It dawned on us a couple of weeks back when we caught Forgetting Sarah Marshall on TV (and cemented this past weekend when we suffered through The Muppet Christmas Carol on The Hub), that we owe a huge debt of gratitude to Jason Segel, as he’s almost single-handedly saved the Muppets.
Languishing in literary adaptation mode for most of the 90s, and then only slightly improving with 1999’s original but gimmicky Muppets From Space, it’s been over twenty-five years since the last truly great Muppet movie, The Muppets Take Manhattan (although we’d argue that 1990’s The Muppets At Disney World TV special is one of the Muppets finer outings). So, really, while it’s been over 10 years since a Muppet theatrical film, it’s been over two decades since their last box office success. And after a lackluster end of the millennium, the Muppets laid mostly dormant until Disney finally acquired them in 2004 (fifteen years later than Disney originally planned), at which point the Mouse House started reviving the franchise, really revving up the momentum last year by making Kermit & Co. a more visible part of the Disney theme parks.
Commercials and TV appearances and merchande are all well and good, but the Muppets deserve better than that, and better than 2008’s Letters To Santa, which was a nice, enjoyable, perfectly Muppetesque TV movie, but not quite good enough. And that, friends, is where Jason Segel comes in.
Because while there have long been plans to return the Muppets to the big screen, Segel is the one who has made this a reality. And it’s not just that he helped greenlight the movie, but it’s that he’s making it special, making it hip. Whereas Muppets from Space featured totally fine actors like Jeffrey Tambor, Josh Charles, Kathy Griffin and David Arquette, Segel’s Greatest Muppet Movie Ever Made boasts a wet dream all-star comedy lineup (as we’ve been talking about here for months) that includes Amy Adams, Rashida Jones, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifiniakis, John Krasinksi, Ed Helms, Jack Black, among others. Segel has succeeded in turning the new Muppet movie into a hot commodity, a who’s who, Valentine’s Day but with people we actually like.
There’s no guarantee that because the new movie will be populated with some of our favorite actors that it’s going to be successful, or any good. But there’s no denying that more than a year before the film is slated to be released there is a buzz around the Muppets, a buzz that we haven’t felt in many, many years.
So perhaps Jason Segel never thought he’d be taken seriously when he told Disney execs that he wanted to make a new Muppet movie. He might have assumed his Dracula with puppets musical in Sarah Marshall would be as close as he would get. But thankfully, for us and for him, somebody did take him seriously, and now we have something to look forward to. And not just a new Muppet movie, but perhaps a new Muppet beginning. For the first time in a long while the Muppets are truly part of the pop culture consciousness. And, even more than that, they’re cool again.
So, Jason Segel, thank you. You’ve already given us our Hanukkah gift for next year. Let us know what you want.