I was so psyched to see a new Muppets special. There's been such slim pickings after "Muppets From Space". "A Very Merry Muppets Christmas", which came out in 2002, was a wee cluttered but is palpable for multiple viewings. The wholly unwatchable "Muppets' Wizard of Oz", however, was a stinking turd of a movie. Even this fan, who is a hardcore Muppet freak, couldn't make it through the whole thing.
So I was crossing my fingers for this one.
It was better than Oz, in the fact that I made it through the entire thing. Of course, it was only an hour, and they took so many commercial breaks that the darn thing was probably only about 35 minutes total, if that.
Many things could have helped what felt like a half-assed hack job. "Ooh, let's make up some random crap and make the Muppets do it, never taking into consideration how the characters should really behave," the writers said, I imagine. First, who the heck is Claire? And why should we care? What is the point of introducing two new characters that no one knows and no one cares about, for a measly one-hour special? Look, I get it. You want humans. Whoopie. Do like with Nathan Lane and Uma Thurman and give them bit roles. I'm sorry, but when it's the Muppets Anything, it should be them starring. And Jane Krakowski was completely wasted here. How sad.
What would have been much more believable would be if one of the letters was Robin's, Kermit's nephew. And Kermit feels compelled to get to Santa; which brings me to my next point--why the hell is GONZO the focus? He, while an interesting character, is not the main driver in the Muppets. Kermit is. Kermit always has been. He is the main character in the Muppets. That's how it is; that's the natural way of this franchise. It's just like Jerry is the main character of Seinfeld, like Carrie is the main of Sex and the City. Sure, we learn about the other three players; sure, there are other bit ones introduced. But, the core remains the same, and the leader does as well. The four main Muppets are Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo, and Piggy. Those are the four that everyone thinks of, and those are the four who are at the center of each story, with Kermit as the lead.
Not that I have a problem with Gonzo, oh no. I like Gonzo. He's just the second best friend in this situation, not the star.
Now some may say, "But hey, wait, Gonzo was the focus of "Muppets From Space". He can carry a picture!" Sure. It worked there--because it was a plausible storyline. You couldn't do aliens with any of the other main Muppets, except maybe some of the band. Also, Gonzo was his normal self in Space--strange, thinking out of the box, running around like a crazy guy. Just as he should be. In "Letters", though, it's like someone gave the guy too much Paxil. He's got no zip, no spunk, none of his usual quirkiness. He's just slightly depressed and much too mellow for his character.
Speaking of wrong characters, we now come to my biggest sticking point--Piggy. Now, my disclosure is that Miss Piggy has been my favorite Muppet since I was about 2 years old. I've always seen her as a confident woman who knows what she wants and doesn't let anyone hold her back. Who, for instance, hit Kermit and brought back his memory in "Muppets Take Manhattan"? Who stood by her frog in "A Very Merry Muppet Christmas"? Who was the co-star for Kermit in "A Muppet Christmas Carol"? She is a strong woman, in more ways than one, and when the chips are down, she sticks by her friends. But this Piggy? I'm disgusted. They made her a selfish brat, as they did in "Oz". Despicable. If this were the real Piggy, she would've stuck by her friends, especially her frog. I could picture her perfectly being jealous when Joy showed up, which would've been more natural than to just write her out in the first five minutes. Was it because her eyes look so darn funny? Was I the only one who noticed that? What, did they lose her original prototype, or something?
In fact, not just Piggy, but the whole crowd would stick by the main characters and help out. That's what Muppets always do--they support each other like a team. They carpool to California in "The Muppet Movie" to break into the movies. They put on each Muppet Show together. They saved their Theatre in "A Very Merry" by sticking by each other. It's completely wrong to think that anyone of them would walk out on each other. Sure, some tried to punk out in the "Great Muppet Caper", but eventually they all came together to save the day. Besides, returning letters versus possibly getting killed? Please. One can hardly compare the two, and fault their hesitation.
And speaking of the other characters, Family Guy wasn't wrong. Wrong-sounding Muppets is the worst. Waldorf sounded so weird, Janice wasn't right, and the friend I watched with said, "Hey, wasn't Beaker's voice higher?" I understand that many of the originals have moved on, either to different projects or to that great Muppetland in the sky. I'm just surprised that these talented voice people can't bend their vocal chords a little further to sound a little more like the characters they're playing. I know it's hard, and I acknowledge that. But it's disheartening to hear a character's voice come out strange, when you thought you knew that voice perfectly.
To sum up, it was ok to watch once, making it better than "Oz". But I wouldn't want to see it again, making it only slightly better than "Oz" and not on par with what the Muppets should be putting out. Completely disappointing.