My kid likes watching cartoons, which means I know the words to all the songs in Bolt and Curious George and can tell you what a Scrat is. Singing, dancing, animated apparitions haunt me when I nap. (And don't even get me started on how many cartoons start with an absent or quickly killed mother figure.)
Which is why I love the Muppets. Those anti-digital entertainers that have more personality than a million Lightning McQueens ( Cars ) or any jive-ass penguins ( Happy Feet).
The Muppet Show was smart, hip, funny and cool and so is The Muppets , a 98-minute breath of fresh air that opened on Wednesday (it's an American Thanksgiving thing) at Whistler's Village 8 and the Garibaldi 5 in Squamish.
Directed by James Bobin, (co-creator of HBO's Flight of the Conchords) and written by Jason Segal and Nicholas Stoller ( Forgetting Sarah Marshall) The Muppets is a mix of off-centre humour, near-perfect musical numbers, wit, charm and unabashed admiration that utterly works. The Muppets plays up on its own identity, but loves it as well. With cameos-a-plenty it becomes apparent that many of today's top comics are kids who grew up watching The Muppet Show, and got it.
The story revolves around two brothers (one a Muppet, the other Segal in a Pee-Wee Herman suit) and girlfriend Amy Adams, who band together to reassemble the scattered Muppets in order to save their old Texas theatre from demolition at the hands of an oil tycoon (Chris Cooper, killing it).
The Muppets themselves were always a bit subversive, a bit crude and they didn't mind painting themselves into a corner and then blowing something up or suddenly throwing penguins in the air to get out. The Muppets were in on the joke. Everyone should see this The Muppets movie , it's full of heart and felt.
Sticking with the family theme, Martin Scorcese also released a PG-13 flick on Wednesday. Hugo is about a boy orphan and his friend-girl carousing around Paris, trying to solve the mystery of the boy's past, unlock a cool robot and re-examine the history (and present state) of cinema (that last part the kids do sort of unwillingly.)
Filmmaking is magic to Scorcese, it's his fountain of youth. A film like Hugo can be taken as a two-hour children's adventure movie that has the feel of City of Lost Children or Goonies, but in truth Marty delivers much more. Underneath, Hugo is about remembering the magic of the movies, and protecting them. Time is not kind to old movies.
Hugo is Scorcese's first 3D film in an era when you pretty much have to make a movie in 3D if you want the studios to kick down any decent sized budget (because you can charge more for the tickets). Marty knows it's a gimmick, but he still nails it with his Voyage to the Moon recreation. It's magic. (Again, 3D is unavailable in Whistler and Squamish).
So two great films opening this week and the Whistler Film Fest is just around the corner. Life is good... just not for mothers in cartoons like The Fox and the Hound (gunshot), The Little Mermaid ( pirates), Finding Nemo (barracuda), Bambi (hunters), Lilo and Stitch (car crash), Beauty and the Beast, Pochahontas
and Pinocchio (mothers gone with no explanation), Cinderella and Snow White ( orphans with evil step moms), and Dumbo (not killed but locked in a cage for the whole movie).
This also might explain why the Toy Story franchise was so critically acclaimed. They've got a mother in those movies (just no father).