One from the Shelf: “The Muppet Movie”

In my 2018 outlook piece, I said I was looking at doing a new series called “One from the Shelf,” and here we are, less than a week later and I have the first installment finished. Before I get to the movie however, a little bit on the idea…

I have sitting on my shelves a whole lot of movies. Some are old, some new, some watched repeatedly, some watched once, and a handful that I’ve never actually seen. I look at those shelves and think that one day, when I have time, I’ll get to all the movies. The thing is though, that the amount of time that would take is constantly growing and choosing a movie to watch isn’t always easy.

So, why not watch a movie regularly now and chronicle the experience in an article?

The only question becomes how to choose a disc. I could go alphabetically but there are enough films in the library that doing one a week wouldn’t get me very far over the course of a year.

Random selection is a better way to go about, the only issue then becomes how to randomly select movies. That is, if the number of films in the library fluctuates and the number of movies on each shelf changes, it becomes hard to simply select a single random number as I could end up counting into the hundreds on a fairly regular basis and that isn’t a great use of time.

The solution: three random numbers, not one. I have three bookcases with movies. Each case has eight shelves. Each shelf has a different number of movies. So, using a random number generator I will choose a number one through three for the bookcase, then one through eight for the shelf, and then I’ll count the movies on that shelf and the random number generator will spit out a number and therefore a movie.

Is this a good plan? Well, clearly the gods are smiling down on the idea because the first randomly generated movie for “One from the Shelf” is…

The Muppet Movie

I have watched “The Muppet Movie” dozens of times through the decades. It was actually showing at a local theater one day last year and I not only went, I dragged the whole family. I love the Muppets and in a series of greater and lesser outings, “The Muppet Movie” is one of the greater ones.

This may have been the first movie I ever watched where they broke the fourth wall, and it’s done in such ingenious fashion here, with sly knowing winks to the camera and the movie within the movie within the movie. Plus, there are an incredible number of great cameos. I didn’t get them all when I was younger, but eventually, as I got older and had seen more movies and television shows, I was able to work them all out.

Despite having been made almost 40 years ago, “The Muppet Movie” isn’t dated. Sure, the cars look older and the TVs look older, but the basic premise of the entire thing remains the same. Here is Kermit the Frog, traveling across the country to go to Hollywood where he hopes to be able to entertain the world and make a whole lot of money doing it.

That is a dream that is still out there for so many people. Someone is going to arrive in Los Angeles today with that very dream. They won’t have to face down a guy trying to get them to star in a commercial promoting the fast food eating of their own kind, but that’s just one detail, it’s not the main thrust of the story.

Maybe it’s because I was raised on it, but I still love all the songs in this movie, not just the obvious ones like “Rainbow Connection.” I was watching the movie by myself last night and singing along to all of them. How can you not, Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher’s work here is genius.

I hate the idea of having to narrow down my selection, but if I had a gun to my head I’d say “Movin’ Right Along” and “I’m Going to go Back There Someday” are the best. The latter is so good it was updated for “Muppets from Space.” The song is the one sung by Gonzo during one of the film’s more quiet moments and it’s this contemplative piece about friendship and finding one’s place and “Movin’ Right Along” is just a great road tune sung by Fozzie and Kermit.

See, and now that I’ve said my two favorites I have to say that I actually cry on a regular basis watching “The Muppet Movie” and it’s not during either of those songs. Instead, it’s during “Finale: The Magic Store,” when the Muppets are putting together the movie within the movie within the movie. It is about young people starting down the road towards a life on the stage or screen and how that changes as they grow up and then finally succeeding in the dream. It’s about getting to where you want to be in life by pursuing your hopes. It offers the feeling that with some dedication you can succeed, no matter how big your plans.

And, the song makes me think of my son. I don’t know what he’s going to be in life, but the first few lines of the song go: “It starts when we’re kids/A show-off in school/Makin’ faces at friends/You’re a clown and a fool/Doin’ prat-falls and bird-calls/And bad imitations/Ignoring your homework/Is that dedication?” and that is a pretty good summary of my son’s personality. So, the movie gives me hope that no matter how big my kids might dream, they can get there. He might not really want to go down such a road, and he need not, but I like the notion that there’s a place out there for him no matter what.

Listen, from start to finish, “The Muppet Movie” is great. It is funny and full of heart and endlessly rewatchable. I grew up on it and have grown into middle age with it and never plan on giving it up.


photo credit: Walt Disney Home Entertainment

Categories: One from the Shelf

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