Michael Wermuth – It’s been nearly a year since my last “Five Good and Bad Things About…” article. In this series of articles, I list five good things about a production and then list five bad things. Of course, the bad things might not really be that bad – they might just be things that I don’t like about them, or things that I consider weaknesses, or whatever. Today, we take a look at five good and five bad – or not exactly good – things about It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie. In fact, I had it on my mind to do this list last year, but didn’t until now.
It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie has a mixed reaction among fans. There are fans who really like the movie, myself included. There are also just as many, if not more, fans who dislike or even hate the movie, though it seems like a lot of fans used to like it a lot better when it was new than they do now. Take a look at this list of good and bad things and judge for yourself if it deserves the praise or hate it gets.
1. It’s the first movie to take place at the Muppet Theater.
Several years before The Muppets, we got this movie, which primarily takes place at the Muppet Theater. It doesn’t look as impressive as it would in that movie (and doesn’t look as impressive as the more realistic street set used in Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird), and we had recently seen the return of the backstage in the Weezer music video (though both are clearly different sets), but it’s still amazing to see the set used in this movie.
2. The Christmas parodies.
I know there are many who hate how parody-heavy this film is, but I really like most of the parodies. The primary It’s a Wonderful Life plotline is great, though at first I wondered why so much of the first half had to be a flashback (having only seen parodies of that film at the time, particularly ones that lasted a half-hour or less, I assumed that the “world where the star had never been born” plot kicked off closer to the beginning, and assumed that that plot would take up the first hour and then have them try harder to save the theater). I really like the references to A Christmas Story and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, not to mention the snowman narrator. Many of the parodies are of films I had not seen or heard of. And this movie came before there were too many horrible parody movies.
3. “Everyone Matters”.
One of the few songs from the movie, and it’s sung twice. I would expect myself to like the closing performance better, since it features more characters, but I actually do like the one with just Kermit and Gonzo better. It’s a nice moment, after all Kermit goes through in the world where he hasn’t been born, Gonzo starts singing about how horrible his Christmas had been, then Kermit sings about what he should do, and they sing about how, well, everyone matters. It’s also a beautiful duet between them.
4. The adult humor.
I know that a lot of the fans hate how adult this was, but I didn’t mind. At the time, it was announced that the new Muppet show that was to air on Fox would have been edgier, and various Muppet productions over the next few years were a bit more adult like this (for the most part the Muppets have gone back to just as adult as they always had been, maybe a slight bit more; the current series, while more adult in the past, isn’t quite at the level of adult humor as the 2002-2007 era). I enjoyed such lines as “I’ve got great news for everyone, okay, unless you’re an evil banker lady, then it sucks!”, and Pepe mentioning he has a permit for a topless night club.
5. Kermit’s “I WISH I’D NEVER BEEN BORN!” freak-out.
It’s always funny when Kermit freaks out, and his big “I WISH I’D NEVER BEEN BORN” freak-out is especially funny. One thing that makes it funny is when Daniel reads the part of his book that says what to do if someone wishes they’d never been born, only for Kermit to calmly go to his ear, as if to whisper, and then shout the phrase again. And it’s also funny later on when Kermit does pretty much the same thing when he wishes he had never said he wished he had never been born (too bad that didn’t result in his wish getting granted).
1. The non-Muppet audience.
The Muppet Show always had an audience of Muppets, so I was disappointed to see them have an audience of humans instead. Yeah, I really wanted them to use this opportunity to use as many obscure characters who don’t show up in the movie as possible, but considering that the show had an audience full of Muppets, I expected it to be the same here. I don’t really mind the mostly non-Muppet audiences in The Muppets or Muppets Most Wanted (those movies pretty much established the Muppets as a performer troupe, so it makes more sense that there’d be humans in the audience in those), and I tolerate it a little better on The Muppets, but in this movie I wish they’d have filled the audience with Muppets instead.
