Part Four in Our Seven-Part Series of Muppet Reviews
This Oscar season, PG-13 for Ugly Cast will be flipping a cordial bird to the arbitrary practice of rank-ordering movies. Instead, we will highlight a handful of Movie Things We Loved, with no pretense of objectivity or internal consistency. Deal with it.
The Muppets divide people into two camps: (1) Those who adore them, and (2) Those who have coal and garbage where their hearts should be.
If you are a Muppet-Adorer, then I embrace you as a brother, or possibly a sister—it’s hard for me to tell over the internet. But if you are a Garbage-Hearted Hater, then I do not banish you. Rather, I pity you, as I pity the lactose intolerant, or those with peanut allergies, or anyone else whose flawed biology thwarts their enjoyment of life’s wholesome pleasures. I cannot promise to cure you, Garbage Hearts, but I hope to squeeze a few drops of human emotion from your rotten and decaying souls.
Let us begin as all such projects of salvation must: with music.
We will skip past the great songs of Muppet movies past. I will assume, Garbage Hearts, that you’ve heard “The Rainbow Connection,” and somehow failed to connect with its theme of yearning for one’s place in a world. I will assume that you’ve been unmoved by the rousing opening number of The Great Muppet Caper, in which the Muppets float across the sky in hot air balloons, and that your incapacity for emotion has left you indifferent to the witty and stirring soundtrack of A Muppet Christmas Carol. I will assume, in short, that you are a malfunctioning robot, or a corporate lawyer, or a neurological patient with damage to the part of the brain that feels joy.
Let us move directly to November 2011, and the new Jason Segel film The Muppets.
Listen to the songs, Garbage Hearts. I dare you. Listen to the toe-tapping “Life’s a Happy Song,” with its call-and-response bridge, and try not to smile.
Look in a mirror after listening to the soulful, Oscar-nominated “Man or Muppet,” and try not to feel those same two natures at war inside your own breast.
Listen to the tragic “Pictures in My Head,” and try not to think about all the friends you’ve watched drift away, all the bittersweet memories you’ve half-forgotten, all the beautiful pig-wives you’ve let slip through your fingers.
If you can’t see it, Garbage Hearts, perhaps you can hear it. The Muppets have a finger on the human pulse. When our attention is captured by those silly, flop-eared, googly-eyed puppets, we become children again. They put us in touch with a pure and sentimental part of ourselves, a part that sounds awkward and maudlin when discussed by humans, but sounds just right coming from a humble frog or a loyal, wisecracking bear. And they do it with humor, catchy melodies, and a friendly wink that never seems to fade.
Say what you will, Garbage Hearts. The Muppets don’t need you. They’ve got the lovers, the dreamers, Jason Segel, and – if it wasn’t already obvious – me.