for discussion? Now let me duck behind this parapet!!!

    *I use that term VERY loosely!!!
    bandit likes this.
  2. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    I've said it before...

    This happens to EVERY single property out there. Even if you try hard to make everything the same, you'll wind up making everything different. Things DO indeed change at a certain point... even if the series is still on and has never went away.

    In other words... The Simpsons.

    You could even say the same thing about Sesame Street characters.

    But what gets me is this... "The Muppets" wasn't The Muppets? Then who the heck did we get in the past 3 theatrical movies? Less of their signature personality traits were present in those films. Kermit was bland and forgettable in MFS. Sure we had a frog that looked like Kermit, sounded like Kermit, and could be called Kermit... but he seemed so disconnected from EVERYTHING that happened in the movie, especially Piggy. Say what you will about sad Kermit in TM, at least he was able to emote, and didn't come off as lobotomized. Same deal with Piggy. Sure, she had that Flanderized "diva-ish" moments, and a t-shirt catch phrase "Kissy Kissy" moment... but she was barely there the rest of the film.

    Then you look at the book films... Sure, undoubtedly Piggy and Kermit were there (MCC has some great scenes of them as a couple)... but Frank started to make Fozzie an idiot in MTI (Piggy seemed to have suffered a small I.Q. drop in that film as well, just not as severe), That's when Gonzo's weirdness started to Steve Martin away (transitioning to something new). And most of the other characters vanished.

    But to answer the question about comparisons between the first films and the last.... well, that's a lot like comparing Bob Clampett's Daffy Duck to the ones they made just before Termite Terrace closed down. And yes, I know people who hate everything Chuck Jones did to Bugs and Daffy and I refuse to speak to them. There is a difference in character. 30 years worth of difference. Heck, even 20 something years of difference. 20 years and several different performers. Performers who get the characters, but lack a small subtlety that came with those characters being personal.

    But above all, the movie's plot. The biggest (and most ridiculous) gripe was depressed Kermit and the actual level of Woody Allen-esque maturity and intelligence given to the Kermit/Piggy dynamic.

    Now, given the context of the film, Kermit broke up with his soul mate after a humongous blow up, and lost all his friends soon after. Not even keeping in touch with them. He took it very hard and stopped believing in himself. I'd hate to see the person who's ecstatic after that. Not to mention... and I've been over this many a time... I HATE Hi-Yah, fat Joke Kermit and Piggy relationship. That's what people think they want to see, but that one note joke went with the TV show's ending. Sure, they used it in Muppet babies, but NO WHERE else. Never in the other movies, where the relationship was always given the beauty and respect. There was that amnesiac Kermit in MTM that insulted Piggy, but the kung fu chop was a plot device.

    If anything, the Kermit and Piggy bond is strong in this film as it ever has been. Much better than every annoying talk show appearance they had to force that joke upon.

    I will agree to Gonzo, but only because he wasn't in the film as long as he could have been, and was used as a plot device that kept him out of the second half of the film.

    The bottom line... a movie that's made almost 30 years after a certain other film IS going to be different and IS going to not feel the same no matter what or who is involved. It's natural. Fully natural. Anyone who thought the Star Wars prequels would be just as good as the others were kidding themselves.
    Ruahnna, Lola p, newsmanfan and 3 others like this.
  3. Borples

    Borples Well-Known Member

    Interesting. Everyone I know who saw the movie--most of who were casual Muppet fans--loved it. Given the moderate box office success and the positive reception from critics, I would say that your experience isn't indicative of how the movie was received in general.

    Anyway, like Dr. Tooth said, everything changes. Characters change, for better or worse. People change. I mean, look at human actors. If you're a fan of, say, Bill Murray movies of the 80s, and you go to watch a current Murray movie, you're not gonna get the same experience. People grow, Muppets grow (or shrink)...it's the way it is. It's even the way it should be. With the Muppets specifically, given that so many performers and writers have passed on or retired and been replaced, you can't possibly expect that they would be the exact same as they were 30 years ago. We can nitpick at this or that, but there doesn't seem to be much sense in trying to freeze them in a time that has long since gone by.

