Loved It: Life’s a Snappy Song with the Muppets

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. Continue reading

Lost Generation: How I Survived a Muppet Ice Age, and Lived to Tell the Tale

Part Three in Our Seven-Part Series of Muppet Reviews

According to the history books—the ones that haven’t been neutered by these damn politicians, anyway—the Muppet Ice Age began in the late 20th century A.D.

It’s hard to pinpoint the precise beginning. Was it 1996, when ABC pulled Muppets Tonight after only 10 episodes? Was it 1999, when Muppets from Space lost millions at the box office? Was it 2004, when Disney acquired and promptly squandered the franchise, madly reassigning them to different divisions of the company? Or was it far earlier than that: 1990, the year Kermit lost his voice, the year that the Muppets lost their creator, the year that Jim Henson died? After all, how could the children of the 1990s and 2000s be anything other than a Lost Generation, raised as they were by mere mothers and fathers, without that crucial third parent Jim Henson to nurture them?

Well, here’s how. I was two years old when Jim Henson died, and somehow I survived the Muppet Ice Age. Continue reading

Old-School Muppets vs. New-School Muppets: The Conflict That Wasn’t

Part Two in Our Seven-Part Series of Muppet Reviews

Judge PG-13 For Ugly Cast, now presiding.

This court will now hear the case of Old-School Muppets vs. New- School Muppets. And because this case is a trumped-up, media-driven kerfuffle, the Court shall proceed with an air of snide superiority towards the parties involved – and towards several that are not involved at all.

Ahem. The evidence. Continue reading

The Muppets Go Meta: Even This Title Is Self-Aware

Part One in Our Seven-Part Series of Muppet Reviews

Before “meta” came to mean “self-aware,” it was a mere prefix—academic, obscure.

Sometime in the last few decades, however, Meta escaped from the university and into the atmosphere, a sentient virus that has spread throughout the culture ever since. Our movies have grown self-conscious; our TV shows, self-referential; and Meta has wedged its way between writers and their writing, so that almost everything onscreen seems to stand at an ironic distance from, well, just about everything else.

Continue reading

Review: The Muppets

7-word review for the ADD-afflicted: A feature-length love letter to the Muppets.

70-word review for the busy: The Muppets’ best film in 20 years is—fittingly enough—a movie about reviving the Muppets. It runs thick with nostalgia, drawing whole songs and plot points from past Muppet efforts. But the new additions—including two protagonists who are lifelong Muppet fans—are delightful.  And if the middle of The Muppets drags a bit, it’s only because the rest of the film hums with electricity – and with hummable songs.

While usually we offer a 700-word review for the procrastinators, that meager length is clearly inadequate for a movie as monumental as The Muppets. Instead, in the coming days we will publish 7 cultural essays for the Muppet-obsessed, on topics including the following: