Thursday, December 20, 2012

It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, Part 5: Every One Matters

Kermit rushes back to the mall to find Daniel so he can return to his own world.  Instead he finds Gonzo, singing about his Christmas woes.  But Kermit reminds him to lift up his spirits because he  has learned that "Everyone Matters."  The lyrics are a little too on the nose, but it's pleasant.  So let's just listen to the instrumental version and imagine Gonzo and Kermit are singing nice things about friends.

Isn't this nice?

After Gonzo leaves, Daniel sends Kermit back to his own world (after a brief misstep) and Kermit happily runs back to his friends, just happy that he can share the world with them, regardless of whether they keep the theater or not.

Merry Christmas, you old savings and loans!

Kermit reconnects with all of his friends, kissing Miss Piggy forgiving Fozzie's mistake.  Unfortunately, Ms. Bitterman comes back to gloat and kick the Muppets out of the theater.  After a *sigh* kung-fu fight between Piggy and Bitterman, Pepe arrives to reveal that, with the money given to him by Ms. Bitterman, he bought a permit that declares the theater to be a historical landmark that must never be destroyed.

Oh no!  What will happen to Club Dot?!

Bitterman leaves in a huff, Bobo announces that it's snowing, and the whole crew rushes out to sing Christmas carols and be happy together.

The magic was in them all along!

Daniel and the Boss summarize the lesson of the movie which brings us to the end! Merry Christmas!

This film...was not as awful as I had remembered.  It's clearly not up to par with any of the theatrical releases (Muppets from Space, aside), but it isn't an absolute travesty.  The main issues come from the fact that there was clearly a better original script that aimed for a feature film debut and it had to get "dumbed down" for television.

First, let's just get this out of the way.  This is essentially the same movie as The Muppets.  The Muppets is far superior, but we must remember that this came out a decade earlier and, thus, should be able to stand on its own merits.

Where This Movie Went Wrong:

1) It's Not Timeless.  The celebrity cameos and pop culture references were added to the script without longevity in mind.  This is fine for television.  We look to TV shows to relate with us in the moment.  We see one episode and then we are done with it and move on.  This is necessary because the characters are also growing and moving on.  It makes sense for them to talk about the present and make quick jokes without staying power.  For a film, a grander approach must be taken.  This is something that future generations may inevitable want to watch.  It should be welcoming to them and not restricting.  This film reeks of 2002 the way Muppets from Space reeked of 1999.

2) Shameless NBC Plugs.  Even when the film poked fun at itself for doing it, it was still annoying and took me out of the film.  By constantly reminding me, "You are watching NBC," I wanted to change the channel...on my DVD.  I guess this was necessary for budgetary reasons, but it could have been handled better than "Let's watch Scrubs!  Let's watch Fear Factor!"

3) It Forgets Its Original Purpose of Being a Parody.  The opening sequence hints at the movie we were supposed to be getting.  This was The Muppet Christmas Show and it was going to spoof as many Christmas movies and Christmas specials as possible.  But, aside from the  It's a Wonderful Life plot and the references crammed into the beginning, there is very little reminder of that tone.  Had it fully embraced this endeavor, this could have been another Christmas classic, destined for repeated airings each holiday season.

4) It Strangely Misses the Point of It's a Wonderful Life.  Despite talking about how friends and family are the most important aspect of Christmas, there isn't a moment at the end to signify that (Pepe's brief redemption aside).  When George Bailey returns to his life in Bedford Falls, he is greeted with confirmation that the time and effort he put into helping people has caused everyone to return the favor. Here, Kermit comes back and everyone hugs him and...Bitterman still comes in like a big bully.  Piggy briefly fights her and Pepe has his little ruse, but the point is that EVERYONE should be helping Kermit at this point.  Fozzie!  Gonzo!  Everyone!  Quit sitting on your hands and do something!

5) Joan Cusack, I Love Ya, But Ms. Bitterman is Not a Classic Muppet Villain.  Ever since Muppet Treasure Island, the Muppet films have struggled to hit that balance of what makes a great foil to the Muppets.  Yes, they have to be more cartoonish than the average person, but they also have to be believable and fun.  Bitterman has some great insults, but they aren't really part of her character.  Charles Grodin, Tim Curry, even Mel Brooks's over-the-top mad scientist.  They were clearly having fun in their roles.  They enjoyed being evil.  Bitterman claims to enjoy being evil, but she just feels like she's filling a necessary role.

So, What Worked?

1) The Actual Muppet Christmas Show.  We only got to see two acts ("Moulin Scrooge" and Pepe's stand up) but they were both funny and memorable.  This was a chance to see a show we'd never gotten a chance to see.  Indulge a little bit.  Had they taken out a majority of the annoying references and replaced them with more Animal in a manger, they could have hit Christmas classic status.  What we saw was great.

2) The Emotional Moments.  It was hard to spot them with so much going on, but just about everything from the moment where Fozzie loses the money to Kermit's reunion with his friends was very strong.  Kermit's interactions with Fozzie, alternate Piggy, and alternate Gonzo were great moments that didn't have to really on humor to be entertaining.

3) Whoopi Goldberg as God.  I dunno, that just made sense to me.  If any celebrity would be looking out for the Muppets, it would be her.

4) Alternate Reality Sam the Eagle.  I'm a Sam fan.  His role as "Baron von Scrooge" was cut from the "Moulin Scrooge" segment, so let me enjoy the little time we spent with him.  Even if it wasn't technically him.

5) The Fact That I Find Myself Supporting the Film.  Sure, a lot of it didn't work.  But this repeated viewing has managed to charm me.  Maybe I'm just getting into the Christmas spirit.  But whatever it is, It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie is worth a revisit (or a first visit if you've never seen it).

Just make sure you have the ability to fast-forward.

Then you can play God from your couch!

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