    And, in general, there were things I wasn't crazy about in the movie, but for the most part, I think the Muppets were plenty Muppety.
    Duke Remington likes this.
  4. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    I think it's possibly the home theater phenom that hurts films. I saw Disney's Tarzan on television and was less than impressed.

    You CANNOT freeze anything in time. The harder you try, the harder you'll fail. You can try to recapture things, but there's too many pieces of a puzzle.

    Another example... look at Ren and Stimpy. The earliest episodes are brilliant, even the disturbingness of the episodes is funny. But the episodes they made when they fired John K were disturbing on an unfunny level. Ren was prone to breakdowns in every episode, and they were just jarring with none of the weirdness of Space Madness or Stimpy's Fan Club. Not to mention how hard they tried to make jokes that made NO sense that fell flat, and didn't even resemble the John K episodes. Then, Adult Cartoon party came out, and John was back... only the characters were different, the jokes weren't as funny... they were better than the Games episodes, but something was lost essentially. I don't think it was half as dire as that was with the Muppet film, but even the same creative team changes.
  5. Cindy

    Cindy Moderator Staff Member

    I agree with Borples, as this was also the case in our circle of friends. Everyone from casual fans to those who just saw the movie for the kid's sake really enjoyed the movie. I haven't found anyone who had the kind of reaction that Reevz1977 experienced. However, here's my take...

    Have you ever returned to your childhood home or maybe a grandparent's home as an adult and noticed how things are the same, yet different? The sentimental feelings are there and yet suddenly the house or your old room seems so small? Or maybe you find a favorite childhood toy or show and suddenly you wonder what on earth was so fascinating about it in the first place?

    For those that grew up on The Muppet Show or Muppet Babies probably feel the same way when they see the Muppets of today. (I'm not talking about fans like us, just the average Joe.) They long for the Muppets of long ago, the ones they grew up with. Things are kind of the same but not quite so it's not gratifying or enjoyable, they just spend their time romanticizing about the way things used to be.

    This doesn't happen for most of us - as Muppet fans - because we didn't have that separation. It's like we never grew up from the Muppets, they grew with us. Not to say we're never nostalgic, we often are. But we're often more accepting of the changes and the various nuances that the average Joe might not be.

    So yes, the Muppets are not the 1970's Muppet Show Muppets, I don't think anyone is arguing that one. But I don't think the question those type of people Reevz1977 described should be asking is "what happened to the Muppets", but rather "what happened to me?"
  6. Reevz1977

    Reevz1977 Well-Known Member

    Drtooth/Borples, I wholeheartedly agree with many of your points. When I saw the movie I was amazed at how much heart it had and the level of innocence without being too sugary. And clearly, the box-office results show theres love for our favourite felt fellows. Like yourselves, I've been on the ride for the long haul and have seen and taken on bored the changes to the characters. I've accepted Gonzo's change in craziness and love Steve's Kermit (or just "Kermit" as I prefer). I also have no problems with any of the new(er) performers and think (other than Fozzie in TM) Eric has done an astounding job with Fozzie and Piggy. And I have a HUGE amount of man-love and deep respect for Mr. Baretta!! My point was, and it was essentially sold as, that "The Muppets" was a return to the old school Muppets, and to those who were only conscious of the old-school Muppets and have had little exposure to the characters since, they really noticed the change.

    I think perhaps that, here in the UK especially, exposure to the Muppets has been fairly limited. As fans, we have had to find ways of seeing TV specials like Letters to Santa, AVMMCM when they were originally released in the US. When they finally aired here it came without any fanfare or promotion. So for the regular UK casual fan, the Muppets have been MIA for a long time. I lost count of how many interviews over here starting with "so you guys haven't been around for 12 years...". Heck, we didn't even have a website available to us until recently, instead we were redirected to the generic Disney site. Obviously the UK MCers on here will have legally sourced the specials, found workarounds to Muppets.com and bought the region 1 dvd's etc etc.

