Moving right along

This weekend’s movie was The Muppet Movie. The original one, for anyone who might be a little confused. Much to my own surprise, I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen it before. Up until this point, I had just assumed that Muppets Take Manhattan was the first, because it was the oldest one I’d ever seen. Then I learned that Manhattan is actually the third movie.

The most important thing to take away from this whole experience is that I know nothing about The Muppets. I’m a terrible person.

The Muppet Movie, as I am now aware, is the story of how the Muppets all got together. It’s a heartwarming tale about a frog who just wants to make people happy, and meets a bunch of other like-minded puppets on his way to Hollywood.

While it has a happy-go-lucky feel for the most part, it is a little more adult-oriented than I expect a children’s movie to be (Then again, the Muppets were never strictly for kids). For example, the first place Kermit visits on his journey is a dive bar full of ruffians. Later on, Kermit and Rowlf have a heart-to-heart about how difficult women can be. And the whole second half of the movie has the villain threatening to straight-up murder Kermit.

What I took away from this movie, more than anything, was admiration for the sheer beauty and creativity of the practical effects on display. Even in the first five minutes, there are two mind-bending shots. The slow zoom-in on Kermit playing his banjo in the swamp, where Jim Henson was stuffed into a small tank under the water, a scene which took five days to film. And then there’s the scene of Kermit riding his bicycle down the street, which I would never ever be able to guess how they did if I didn’t already know. I’ve always had a great appreciation for puppetry and practical effects, and they’re even more impressive in retrospect, when you consider how many of the special effects in most modern movies are done by some joker at a computer. Lame.

Oh, and the giant Animal at the end of the film? They actually made a massive Animal head for that. There’s no computer trickery involved. There is a little use of green-screen in the movie, but how else are you going to have Kermit and Fozzie dance on stage convincingly?

I am a little bit surprised at how much The Muppets (the 2011 film) takes from the original movie. The road trip to collect the group, meeting Fozzie at a bar, Gonzo’s career as a plumber, Animal’s grand entrance during the climax. It’s a wonderful homage to a movie that remains funny, heartfelt, and just all-around excellent nearly 40 years later. I guess that actually wraps this up, then. Totally going to pick up The Great Muppet Caper next and see if Muppets Most Wanted references is quite as strongly.

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