Sunday, 19 June 2011
I love the Muppets. With a passion. I've got as much of The Muppet Show in DVD as I can legally get my hands on and remember watching a fair bit of it when it was first broadcast on UK television. Sunday evenings on ITV. Loved it, even if some of it did scare me a bit (Crazy Harry in particular). In fact my wife doesn't like me having the DVD on as it still scares her a bit. There was a genuine sense of lunacy and love on display that came directly from not just Jim Henson and Frank Oz but from a unique collection of performers who seemed intent on making each other laugh. You can hear them over canned laughter sometimes. I also love the first two movies but Muppets Take Manhattan just didn't do it for me. And then Jim Henson died. That was the first time I ever actually shed a tear when someone famous died (the other time when Christopher Reeve). It really knocked me for six.
But the Muppets had to continue. And so they did. The mantle of Kermit was passed on to Steve Whitmire. But as time went on more and more performers left due to age, other commitments or death (Richard Hunt's passing was also a punch to the gut). Voices were replaced as more films and TV specials came out. And I couldn't help but think that things just weren't the same anymore. Even Gonzo (my favourite Muppet ever), still performed by his creator Dave Goelz, seemed restrained and downplayed, his screeching enthusiasm for all things deviant nothing more than a sentimental murmur. The lunacy and unpredictability of the show seemed lost.
But now we are getting a new theatrical Muppet film, taking them back to their roots, simply called The Muppets.
I really thought I'd be happy about this. Everyone I know on Facebook seems to love it. Iwant to like it.I really do. But it's just not the same. Yes, it looks a lot better than Muppets From Space - whomever came up with the idea that Gonzo is an alien needs a slap. He's a WEIRDO, not an alien! Or even a Frackle (not Fraggle) - but the changes in the performers mean more than just slightly different voices.
The original performers brought so much of themselves to it all back in the day that it would be tough for anyone to try and replace them. But the original souls of the characters just don't seem there anymore. Whitmire's Kermit and Henson's Kermit are completely different now, it seems. The more recent Kermit seems too nice and lacks Henson's sense of outright cheek and charm. Fozzie lacks his anxiety and delusion and has gained an odd overbite. And Miss Piggie? It's like someone else puppeteering Rod Hull's Emu. The threat is gone. I don't want to see Crazy Harry wearing a hard hat. I want him to blow everything up at random and terrify me again. I don;t want imitations but surely a little more of what made the originals so much fun is in order?
Fair play to the new Muppeteers. They have enormous shoes to fill. But the characters just don't seem to be there anymore for me. I'll see the new film, but I'll be walking in with a lot of baggage.
Seems I grew up.