When this blog first began, nearly three years ago, a new Muppet movie was just a dream, a boogeyman whose existence was whispered about at camp fires and sleepovers. But since that time the hope materialized into a serious possibility, thanks to Jason Segel, and then a reality, and then a living, breathing motion picture that we saw twice in theaters. And now it’s available for home consumption on both DVD and Blu-Ray (and we assume digital download). What was once a mere figment of our imagination, a fantasy, is now something that we can and will have on our bookshelf, taking its place in the Muppets movie cannon next to The Great Muppet Caper and The Muppets Take Manhattan. And the production of The Muppets, its critical appreciation and relative commercial success, did equal a comeback for Kermit and friends. Maybe not quite a phoenix rising from the ashes, but a legitimate return to the public consciousness, and, more importantly, proof enough that Jim Henson’s creations are once again a viable commodity. Which means, then, that a sequel is the natural next step. That was the plan all along.
And word of said sequel leaked a couple of weeks back, except that it was sent with the caveat that Jason Segel, the man who was most responsible for resuscitating the franchise – would likely not be involved, too busy with his other film and TV obligations. Nicholas Stoller will return to write the script, this time co-writing with Muppets director James Bobin. But without Segel, would a sequel have the same sense of joy and innocence and Mupppetness that Segel imbued into The Muppets? Wasn’t it Segel who innately understood and articulated that special Muppet sensibility, whose script and performance championed the Muppet spirit?
Well, yes. But if his participation is limited to producing or just consulting, that’s fine by us. He should not appear in any sequel, at least not as a main character like he was in The Muppets. Human characters don’t reprise their roles in Muppet movies, and while it’s not a steadfast written rule handed down from Jim Henson, there’s no reason for Segel to set a new precedent and bring his Gary back in the next movie. And we would imagine that Segel knows this much, as a devout follower of the Muppets. Inserting himself into the Muppet troop would distract from the true stars. It was perfectly fine that he (and new Muppet Walter) played such a large role in The Muppets – it’s not until about fifteen minutes in that Kermit makes his first appearance – but that served the story, a story that paralleled the Muppets real-life return to prominence. But if Gary comes back and plays such a large role, or one even close to it, it will obscure the Muppets. Segel’s a man, not a Muppet, and he should (and will) cede the spotlight in any sequel.
But what about the matter of Segel’s creative involvement? While his presence on-screen will not be missed, what about his voice? Sure, that absence may be felt. But, then again, what are the earlier Muppet movies if not a roadmap, a primer on how to make a Muppet film? What Segel did was go back to that Muppet sentiment, that special brand of Muppet entertainment, and there’s no reason that Stoller and/or anyone else with the same passion and reverence for the Muppets can’t do the same. If Segel can do it without Jim Henson, then Stoller can do it without Segel. It’s not a foregone conclusion that he will do it, that Stoller will be successful without Segel, but it’s certainly in his capacity. There’s no reason to panic. The Muppets are back.
And, in they end, they are stars: