I've noticed for the past couple of years the things of my youth have become "retro". Every fashion trend, hair style (anyone else noticing mullets are back amongst some celebs?), movie and kids show is making a come back. Often times I find myself rankling at the throw backs that aren't quite spot on. You know the ones I mean, you children of the 80s and 90s. The carefully "updated" re-release of My Little Ponies (why do they look like Bratz dolls?) and Strawberry Shortcake (why is she dressed like a hooker with a pageboy hat thrown on as a diversion?) certainly caught my attention. There was the new Smurfs movie last year and a re-boot of the Star Trek series (okay okay, I totally loved it. LEONARD NEMOY!!). I feel like network executives have set up think tanks dedicated to ways to re-sell my childhood to me now that I have kids.
For those of us who can't quite get behind Dora, Bratz dolls and every other temporary trend designed to sell toys (not unlike the old Hallmark drawings that became a show we know as Care Bears), the mere mention of our favourite childhood shows and toys gets our attention in the midst of all the noise. More often than not I find myself disappointed. My favourite childhood stories twisted and made over into something so strange, I wonder if my memory has betrayed me or if this is just stage of innocence lost. But sometimes, I come across something in the sea of neon, leg-warmers and Blossom jokes on popular sitcoms, that makes me feel like a kid again. Some great examples are the Horton Hears a Who movie (I loved that story as a kid) and the Curious George movie that came out a few years back (the TV show is a killer too. So cute!). Favourite childhood friends came to life in a way that was honest and unique, in a way that made me want to sit on the floor, nose as close to the TV as I could manage without going blind. These were movies I wanted to watch with my kids, without having to censor them.
This week, I finally found another movie to add to our retro throwback repetoire. I kinda love the Muppets. Like, for real. I watched every episode of the show as a kid, every movie, and even the Muppet Babies cartoon. We had toys, puppets, and sheet music. When the Muppets in Space movie came out when I was a teenager, I went with my big brother to soak in the sweet charms of the Muppets however I could get it. My favourite Christmas movie is, without a doubt, A Muppet Christmas Carol (seriously, we watch it year round. It's the best telling of the classic tale ever made). As you can tell, I'm nuts for the Muppets (and Sesame Street too, though in a lesser fashion). The Muppets has always been kid friendly but with a wink and nod to the parents watching. The Muppet Movie from back in the day never had a problem breaking the fourth wall to have a conversation with the audience, even if it made no sense to the plot. Kermit and the gang were masters of the running gag. Fozzie could make even the worst joke funny by simply saying "waka waka". I still laugh like a giddy 5 year old when Miss Piggy starts roundhouse kicking people. So when I saw that there was a new Muppet movie coming out, I was excited. Part of me was nervous because I was afraid that this was going to be a lame re-hashing of old gags just to make some quick cash on the back of my generation.
I did my research and got more excited. The movie was pitched and written by Jason Segel (who I love in How I Met Your Mother), not the brain child of a greedy executive. This is a movie by a fan, for fans. I don't want to spoil any of the movie for those who haven't seen it, but this movie is a tribute to the Muppets and their long history of comedy. A few running gags (I kept expecting a "Have you tried Hare Krishna?" gag, but that's not exactly current anymore), a healthy dose of cameos, an irreverence for the sanctity of the fourth wall, a bit of fan service, and a lot of good old fashioned Muppet fun. Seriously folks, go out and watch it. I'm gushing over here. Part of me hopes they merchandise this movie to death so I can get my kids a few Muppet t-shirts and the requisite Kermit puppet. If the folks in Hollywood could only make every movie with such deep respect for the integrity of the original. I think Jim Henson must be smiling down from Heaven knowing that his creations are still out there, making young and old smile.