Thursday, December 01, 2011

Muppet Surprise

What's perhaps really sad is that it's already Thursday and I haven't mentioned the best part of the previous weekend.

When we were planning the visit to relatives for Thanksgiving my wife made it clear that we had to come home on Friday because we had a "seminar" on Saturday afternoon to which she'd gotten us tickets. She explained it as a surprise so I didn't press for details. She said it would be good for our marriage.

So on Saturday we headed up to Hollywood, parking at the Hollywood & Highland center, and walking across the street. Then as we were almost there she handed me the tickets she'd printed out and had me read the address.

They were tickets for The Muppets showing at the El Capitan theater.

She admitted she'd purchased the reserved tickets for the show weeks ago, and had the hardest time not telling me. Not only was there the movie but an audience sing-along of holiday tunes with Kermit and Miss Piggy (with puppeteers doing those live on stage). We got jingle bell wristbands to shake during the appropriate parts of the songs, but of course that just meant that the jingling of the bells would continue for the entire movie (but that wasn't bothersome). We also got a souvenir bucket with popcorn.

The sing-along was fine, but the kids in the audience weren't really as into it as one might expect. Perhaps a 1 p.m. matinee falls during their usual nap times. Maybe it was more that the appeal was more for nostalgic parents hoping to turn the children on to what they had loved when they were themselves young.
I am of an age where I was in my adolescence when The Muppet Show originally aired, and it was definitely an event not to be missed. We had to be home in time to see it, no matter what. And to this day, The Muppet Movie is easily one of my favorite films of all time—not one of my favorite family films, or in some special category; of all time, period.

However, all the other movies and other Muppet projects over the intervening decades were never quite as good as the original show and film, and I worried slightly that this latest Jason Segel-driven product might be a disappointment.

It was not.

The Muppets is not The Muppet Movie or The Muppet Show, but even if I didn't go in with my long-standing love for the franchise I would enjoyed it. It certainly captured the tone of the original about as well as can be done without Jim Henson being directly involved. (Yes, there's a ceiling in my mind about how good a Muppet project can be since Henson passed away; I freely admit that.) I had a good time in the theater, laughing at the jokes not out of dedication to the source but because they were funny. Better still, there was an element of appreciating the nods to the past; the plot does revolve around a character who is more or less obsessed with the Muppets, having grown up watching the show, so there was no hiding the fact it was a loving homage.

And during the climax of the film I was having to put a lot of effort into not just bursting into tears (and even now, when I think about it I get a little misty).

While overall I'd agree that it deserved the B+ that it got in its EW review, it absolutely was a worthwhile addition to the Muppet canon in my humble opinion. But the experience of my wife surprising me with seeing it (in the theater that is used for the exteriors of the their theater in the film itself) definitely deserves an A+!

And it definitely was good for our marriage. My wife is AWESOME!


Other moments in the film that got to me for reasons outside of the actual plot: The scenes where the characters are taking a tour of the dilapidated Muppet studios clearly were filmed at the actual Jim Henson Studio, which are less than a mile from the El Capitan. I know that because before we were married my wife used to live a block from there and I walked past it on many, many occasions. I shots facing the street I recognized the building on the opposite side of La Brea, and knew that just outside the shot there was a strip club on that other side of the street.

Also, working in downtown L.A. I recognized the building used for the exteriors of the bad guy's headquarters—the Bank of America building. And when I saw a scene with the Muppets themselves that was filmed just in front of it, I found myself disappointed that they had filmed right there and I didn't even know it. Sure, it undoubtedly was filmed on a weekend, but still the knowledge they were right by somewhere I pass all the time left me slightly bummed.

These are the things that people who don't live and work here in Southern California do not have to worry about when watching the movie.


p.s. Yes, I grasp the bi-lingual redundancy of say "the El" but let's not dwell on that.


And here's a couple more lousy photos of the displays they had below the theater replicating Piggy's dressing room and Kermit's office:

1 comment:

  1. Wow, what a wonderful wife! That sounds like a terrific experience. I love the Muppets. Especially Beaker. And Animal.


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