Not everyone is jumping for joy over the upcoming feature film The Muppets.
The Muppets’ anticipated collective return to the big screen this Thanksgiving has been touted as triumphant, historic, a long-awaited chance to re-reintroduce the iconic puppets to the masses. There have been teaser trailers, magazine spreads and more.
And at first glance, the elements seem to have coalesced for the beloved troupe. Although the first official trailer included a “These are the Muppets” text announcement (as if they needed introduction), the rest of it dutifully incorporated the franchise’s signature blend of slapstick, parody and heartfelt mutual adoration.
But these clips and other elements of the film have given insiders (former puppeteers, writers, die-hard fans) fear that the newest film, the first to hit theaters since 1999’s Muppets from Space, doesn’t stay true to what the Muppets are all about.
The newest film was written by Jason Segel, a self-proclaimed Muppets fanatic. Segel and Amy Adams are the human stars of the film, a small-town couple that travels to Hollywood to reunite the now-acrimonious Muppets.
That plot point concerns some Muppet aficionados. For instance, the Muppets, depicted in the script as jealous of Kermit’s wealth, would not have bitterly broken up. The script “creates a false history that the characters were forced to act out for the sake of this movie,” an old Muppets hand told The Hollywood Reporter.
A passing-gass scene also sounds authenticity alarms. “We wouldn’t do that; it’s too cheap,” added another Muppets veteran. “It may not seem like much in this world of [Judd] Apatow humor, but the characters don’t go to that place.”
Regardless of Apatow and a Segel’s multiple collaborations, it’s probably good that he dusted some mothballs off of the franchise. Unfortunately, in a post-Shrek era, a movie that wants to embrace both children and adults in the way that the original Muppet Show did has to stoop a little lower at times.
Even before Jim Henson’s death from pneumonia in 1990 at just 53, the Muppet name was fading from recognition. A visionary of similar proportions to Steve Jobs, it was up to his loyal staff to keep his unique vision as vibrant as possible—it was seen through somewhat unevenly, but it certainly (and clearly) did not curb Muppet enthusiasm. And that’s why so much pressure lies on the newest film and reason for insiders to fear for its future.
But even those who are most concerned hold out hope. Looking at the latest trailer, a Muppets veteran told The Hollywood Reporter: “There are scenes where my heart is touched. Despite everything, the truth of these characters comes out. If we have to get through fart jokes to get there, so be it.”