"There's not a word yet for old friends who've just met"
-- a line from Gonzo's song "I'm Going to Go Back There Someday", 1979
So a lot of people in the Muppet-fan webiverse (weblaxy? websmos?) have put in their three cents about the new Muppet movie, and, while generally liking it, they hedge their praise with really nitpicky critiques. "Kermit was a bummer through the whole thing!" "That one part didn't make sense or wasn't done very well!" "My favorite Muppet [insert Muppet name] didn't get enough screen time!" (For the record, my own favorites, Kermit and Bobo, got exactly as much screen time as their characters warrant.)
To boil down their critiques, they're basically saying this: "My perception of this movie isn't exactly the same as my perception of the old movies I've been watching all my life."
When Amy and I first saw the movie (opening night), I decided that we should take Ezra sometime during its run to see it for his first movie in the theaters. I guess I'm kind of sentimental about stuff like that; some people of my generation take pride in saying "my parents took me to see Star Wars as my first movie in the theaters" and wear it like a badge of honor, proving how much bigger Star Wars fans they are than everyone else. Well, if my son is going to say anything like that, it's darn well going to be about the Muppets. The house this kid grows up in -- he's actually said "Mommy's favorite is Miss Piggy, and Daddy's favorite is Kermit, and mine favorite is Animal because because he plays drums and I play drums because Santa brought me drums for Christmas." So a couple weekends ago we dressed him up in his Kermit shirt and his Muppets hoodie and we went to see The Muppets in the bargain theater.
There's a part early in the movie where Walter is visiting the dilapidated Muppets studios, and he's wearing a Kermit shirt. Seeing this, Ezra got up and unzipped his jacket. He looked up at Walter wearing his Kermit shirt, looked down at his own Kermit shirt, and back again.
There it was. Palpable, electric Muppet magic. We have a Walter doll at home; now Ezra says "HE was in the Muppet movie theater and he was singing with Kermit [or, as he pronounces it, KAIR-mit]!!!" Now my son has memories of the Muppets that will give him the "warm fuzzies" every time he sees Kermit or Piggy OR Walter, whether it be a few years from now or thirty years from now. I guess what moves me -- and this might be selfish or something, but whatever -- is that now he's a Muppets fan in the same way that we are.
That's the thing: I can't go back and be a kid again, no matter how many times I watch the old movies. Let's be honest, there's a lot of boring and/or cheesy stuff, even in the "Big Three" (the Jim Henson-era movies: The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, Muppets Take Manhattan). It's what you put into those movies that counts, and I put myself into them many, many years ago. But I can share pieces of what I thought was magical when I was a kid with my son. And what's great about that is that he weaves his own kid-magic into it, and it retroactively brightens my own wellspring of that magic.
In the movie, Walter is one of us, the old die-hard fans; but in the bigger picture, he's the new guy -- the two-year-old Muppets fan -- the "old friend we've just met." That's why The Muppets is my favorite Muppets movie.
Plus the music just plain rocks. "Life's a Happy Song" is right up there with "Movin' Right Along" and "Together Again."