Why The Muppet Movie (1979) is (probably) the most optimistic film ever made

Kermit The Frog. Miss Piggy. Fozzie Bear. Animal. Rowlf. Gonzo. I could go on and on listing these characters but nearly everyone recognizes them. Most people know who The Muppets are and isn’t that just amazing in itself? These silly puppets that make Meta jokes, are completely absurd, and surprisingly…emotionally on point. I just rewatched the original Muppet Movie and I can’t help but write about it. As a preface, I’m still very new to the world of The Muppets; I didn’t really grow up with them. The 2011 film was sort of an introduction for me. I took it upon myself to watch some of The Muppet Show and some of the films before seeing that film in 2011. I was 15 years old and I was watching The Muppets for the first time…and it changed me in a lot of ways. Although, I didn’t start with The Muppet Show, I started with the original 1979 film…and I fondly remember watching it for the first time.

I remember watching it and going “dammit, this is the kinda movie I’d love to make. One so full of joy, happiness, and optimism.” I didn’t realize it then but I think watching that movie (and eventually a fair share of The Muppet Show) formed myself as a lover of comedy (and hopefully future writer/filmmaker of comedy professionally). The way the movie just constantly breaks the 4th wall (I mean it uses the actual screenplay as a plot device for God’s sake!) is something that I adore. I love breaking the 4th wall so much and it is a staple to my own comedic writings because it gives the viewer/reader this strange window, it makes the viewer/reader feel like they are apart of making the film by giving this strange “behind-the-scenes-wink-wink-we-are-making-a-movie-and-we-know-it-self-awareness” and it is absolutely hilarious (at least I think so). I have no idea for sure that if I had never watched The Muppet Movie if I would ever have such a fascination with breaking the 4th wall and using it as a staple in my own writing and for that alone, I thank Jim Henson for creating these silly puppets…but there is so much more to it.

The Muppet Movie is truly the most optimistic piece of cinema I’ve ever watched and not in a forceful way. Rather, it is optimistic in the best of ways. The movie starts with Kermit being alone (singing “Rainbow Connection” which may or may not be one of the greatest pieces of music ever written for a movie) but he leaves with a dream of making it in Hollywood. And then he meets a cast of other weirdos who want that dream just as much. I think that is another reason I can relate to these characters is because I am weird. I’ve never really fit in and I can relate to these weirdos with a dream (considering I am going to my first year of film school in 6 days). The movie is obviously hilarious and self-aware (“give us the standard rich and famous contract!”) but it still has these extremely uplifting (and even sad) emotional moments. When Gonzo sings “I’m Going To Go Back There Someday,” it works perfectly. It seems out of place, right? It’s this very emotional musical number that doesn’t seem like it should fit in with the complete silliness and 4th wall breaking this movie is, right? But it just does. I can’t even entirely explain why it does either yet this stupid song brings a tear to my eye (as do nearly all the songs in this film…mostly of the joyful variety).

And then the moment proceeding right after Gonzo’s number is of Kermit contemplating why he even left in the first place (with another version of himself…out of nowhere by the way…) hits me on a very, very personal level. Kermit says something along the lines that he would still be miserable if he stayed at his home but now he is miserable still but rather with friends and a silly dream. The reason it hits me on a personal level is that I am the Kermit at the pond right now and I’m finally leaving to go reach for my dream (of making movies…specifically comedies). I’ve been like Kermit in the pond for quite some time, not really many friends, just trying to enjoy what I can while being alone a lot of the time, etc. and I can really just heavily relate to it. We then have the “showdown” in the ghost town where Kermit defends the fact that what is the point of reaching for some dream if you have no one to share it with? And isn’t that just true on so many levels? People could reach for some “dream” or “career” but if you have no one to share it with, you might as well have never gone for the dream in the first place.

But truly, the moment that hits me hardest is “The Magic Store” sequence where Kermit and the gang have finally reached their dreams. They have another bout of “Rainbow Connection” (which is always welcome) but the moment that really hits the hardest is right after “Rainbow Connection.” (Clip below):

Kermit looks directly at the camera once again, not to make a joke but to say one of the most honest things ever said: “Life’s like a movie, write your own ending, keep believing, keep pretending…” Isn’t that just some of the most optimistic stuff you’ve ever heard? I will carry those words till the day I die. Anyone who leaves life to fate isn’t doing it right. You have freewill. You have the ability to write your own ending and do what you want to do in this life and nobody can tell you otherwise. Nobody can tell you what is “truly” right or wrong but yourself and you have the ability to write that ending completely and fully for yourself before it is too late. My own real advice for everyone and anyone is to keep those words with you forever. Write your ending…please. Don’t sit around and wish for things to happen…MAKE THEM! It sounds cliché and contrived but who gives a crap? Sometimes clichés are clichés for a reason and I think The Muppet Movie knew that. That 4th wall breaking of telling the truth is absolute perfection and something I’ll always love.

As a whole, The Muppet Movie is so utterly optimistic and honest in all of its intentions. It is absolutely hilarious in nearly every scene but then manages to have plenty of true, honest, and sincere optimism found within and to me; those are the best kind of films. People will love their arty flicks or their big dumb blockbusters (and that is fine, I don’t really care) but I’ll take a good comedy filled with some genuine heart of any of that. If you have the ability to make me laugh and feel pure joy while still managing to say something honest and important and optimistic (in a world of cynics), you’ve done something truly magically. I thank everyone involved with The Muppet Movie and of course, Jim Henson, the creator of The Muppets. I want to leave this post with a wonderful clip of Frank Oz giving a speech at the Jim Henson Memorial after he died. It is one of the most heartfelt things I’ve ever watched-stick around for the end and you’ll see how much Frank Oz really cared for Jim Henson and how great of a person Jim Henson truly was. Oh, and make sure to always give people the 3rd greatest gift in the world: laughter. (Hey, those new Muppet movies are pretty damn great too!)

Author of this post (and every post thus far and maybe forever more):

Jesse Jordon is an aspiring comedic writer/filmmaker/performer/pieceofshit who writes this garbage on these blogs to make you laugh or learn something I guess. (Wait, why am I using both 1st and 3rd person point of view when I’m the only one writing this?) You can follow him on Twitter @WhyShitSoCrazy (if you want to I guess). 

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