The Muppets has ensconced itself as one of my favourite, most rewarding cinematic experiences of the year.
My first viewing surprised me with its warmth and humour. A second viewing enhanced my feelings, especially towards the catchy, eccentric musical contributions written by Flight of the Conchords star Bret McKenzie. If “Man or Muppets” doesn’t win Best Original Song at the Oscars, I will start a riot.
Yet there was also a political undercurrent in the movie. It stayed with me for a while and grew after I came across a segment on Fox New Business, which accused The Muppets movie of brain washing kids with Communism.
For the record, I don’t think The Muppets movie is a tool for Communist preaching. In fact I found the whole accusation to be absurd.
What I loved about The Muppets movie was its old fashioned values, which is such a rarity in these times where such ethic is deemed out of place. I loved that the main characters of Gary (Jason Segal), Mary (Amy Adams) and Walter (a new Muppet voiced by Peter Linz) come from a place called Small Town, where community is important and musical interludes are a common occurrence.
I loved that Kermit the Frog is first seen walking away from a church choir bus, and the things he considers to be God’s greatest gifts to the world are children, ice cream and laugher (in that order).
I also love the jubilation it had for life, friends and family.
What I didn’t like were the small things which built into a greater whole, with the inclusion of known anti-Catholic Sarah Silverman the first thing to make me wince.
The rest revolves around its subtle alliance to a more left leaning brand of the political spectrum. It all has to do with the films villain, oil magnate Tex Richman played by outspoken liberal actor Chris Cooper.
I have no problem with Cooper’s performance, which is both funny and surprising. Yet the subtle political jabs do grate. Oil-men named “Tex” is in itself a caricature that shouldn’t be taken too seriously, but something struck me about the character which I had to confirm with a second viewing.
It was in the scene where Kermitt and the rest of the Muppets gang ask Tex to relinquish his pursuit of their beloved studio. In the background is a photo, slightly blurred yet plainly obvious of Tex shaking hand with none other than George W. Bush.
Guilt by association is a powerful thing, and in The Muppets director James Bobin and writer/producer Jason Segal made it clear that in order to make their villain that extra villainous he needs to be seen mingling with one of the most notorious American Republican presidents of our times.
Later in the film another curious thing occurs. It is during a telethon which is held to save The Muppets Studio’s from becoming rubble. A string of celebrity guest stars lend a hand from Neil Patrick Harris, to Selena Gomez, to…James Carville?
For those who don’t know, Carville is a liberal political pundit and media personality. Exactly why Bobin decided to get Carville a part in The Muppets movie is a mystery…unless a political alliance has something to do with it.
There are certainly more popular faces in the media which would have sufficed. Jon Stewart would have been a much logical option. Maybe Bobin could have shaken things up and added Bill O’Reilly? (Cue the boos from the crowd).
The Muppets are not preaching Communism. But it’s not an apolitical film either. Too many occurrences and obvious alliances have made that clear.
Still love the film, though.