Some 30 years ago, I put my still-treasured cassette of The Muppet Movie soundtrack through its paces. “Rainbow Connection,” “Movin’ Right Along,” “I Hope That Something Better Comes Along,” “Never Before, Never Again,” “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday” — I knew the lyrics and snippets of dialogue by heart. Haven’t listened to it in ages, but I can still bring back the melodies and words — a testament to the endurance of these classics written by Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher.
The songs from this year’s much-hyped The Muppets isn’t up to its predecessor’s quality, but it does try hard, with earnest offerings like “Life’s a Happy Song,” “Pictures in My Head and “Muppet or Man,” the last of which is more memorable for its cute celebrity cameo than anything else.
That same earnestness carries over to The Muppets — a trait that has clearly endeared many a film critic. I, too, found the affair sweet and sincere — but also flat.
The movie pays tribute to a beloved part of a pop culture, and plays as a refreshing alternative to the humor of irony, sarcasm and snark. But The Muppets sags under the weight of reverence for its characters. Anyone who watched their TV show knows the Muppets endeared themselves through the irreverence that their game guest stars afforded.
Here, Kermit comes across as a bit of a wet rag. Miss Piggy isn’t quite the diva she used to be, a trait that made her all the more sympathetic when she’d cover her “Kermie” in kisses.
Of the two high-profile, kid-friendly nostalgia acts that I caught this year, Winnie the Pooh was the more enchanting of the two — and a much better film. It told its story with wit and charm, staying faithful to the spirit of the original Pooh shorts of the mid-’60s while arguably improving upon the template.
I appreciated The Muppets, but I didn’t enjoy the film as much as I was prepared to. In light of all the resounding praise, I kept expecting it to reach another gear of inspiration. The Muppet Show was filled humor both silly and sly. The telethon-themed revival that concludes this film lacks something no Muppet movie should – energy and a sense of madcap fun.