Of course I loved it. I was raised on the Muppets, and remember the very first ever episode of “Sesame Street,” which replaced my favorite show at the time, “Kimba the White Lion.”
“The Muppets” (2011) is a charming movie about the Muppets. You don’t need to know the plot – it’s the same thing you’ve seen many times. The Muppets are in danger of losing their theatre, so they have to reunite for a big fundraising show.
The two main characters are Gary (Jason Segal) and Walter (a muppet) who is Gary’s brother who doesn’t quite know if he’s a muppet or a man. Gary has a girlfriend named Mary, played by the always-charming Amy Adams.
I get that the movie is a bit retro in its attitudes, as it’s trying to keep things innocent and fresh. I appreciate that. What I did not appreciate, however, is that the screenplay makes a strong point that women are nothing without their men (or frog, as the case may be). Really, Muppets? In 2012? In 2012, the female character can’t go out for the day by herself or eat lunch by herself without falling into despair about it (and singing a big musical number about it)? Her big first number has to voice her ultimate (and apparently only) desire that her boyfriend marry her?
Male characters in this movie have dreams. They make things happen. They save the theatre, and find their talent. The ladies just go along for the ride and complain about not getting the guy. After the muppets save the theatre and treat us to a big, happy ensemble number, the movie comes to a satisfying conclusion. However, just to emphasize the point that all happiness comes from gettin’ yer man, the film adds a penultimate scene with Gary getting down on one knee and proposing to Mary. Blergh.
Worse than “The Muppets'” inability to envision a self-respecting 21st century human female character (Rashida Jones gets to play the other female role of the stereotypical cold-hearted Career Gal, all business suits and Blackberry) is its treatment of the glorious Miss Piggy, porcine diva extraordinaire.
When the muppets go to find Miss Piggy to bring her back to the theater for the show, we find out that she is living in Paris and has the dream job of all time: plus-size fashion editor at Vogue!! The funniest scene in the movie features the fabulous Emily Blunt (in a wink to her role as the assistant to Miranda Priestley in “The Devil Wears Prada”) imperiously blocking entrance to Miss Piggy’s ultra-glam office. When we see Piggy, she is a vision in Chanel (although stuffing her face with donuts):
Miss Piggy is living the dream! She’s not wasting her life away at a dive bar in Reno like Fozzy or wiling away her days in a gated mansion like her old paramour, Kermit. Piggy is important, successful and happy.
However, in what I’m sure most people thought was a throwaway moment, Kermit confesses to Miss Piggy that he misses her and needs her, and asks her to stay in Hollywood “for him.” Without hesitation, Piggy squeals, “Of course, Kermie.”
Are you kidding!? Piggy!! Who let that dialogue happen? She should have said, “Oh, Kermie, come with me to PARIS!” Then, voila, set-up for a Muppet movie in France!
I don’t care if these are puppets with plastic eyes, when you hear parents say things like, “I plan to raise my kids on this movie,” it’s worth paying attention to the messages that the movie communicates. And this movie clearly communicates that girls have no desires apart from being with their guys, and that no matter how amazing a gal’s life ever gets, she’ll be willing to drop it all in a heartbeat (and leave Paris! Paris!!) the second her guy asks her to.
I love my Muppets and I loved all the references to 1986. I just wish that they could have written a screenplay that didn’t have such a throwback treatment of female characters. Our little girls deserve better.