The hand up your ass might be a clue…

As kinky as the title sounds we’ll get back to it shortly.  I was born in the 70’s so I remember the days before VCR’s, DVR’s and Tivo.  What this means for those of you who never grew up without them is that if you missed a TV show you were shit out of luck.  While this may seem random and ranty it made watching certain shows all the more important because once it was missed it was missed for good.  As a kid of the 70’s I grew up watching the Muppets on PBS and it was a special time because it was the only time that I could watch it.

The Muppet show was a special time and the Muppet movies even more so.  There was a special quality to the Muppets which really has been lost in modern-day television.

Needless to say (and say it anyway I will) I was excited to see a new muppet movie that was written by an actor whom I have come to really enjoy on his other show (How I Met Your Mother) Jason Segel.  Additionally it had Amy Adams and anyone that knows me well knows I get weak in the knees for red heads.  Now I must admit that I had a lingering doubt creeping in the back of my mind about the movie but I really wanted to give it a chance.

Well, it wasn’t a muppet movie.

All of the magic of the muppets was sucked out (just like “enriching” white bread) and the cold dead shell that was left over was nowhere near as good as the original.  To be honest I found the whole thing to be mean-spirited and frankly really cynical.  The basic gist of the story is that a young man (Gary) grows up with a brother (Walter) who doesn’t know he is a muppet.  Oh the muppet wonders why he never grows while his brother sprouts like a weed but doesn’t worry about why their skin isn’t the same.  Eventually they discover reruns of the original muppet show and now he has a dream!

We also meet our other main character “the girl friend” aka Amy Adams (Mary).  Her character is a school teacher who is teaching her Fourth grade class to change the oil on a car.  This is a woman who frankly can do anything and while she loves her boyfriend and his brother the muppet she is kind of tired of including him in all of their adventures.  This dynamic becomes a tipping point later in the movie when Gary forgets about an intimate dinner on and for their anniversary.

The main idea of the movie is that this “unhappy” trio are taking a vacation to Los Angles to visit the old Muppet Theater and Museum and to celebrate an anniversary for our human characters.  Needless to say the tour is a disappointment since the muppets disappeared into obscurity and as we find out the machinations of a greedy corporate owner that wants to drill for oil underneath the old theater.  What is the name of our evil corporation?  Richman Oil of course!  We discover this because Walter sneaks off during the tour to check out Kermit’s old office and this is also where we discover that our evil CEO (Tex Richman wouldn’t you know) cannot perform an evil laugh.  Seriously, every time he wants to laugh the evil laugh he screams out “EVIL LAUGH, EVIL LAUGH!”  At first I wasn’t even sure if he was commanding his minions to laugh evilly or if he just couldn’t do it himself.

Before the big trip to the old muppet theater there is a big song and dance number (reminiscent of Pleasantville) as the trio hits the road and we get to our first scene of mean spiritedness.  As the bus drives away one of the dancers decries that “they are gone!” and the crowd collapses to the ground in relief.  While I can appreciate the humor of the moment it really wasn’t anything but mean.

Sadly it is Walter who discovers the evil plan and once Gary and Mary are able to extract this information from him (sadly without sharp implements or water boarding techniques) they decide to reunite the Muppets.  So off they go to the home that polliwog and swine built.  When they arrive at the gates if green and pink they discover that even the mighty have fallen on hard times.  Kermit eventually invites everyone inside and the dastardly plan is revealed to him.  A mélange of  references to the 1980’s, none of which children watching the movie would ever understand.  We have the classic 80’s robot bring a tray of tab and original recipe coke spouting phrases that haven’t been uttered in 30 years and should probably never be said again.

A plan is hatched to reunite the band and yet more 80’s references.  To “save” time they decide to travel by map, insert the traveling powers of Indiana Jones all the way down to the thick red line connecting point A to B.  First stop is Fozzie Bear who with a serious case of abandonment has rebuilt the Moopets with the nastiest group of replacements ever.  It doesn’t take a lot of prompting for him to rejoin Kermit and crew on their quest to restore the muppets.

Gonzo has become the King of, well…toilets.  He has become extremely successful and after initially rejecting the offer Gonzo blows up his entire business to rejoin the gang.  Seriously he blows his entire stock to smithereens, I am not entirely sure that he gave enough time for his employees to evacuate the building but hey who cares about the little people.  Animal, when they find him,  has committed himself to an anger management retreat.  This I understand the least.

This is Animal, the fiendish drummer of the Muppets.  When drums are mentioned he starts to flip out and Jack Black of all fucking people tries to explain that this is one of Animals trigger words.  Now I was a fan of the show but I cannot remember for the life of me that he was furiously angry about drumming.  I remember him as being a furious drummer who seemed to enjoy his outlet.  After more trigger words are accidentally discovered the anger management seminar dissolves into a grand melee and our crew of heroes slink away.

All of the former muppets are acquired, all except one.  The diva of the muppets who has apparently gotten a job in Paris for a fashion magazine.  We have another movie homage at this point, this one being The Devil Wears Prada and she also apparently consumes copious amounts of donuts ooh sorry beignets.  While I can appreciate this joke as well, once again children in the audience will not get the joke. Ms. Piggy reluctantly agrees to join her former cast-mates but not before revealing the her and Kermit had a falling out of some kind which has not yet been repaired.

Now that the group is back together they only have a short time to repair the condemned theater and put on the show.  As they make their repairs Mary starts to get antsy about her upcoming anniversary dropping many unsubtle hints to Gary who is totally consumed with making sure his brother Walter is living his dream.  On the day of the anniversary Mary wants to see the glorious sights of L.A. and have a day of pampering before the romantic dinner.  Gary promises that he will be there for dinner and of course completely forgets about it and Mary has decided she has had enough.  She heads back to their home town without leaving a note.

This leads to a song where both brothers are questioning who they are; are they muppet or are they man?  While I get it was trying to be a touching song revealing that the brothers need to be who they are it comes off as goofy.  Which totally detracts from the significance.  Gary is of course crushed by the loss of Mary and reluctantly decides to stay for his brother.  Walter is starting to have an existential crisis of his own.  Why do you ask?  Because he has no talent to offer the show to help save the Muppet theater.  Mary is having a crisis of her own.  While she is happy to be home again it does nothing but rain and of course she misses her man.

The night of the benefit has arrived and the group realizes that they have no live audience to perform for and the Network that has agreed to run the telethon is starting to get cold feet because there isn’t a celebrity host.  Once again the movie crosses a line that shouldn’t have been crossed because they kidnap Jack Black and tie him to a chair on the stage.  While this is in the vein of wacky antics that the Muppets are known for it doesn’t capture the feel that is the Muppets.  The telethon starts off roughly but begins to pick up steam, enough steam to concern our villain who makes his way down to the theater to sabotage the show.

Our villain makes it down to the theater and manages to cut the power.  Mary who is watching from home sees this and makes her way back to the theater (traveling by map to make it in time) to jury-rig a solution and power is restored.  As the time to buy back the theater ticks by and they get oh so close to their dollar goal the villain manages to destroy the antenna on the roof bringing the show to a permanent stop.  As the crushing realization sets in that they did not make their goal and that Tex Richman has defeated them the credits roll.

Seriously.  The credits roll.  You do not discover that they actually win until about halfway through the credits when Richman gets hit in the head with a bowling ball and decides to return the theater to the muppets.  Seriously, if  you walked out as the credits are rolling you would never know that the good guys won.

I guess the lesson here is that it is in fact a detriment to try and be too clever.  You cannot mix so many disparate elements into one cohesive theme without lessening the value of the whole.