Though Jim Henson died several years ago, his legacy lives on, and on this Thanksgiving, that’s what the geek is me is thankful for.
The splashiest part of that, of course, is “The Muppets,” now showing at movie theaters. While I did have some issues with it, I can say it’s a hoot, and everyone who’s ever been a Muppet fan should go see it.
But what made this week extra special was attending a screening of the original “The Muppet Movie” at the Detroit Film Theatre, preceded by a kid-friendly dinner and the chance to see the Detroit Institute of Arts’ own Kermit, donated to the museum by Henson himself. He’s rarely put on display, and I’ve never been that close to a real Kermit.
A friend of mine had gotten us tickets to the event, and he was running late. I was like a little kid bouncing up and down nervously, afraid we’d miss it and Kermit would walk away before I had the chance to meet him.
I watched “Muppets Take Manhattan” recently, but it had been several years since I last saw “The Muppet Movie.” And between the two, it made the flaws in the new “The Muppets” more glaringly obvious.
But that’s not to say you shouldn’t see it. It’s hysterical in parts. The songs are catchy (I’m still singing the big opening number). It was obviously made by people who genuinely love the Muppets — but have never worked with them and don’t know how to utilize them to their full potential.
The story is simple. Walter, a new character, grew up obsessed with the Muppets. Jason Segel plays his brother, Gary. When Gary and his longtime girlfriend Mary (a delightful Amy Adams) plan a 10th anniversary trip to Los Angeles, they take Walter with them so he can visit the Muppet Studios.
Only an oil baron is threatening the studios and the Muppet Theater, which have fallen into disrepair, intending to tear the theater down to get to the oil beneath it. Only by getting the gang back together and holding a telethon to raise $10 million can Kermit save the theater — and bring the Muppets back to the national stage, where they so rightly belong.
It’s that old let’s-put-on-a-show manic spirit and the theme of following your dreams that have been with the Muppets since the first film that propel the movie.
And you know what? I was going to air my grievances, but I don’t think I will. For any flaws “The Muppets” has, it’s made up for by the fact that it exists at all. They’re balanced out by moments of awesomeness, and I don’t want to risk someone not seeing this movie because of something I wrote.
Go see it! I have the sinking feeling that the future of the Muppets hinges on the success of this movie. That if it doesn’t do well, Disney will assume no one cares and mothball the characters. Don’t let that happen! Go see it! Now! (OK, you can have Thanksgiving dinner first, but please go sometime this weekend.)
But, wait — that’s not all!
Henson’s legacy is also being brought to life by comic book publishing company Archaia. Not only have they been doing a great job with the “Fraggle Rock” comics, but they have three special projects due in December.
These books have been delayed for a while, but if they make their December due dates, Henson lovers are in for some very happy holidays.
First off, we’re getting “The Storyteller” on Dec. 7. Like the old TV show, it’s an anthology of tales from around the world. One of them is based on an unproduced screenplay by Oscar-winning director Anthony Minghella, who wrote for the original series.
On Dec. 14, we should be getting “Tale of Sand,” based on an unproduced movie screenplay by Henson himself and Muppet collaborator Jerry Juhl. According to Archaia, the book “follows scruffy everyman Mac, who wakes up in an unfamiliar town, and is chased across the desert of the American Southwest by all manners of man and beast of unimaginable proportions.” The art looks stunning.
Then, on Dec. 21, we’re due “The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths.” The original story is set 1,000 years before the Crystal cracked. The plot, cover, character designs and art direction are by original “Dark Crystal” designer (and much-loved fantasy artist) Brian Froud.
I can’t tell you how excited I am by these three projects. And Archaia’s PR people are probably sick of me asking when they’ll be coming out.
You can find free previews of all three at the links I provided.
AND there’s talk of a new sitcom from the Jim Henson Co. It won’t involve the Muppets, which are owned by Disney, but the proposed NBC Show will be about a family who moves into a Palm Springs home only to discover that their neighbors are a family of puppets.