    So, the statement "it just wasn't the Muppets" comes from perhaps a slightly different place here. Obviously ALOT of brits went to see the movie at the flicks and the critics reviews were amazingly positive. I'm just talking about my experience and asking whether anyone else had had the same experience with people they knew. There is always the chance that I oversold the movie to many. After expecting something horrendous after some of the recent productions and having to hide my embarrassment and defend the Muppets if anyone saw any of these lesser productions, I was over the moon* with "The Muppets" and encouraged everyone I knew to see it, even offering up the cash for them to go. I guaranteed if they liked the Muppets, they'd love "The Muppets" and sadly that, for me, has not been the reaction I've received.

    That said, alot of people whom I've spoken to and heard in interviews said that the second the Muppet Show opening came on, they had chills. One friend even said he welled-up, thinking about himself as a kid watching the show. That to me, was blooming nice to hear!

    *Understatement of the century
  7. Reevz1977

    Reevz1977 Well-Known Member

    I like that sentiment Cindy, I like that a lot! :)

    And clearly from these responses, my experience isn't indicative of others! That is GREAT to hear...and now I can simply reply "you're wrong!" :D
  8. Pinkflower7783

    Pinkflower7783 Well-Known Member

    All I'm gonna say is is time doesn't stand still...things change. You can't keep The Muppets frozen in the 1970's. You have to develop their personalities even into the modern era. If Jim was alive you better believe he wouldn't have kept the Muppets frozen in the 1970s-1980s. Because he kept them up to date during that particular time when he was alive.
    Duke Remington likes this.
  9. Pinkflower7783

    Pinkflower7783 Well-Known Member

    I mean no The Muppets aren't the Muppets that maybe we grew up with but since the recent film came out I feel like for the first time that the life in them or that spark that was lost for so long was finally brought back.

    I think it's funny how as being adults you see life in a totally different way.
    Duke Remington likes this.
  10. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    You can't even keep characters frozen in their own show while the show's on the air. It's impossible to do so no matter how you try. Sometimes this means characters get more depth, sometimes it means characters lose depth. I have that complete Powerpuff Girls set, and at the 5th season mark, the Mayor went from being a befuddled, old fashioned, not too bright goofball to being a complete pickle obsessed drooling idiot until the dreadful "Toast of the Town" episode where he's been reduced to I.Q. of a petulant baby.

    If there's something essentially missing from The Muppets, it's something that's been missing for years. But that's the thing with purism. It's like how Star Trek purists whined about the J.J. Abrams film when out of 10 films before then, there were like 3 good ones. Even though the rest of the world LOVED the new Star Trek film. And that's not even counting the fact they couldn't get something essential that was lost when the show was cancelled too early to begin with with the original movies.
    Duke Remington likes this.
  11. Pinkflower7783

    Pinkflower7783 Well-Known Member

    Umm....I just basically said that. I KNOW you can't keep the Muppets frozen in time. I believe I said most of that in my post. :confused: But okay whatever!!!
  12. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    Frozen in time, like frozen as a franchise exactly after the last Jim Henson made movie, correct?

    I'd HATE to see Muppets frozen in season 1 time. Undefined Piggy bouncing from Richard Hunt to Frank Oz and back... no Beaker. Worst of all... NO Pigs in Space.
    Duke Remington likes this.
  13. Oscarfan

    Oscarfan Well-Known Member

    We'd still have good ol' Mildred!
  14. Pinkflower7783

    Pinkflower7783 Well-Known Member

    I mean frozen in time in general. Show, movies, whatever you wanna call it. And I personally would never want The Muppets to stay in a dormant state anyways. Jim Henson never did so why just because he past away shouldn't it be okay for other people to do? Jim always made sure The Muppets were up and current during his time he didn't let them stay on a 1970s show. As Steve Whitmire said in an interview "you want Kermit to alwys be Kermit but you can't let him get stale you have to keep developing his personality into the current times."
  15. MWoO

    MWoO Well-Known Member

    I think if you jump from 1990 to 2011 you would t recognize the muppets at all. Almost the entire cast of characters has been recast. Certain characters haven't interacted in years. Certain characters have changed since the recasts, and even before. So yes, when you compare TMS and the original movies to The Muppets things are off. It's very different. But I would say the same when comparing TMS to JHH or MT.

