The Muppet Movie is 40 years old this year! GASP!!! To celebrate its 40th anniversary, fans will have the opportunity to watch this beloved film on the big screen at select theaters on July 25th and 30th.
To say that I love the Muppets would be an understatement. They have a witty charm to them that can’t be beat. Despite being mere Muppets, there is something very human and relatable about their struggles and desires. I believe this is why most of the films have aged so well, like a fine Idaho wine. The Muppet Movie is definitely at the top of the list.
The Muppet Movie’s meta beginning starts with the Muppets getting ready to watch a film about their own journey to Hollywood (the dream factory). The film within a film shows Kermit in the swamp with his banjo singing “Rainbow Connection.” As Kermit contemplates about the lovers, the dreamers and himself, he meets a talent agent (played by Dom DeLuise) who just so happens to be rowing in his neck of the swamp. Kermit decides to leave home and go on a quest to chase a crazy dream in Hollywood. Along the way, he picks up other dreamers, and we learn how all the Muppets found each other through their zany road trip.
At the heart of this film, is a hero’s journey…sort of. We see Kermit get the calling for an adventure, to leave the safety of his swamp home and head out into the unknown. Upon leaving the swamp, he is encountered with a large billboard advertising a new Doc Hopper’s French Fried Frogleggs restaurant. Kermit could go home, but he continues with his journey despite the quite literal sign of danger. Doc Hopper pursues Kermit across country trying to convince him to be the spokesperson for his restaurants, but Kermit has standards.
Kermit stumbles into El Sleezo Cafe, a shady bar and restaurant, where he finds Fozzie Bear struggling with his comedic act. Kermit convinces Fozzie to leave his comfort zone and go with him to Hollywood, which coincidentally, is Fozzie’s dream as well. Then they pick up a weirdo, Gonzo, who is chasing his dream to be a Bollywood star while working as a plumber. Kermit inadvertently picks up Miss Piggy and a new journey into love is embarked upon too.
Eventually things go awry, as they tend to do when one goes on an epic quest. The gang is left in the middle of nowhere contemplating their current setback and place in this world (or universe). Kermit wanders off alone where he encounters a wiser version of himself. He believes that he’s let the group down and forced them to come along on this journey. Kermit’s Yoda self tells him that he didn’t force them and that they were following their own dream too. He realized that he only made a promise to himself. In that moment, he hears the ruckus music of the Electric Mayhem. They’ve come to help Kermit and the rest of the dreamers make it to Hollywood and defeat other obstacles standing in their way.
Where The Muppet Movie strays for the traditional hero’s journey narrative is that Kermit’s journey is not only about him. If it were, the film would be called The Kermit Movie. He doesn’t single-handedly save the group. They all save each other. We see that many of the Muppets have their own dreams and struggles, but when they worked together they’re able to achieve the impossible, a rainbow connection.
The film starts with Kermit contemplating the ephemeral rainbow. He wonders where it leads and feels like what it represents might be out of his reach. What we discover through his journey is that he is just one color in the spectrum. When he connects with others, they each add their own vivacious hue. We are all different, but also the same. Everyone has a dream and a desire to belong and be loved.
So when we’re lost and afraid in our own paths, and Hare Krishna doesn’t work…we can learn from the Muppets’ journey. We keep on moving right along to achieve our dreams despite our past failures and fear of future failures. And most importantly, we look out for others and help them in their quest.