2. Miss Piggy’s departure doesn’t really affect the movie.
There’s quite a few things I find wrong with the portion of the movie where Miss Piggy leaves the Muppets, only to come back, one of which is that there’s no real affect on the plot (in fact you could also say the same about her leaving the group in The Muppet Movie and The Muppets). But there are some things I’ve always nitpicked about.
For starters, Miss Piggy leaves the Muppets to be on Scrubs, where she ends up being an extra (and gets fired). But wait a minute – Kermit decided that the show needed a special guest star, as Fozzie suggested that the show have something to let audiences feel they got their money’s worth, and when Kermit can’t find a celebrity who would do the show, he goes to get Miss Piggy back. So in other words, Miss Piggy has the star power to make the Muppets’ Christmas show worth the price of admission, yet despite her star power, she was reduced to being an extra on a high profile sitcom (okay, this movie was the first time I’d heard of Scrubs, so I don’t know how popular the show was back then)?
There’s also the fact that Kermit didn’t consider having a guest star on the show until they were planning for the Christmas show. But the Muppets have always had a guest star on their shows. How could Kermit have not considered having one here? Does this movie take place in a continuity where The Muppet Show never had guest stars, or (considering they were still doing the show in 2002, when the show wasn’t really on the air for so many years) a universe where the Muppets stopped having guest stars for years?
And finally, Miss Piggy is a regular part of the Muppets. Kermit may have been in need to give the show some extra star power, but Miss Piggy is highly associated with the Muppets. Fans always expect her to be included (even during Frank Oz’s later years with the Muppets). And she’s enough to justify admission when they would normally expect her?
Of course, if this movie didn’t have the portion where Piggy leaves the Muppets only to return easily in a short amount of time, we wouldn’t have had the montage of celebrity cameos, not to mention no appearance by the Scrubs cast.
3. Portions of the world where Kermit is never born.
I think I’m stating the obvious when I say that we’re all better off in this world where Kermit was born, as opposed to one where he was never born. The point of this world is to show Kermit that. And while it does make a good point at showing how different and worse off his friends would be without him, a lot of it is a little too much. I’m fine with Fozzie being a pick pocket, Miss Piggy being a cat lady, Gonzo being a poor street performer, and The Electric Mayhem being river dancers. And it seems like not everybody’s life is that bad (obviously Rachiel Bitterman’s life isn’t). Johnny Fiama seems to have the same personality, but doesn’t need Sal to help him. We don’t see what Sal’s life is like, but Johnny’s seems to improve. And while it’s weird to see Beaker with muscles and a deeper voice, he doesn’t seem to be the butt monkey he normally is. But what’s really disturbing is Rizzo on Fear Factor (see below) and some of the things at Club Dot, like Sam selling glow sticks (I find it hard to believe he would be doing that in a world without Kermit), Scooter cage dancing, and Robin being bullied as an employee.
4. Rizzo on Fear Factor.
While it’s often funny when Muppets get eaten by other Muppets, when Rizzo is featured on Fear Factor where he is to be eaten by a human, it’s more disturbing than funny. I feel sorry for Rizzo when he screams over this.
What I have often nitpicked about this scene is the fact that Daniel tells Kermit that with him not being born, the majority of television is reality. At the time this movie came out, reality TV was just starting to dominate television, and would go on to dominate the air waves for a decade (the dominance of reality television seems to have died down considerably in recent years, especially with Kermit starring on a new TV show… Daniel must have been right). But also, Kermit did not have a regular TV gig at the time. Henson probably expected that proposed Muppet show on Fox to have been on the air by then, but we didn’t get it, and nothing with Kermit had aired on Sesame Street in over a year (though Kermit material was being shown on Play with me Sesame at the time).
5. The Crocodile Hunter scene.
The scene with the Crocodile Hunter parody isn’t really a great scene. So he appears and chases Fozzie like a real bear? It does lead to the Grinch parody, so that’s a minor good thing about the scene, but still, the scene is rather lame. When I first saw the movie, I thought it was the actual Steve Irwin, as opposed to an impersonator.
And there you have it. Five good things about It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, and five things that are either bad, things I don’t like, or nitpicks. And Merry Christmas.