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That deafening “squeeeeee!” you hear emerging from your Internet is the sound of the film-geek community celebrating the fact that Jason Segel, co-screenwriter Nicholas Stoller, and director James Bobin got The Muppets right.
Our very own Josh Tyler rewarded their efforts with a perfect 5-out-of-5 star review. And he’s far from alone. The Muppets enjoys a stellar 97% Fresh grade on Rotten Tomatoes, with only three stingy critics (out of 96 filed reviews) opting for a “Rotten” grade.
So it’s official: The Muppets are back, baby! Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and whatever Gonzo is are ready for the next stage of their illustrious career. Which begs the question, “What should the Muppets do next?”
OK, so, we know that hosting the Oscars isn’t an option. But I’ve got five great ideas for The Muppets that just might work:
Those who’ve seen Bobin’s new Muppets movie know that the plot actually ties directly back to the weekly variety program that ran in the late 1970s. Desperate to save their vintage theater, the Muppets reunite to stage a benefit program. And the minute the telethon started (with its reluctant celebrity guest host), I immediately was transported back to the living room where I grew up, watching The Muppet Show with my parents. There’s even a touching point made by Bobin’s movie about the need for wholesome family television in this day of atrocious reality program like the fictional Punch Teacher. Why not make The Muppet Show the new alternative that rescues prime time TV?
Segel says it took him nearly four years to get this new Muppet movie made, mostly because he met resistance within the studio system as to whether Kermit and Piggy were a viable entertainment option anymore. And yes, we won’t know if this experiment truly works until Thanksgiving box office numbers start rolling in. But the critical response, as noted, has been fantastic. And if audiences respond with even half the enthusiasm as nostalgic critics, Disney will have a hit on its hands. Let Segel and Stoller build on what they’ve started. Introduce new Muppets to join Walter. Develop the relationships from where they stand now. There are an infinite number of directions a Muppets sequel can go. Don’t make us wait another three years to find out what happens next.
A traditional sequel’s too risky? Fine. Hollywood is stuck in a remake-happy rut, so why not put the polish to one of the original Muppet movies. I’m talking the classic trilogy – either The Muppet Movie (1979); The Great Muppet Caper (1981); or The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984). And given the option, I’d say go with Caper, which basically was a Bond movie with felt characters. It easily could benefit from clever new cameos (sorry, Charles Grodin) and a reworking of the movie’s memorable stunts … particularly Piggy crashing her “borrowed” motorcycle through a stained-glass window.
American Idol does it. Dancing With the Stars does it, as well. Just about everything that earns a modicum of popularity takes its act on the road, filling arenas for a live performance (and charging top dollar for fans to come and enjoy the fun). The Oscars actually could have been a test run for the Muppets to interact in a live environment … even though millions would have been watching this dress rehearsal. With that option off the table, why not take the Muppets on a multi-city tour for a live variety program aimed at the whole family? You could have rotating celebrities and musical acts joining the tour at different stages (Tenacious D and the Foo Fighters no doubt would be interested). For an added bonus, make the show “Muppets On Ice” and watch the money come rolling in.
Drop the microphone. Walk away. Leave the audience wanting more. How could the Muppets’ next effort live up to what they’ve just accomplished? Maybe they should get out while they’re back on top … then come back in another 10 years and try it all over again.