Saturday, November 26, 2011

Manah Manah

If you know me at all, you know I am a Muppet fan. Jim Henson is my ultimate role model - I can think of no better embodiment of creativity and wonder and all that is beautiful about human potential. I once stalked Frank Oz when he came to a show at a theater I was working at just so I could chat with him for a moment in the lobby. The greatest failed job interview of my life, for an internship with the Henson Foundation, brought me into the fabled Henson office on the east side; more than a decade later I can describe every feature of that townhouse in excruciating detail.

The stained glass window above Jim Henson's desk.

I have been imposing my Muppet agenda on Ryan since infancy. He has grown up on a diet of Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, and The Muppet Show. I am more than a little proud that he likes to turn random objects into puppets (though I could do without the talking toilet seat).

So it goes without saying that I had to take Ryan to see The Muppets in the theater opening weekend. He loved it. We lost him a little at the end (he started yammering loudly during the last, and quietest, scene), but he left the theater singing Manah Manah and the Muppet Show theme song, so I count that as a victory.

As a Muppet purist, though, I had some serious problems with this movie. While there were lots of great elements (including a perfect cameo by my gay Hollywood boyfriend, NPH), and overall I'd give the film a B, there were things that went against the spirit of the Muppets, and which caused me great distress.  

Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert!

For one thing, the Swedish Chef should never have subtitles. He does not need translation. And neither does Camilla (Gonzo's chicken girlfriend).

Also, if the Muppets have to kidnap a celebrity to host their telethon, by the middle of the show said celebrity should embrace what's going on; having Jack Black object to his fate the whole time seemed out of the spirit of the Muppets.

There was a bit too much snark, a bit too much "we know we're in a movie" shtick. Uncharacteristically lowbrow humor. Penguins singing in English. CGI when animatronics would have worked. Wrong wrong wrong. It's too bad Frank Oz and Brian Henson were not on board for this project - they could have righted the ship.

But it had heart, and a song that's been stuck in my head since yesterday, and has probably turned a new generation on to the magic of the Muppets, so I'm going to try to let go of my objections and embrace the new Muppets.


  1. Since I am also a Muppet lover (thankfully we made it through before the big, purple dinosaur, I am looking forward to seeing the movie. And you are right...the Swedish Chef never needs subtitles and "Manah, manah...Go Ryan!"

  2. I am a HUGE Henson fan too. I am totally excited that Daphne's love for Sesame Street brought Lucy back into it and away from the more grown up entertainment of Nick Jr - is there anything more annoying than the Fresh Beat Band?


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