    If you have followed most muppet projects from 1990 on then you will most likely love the movie. If the last you saw of the muppets was TMS and the first 3 movies the you need to get use to the new way of things. Heck, compare Sam and fried s to TMS. That's a heck of a change too.
  16. DannyRWW

    DannyRWW Well-Known Member

    first of all the Muppets was the Muppets..if for no other reason it is after all the title of the movie ;) all kiddig aside (if we can in fact ever actually put Kidding aside...my wife argues that that is something i am incapable of doing).... my friends and various people I have had to convince to see the movie have in fact loved it...in fact I have metno one who has not likd the movie on some leel...you see while I think they have changed I think the movie created a false sense of nostalgia where even if this wqas not the muppets we remember from our youth to the casual fan it made them feel like it was (thus why i think they went with 8s references rather than 70s because many people became fans of the muppets in the 80s after the showwas rerunning). that being said I felt it was the Muppets in spirit even if it was not exactly the way we remember things...but aren't all our really truly happy memories more pleasant than they actually were at the time
  17. mupcollector1

    mupcollector1 Well-Known Member

    Well as a continuing fan in my early mid-20s, I've always admired the classic stuff the best. Yes, I do agree that there seems to be a lack of things a little bit in the more recent newer stuff. Part of me thinks we they are all really trying their best because it's not the same without Jim Henson, Frank Oz and even Jerry Juhl as their writer. Which maybe true in certain cases, then there's part of me that's like, NO, it can be done better. Muppets Tonight and Muppet Treasure Island (of course Carol 3 years before) were great, and hilarious, and these were made 6 years after Jim's passing. It can be done.

    But I think in my own opinion it comes down to one thing. The Irreverent humor / Muppet style humor isn't there much anymore. Manly due to this PC world and certain things people consider offensive more and more but you got to admit in the new movie, they did bring back explosions and let Crazy Harry light up a few. lol But yeah stuff like bad puns, energetic craziness, zanniness and silliness, weirdness for the sake of creative weirdness, random moments with monsters eating other Muppets and unexpected explosions, the old school of cartoon violence (simular to classic Looney Tunes but what was uniqe with The Muppets, you never expected it. Even refrigerator throwing or a bowling ball being through out of a plane) and finally a certain risky edge to it if you know what I mean.

    To me, the humor is what made The Muppets who they were. But there was a soft side that showed the character's truely cared about each other. The movie does show that. To tell you the truth, there was several moments where happy tears almost went down my face. Especially pictures in my head. "Would anyone ever watch or even care, Should we do it all again, and make them laugh like we did back then" it kind of touches me even as an artis myself.

    But anyway, back to the humor. According to history, Jim fought hard to get The Muppet Show on the air. Sam & Friends were aimed strictly towards adults and Jim sort of wanted to do that with The Muppet Show. And of course there was Land of Gorch on SNL (which I personally love lol) and all that stuff.
    And there was a lot of adult situations with the characters on The Muppet Show and even Muppets Tonight. From if a character had a crush on a guest star in which they knew they would only be there for this one show and leave to even arguments and everyday life situations but with a twist of course.

    But yeah even The Jim Henson Hour with MuppetTelevision it had it's share of Muppet style humor like Karate Squid, Peare Roach vs. The Swedish Chef, etc.

