The Muppets: Not for Moppets?
Add me to the near-unanimous chorus of raves—The Muppets is one of the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational movies of the year. But here’s my advice: Leave the little kiddies at home.
I caught a Sunday-morning matinee at a packed suburban New Jersey multiplex, where many of the tots squirmed and cried while their nostalgia-besotted parents attempted to shush them. Frankly, I couldn’t blame the rugrats for going wild; the movie is so brilliantly meta, it sailed right over their little heads.
True, there are a few broad gags that play to any age group (e.g., Fozzie Bear’s “fart shoes”). But a preschooler can hardly be expected to appreciate all the in-joke cameos, from Mickey Rooney—the still-hardy progenitor of The Muppets‘ let’s-put-on-a-show genre—to Dave Grohl, the Animal-istic rocker from Nirvana and the Foo Fighters.
Here’s the genius of the screenplay, by costar Jason Segel and his Forgetting Sarah Marshall collaborator Nicholas Stoller: It never stops commenting on itself. This is a movie about the quest to make the Muppet franchise culturally relevant again… that makes the Muppet franchise culturally relevant again.
To some extent, The Muppet Show was always more geared towards grownups. It was Sesame Street After Dark, a gateway drug to the more sophisticated sketch comedy of Saturday Night Live and Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The Muppets takes it to the next level, at one point even parodying Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, a reference I dearly hope was lost on the underage audience members.
As a parent who’s suffered through more than my share of kiddie movies that sent me into a sugar-shock coma, offering nothing intellectually nutritional to anyone tall enough to ride a rollercoaster (The Tigger Movie springs to mind), I’d like to thank Segel and Co. for providing long-overdue counterbalance. So what if The Muppets—unlike “The Rainbow Connection”—doesn’t have all of us under its spell? For the lovers, the dreamers and me, it’s definitely magic.
Who enjoyed The Muppets more—you or your kids? It’s time to get things started with a comment!