Last week, your college roommate called you out of the blue. You hadn’t spoken to him in, let’s say, 12 years. It was great to hear from him; you ended up chatting about old times for a good two hours before you finally hung up the phone. It was a delight. The next day, he called back. It was still nice to talk again about that time you did that thing in the quad, etc, etc. You thanked him for calling and promised to catch up next time he was in town. The next day, your college roommate was in town. He called you at the office and insisted you meet for drinks. Turns out he looks the same – though his voice has changed a little bit. At the end of the night, he said you’ll have to get together again soon – next time with the wives. Sure, you said, sounds like fun. The next day, your college roommate and his wife knocked at your front door just before dinner: “Surprise!”
This is how I kind of feel about The Muppets.
More precisely, this is how I feel about the full-scale assault of Muppets marketing. One day before the Muppets are finally unleashed back in theaters for the first time in 12 years, I already have Muppets fatigue. How can you possibly be tired of the Muppets, you Grinch? you ask. Well, in the past few months, I’ve found myself feeling increasingly ambivalent as the beloved puppets I grew up with starred in approximately 341 movie trailer parodies, worked the red carpet at Disney premieres, rocked out with OK Go, made an appearance at WWE wrestling, fueled an Internet movement to have them host the Oscars, sang along with Jason Segel on Saturday Night Live, and sat on the sofa of virtually every morning and late-night talk show. Kermit might still be the heart of the Muppets, but Segel – whose work I really enjoy – almost seems like a relentlessly smiling Doc Hopper, stalking folks across the country to come see his new movie.
Listen, no one wants The Muppets to be great more than I. (Well, that’s not entirely true apparently.) I’m thrilled that the film is being embraced by critics, and earning raves from my lucky peers who were entranced by early screenings. My kids love the Muppets and I know this movie is a sure thing. I just wish Disney was as confident. I mean, I understand the stakes. Just walk into your local Disney Store and it’s clear that the Walt Disney Company has a lot riding on introducing Jim Henson’s fuzzy pals to a new generation of kids. But this onslaught of marketing hasn’t been directed at them. It’s been directed at us – at our nostalgia bone. And it’s overkill, isn’t it? Just a little?
Kermit and the Muppets were always a lovable band of misfits following their dreams. I trust that the new film will recapture their magic, but it’s been difficult to view the Muppets as underdogs when the marketing campaign has been less subtle than Animal with a belly-full of Dr. Honeydew’s Insta-Grow pills. Moving right along…