    But yeah, I sort of blame the whole PC rules of things now. Just because the littlest person on the planet will be disturbed by a comedic explosion or a character getting hit with a heavy object. Trust me, I can ramble on and on about it in the general discussion forum. lol
    Even Sesame Street changed it's format because I've heard that they can't really do that Muppet style humor anymore because classic episodes were shown by the modern test audiences and got negative reactions. It sounds strange I know but let's just say that I heard this from the grape vines. :)
  18. CensoredAlso

    CensoredAlso Well-Known Member

    I think you've observed very well. Sometimes, not always, but sometimes the more casual fan can be a bit more discerning because they don't obsession over every project the way we do, hehe.

    Regarding the poll, I put down Not Sure. I think this is the best post-Jim Muppet film I've seen, but is it the Muppets from Muppet Show? Well occasionally I did see glimpses and I appreciated that, but overall it still felt a little off, like a very good fanfiction. Though I got the impression the scenes that were cut might have fixed that.

    The past is not nearly as different and otherworldly as we tend to think it was. Things don't change that much to the point where something that was quality must change what it was. The Muppets don't need to try so hard to be modern. They changed clothes from the '70s to the '80s. They did not change personalities. That's what happened in the '90s and early 2000's and that's why they weren't successful.
  19. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    Mildred was fun, I guess. They really should have used her as a censor lady like Lydia Karaoke in Histeria. That's the only role I could see her in.

    The thing about The Muppets was that it was the only Muppet Movie (other than VMX, if you count it as a movie) that attempted to be The Muppet Show... and it also attempted to be the first 3 Muppet movies all together.

    When it comes to Muppet Show vs Muppet movie there's humor that's similar and humor that doesn't work in the same scale. There's a different kind of humor in the First Muppet Movie than there is on the show, though they did try to incorporate a couple little things, like Muppet Labs and the insta-grow pills. But even then, it has a different punchline, one that incorporates into the plot. GMC, that's a movie in which The Muppet Show doesn't exist, and it does its own thing. That's why that film worked. MTM was the furthest from the show completely of the first three, though it's the only one that referenced Gonzo's stunts.

    What I'm saying is that the movies NEVER had the same feel of the show, and went for something stronger that can sustain itself in a 90 minute continuous plot. There were episodes of TMS that had plot, sure, but those are plots that could be solved in 2 minutes. Not going to work for 90 minutes. Plus, while there were episodes that featured a LOT of character development, you can just get so much more mileage from a consistent, uninterrupted stream of plot.

    Now if this movie should get any credit, it's that it tried very hard to mash the show Muppets into the Movie Muppets, and I think it managed to do it a lot better than VMX did. The sketches on the telethon show are supposed to mirror ones from the actual Muppet Show program... just they went for the musical ones over the one that actually WAS a Muppet Show skit, The Swedish Chef. I think they had the right amount of those in the movie... one more could have stopped the plot (such as it was) cold. Though I agree, a couple more scenes added into the film could have shaped it to have been even stronger.
    Duke Remington likes this.
  20. bandit

    bandit Well-Known Member

    This is an interesting thread. I think I can see this from both sides.

    Over all, I thought that the way the reintroduction of the Muppets into the mainstream was handled very cleverly. It's one of those meta instances. Their circumstances in the movie somewhat mirror their circumstances in real life. They had been somewhat forgotten.
    Well, given some of those last movies, maybe that's what you call a 'mercy forgetting.'

    Anyway, my point is that while it didn't exactly have the feel of some of the older films for various reasons, it was a very good step in the right direction. For once, the movie seemed like a solid effort--fart shoes and Gonzo shortcomings aside.
    So you kind of have to look at it as a warm up. Hopefully, whatever follows will ride the momentum of this wave of popularity and hit its own stride.

    And yes, they have to evolve somewhat. Audiences aren't what they used to be and neither are performers. If you want to use characters that deal in pop culture, you have to figure out how to do that while preserving the thing that makes them who they are.
    Bottom line....Things may change but if the Muppets themselves and the movies have the heart of Henson's concept at their core, they can't go wrong.
    DannyRWW likes this.

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