Why do I know this? I have an Xbox Music Pass, and this causes conversations in my head such as “Even though I’m not a 13 year old girl, that new One Direction song on the radio is pretty catchy. I should probably use the subscription to download the entire album. What? There’s a deluxe version with four extra songs? OK. I wonder if it’s worth it if I were to have to buy it.”
Why is it worth it? The slower songs on the normal album aren’t that notable. The deluxe version adds four faster paced songs (which probably should’ve replaced those slower songs on the normal album…).
Note: I’m only partially kidding about the entirety of the above. “Live While We’re Young,” “Kiss You,” and “Rock Me” are really good songs.
I’m not really the target market at all, but it’s perfectly fine.
This year, thankfully, MLB says they will donate “ALL NET PROCEEDS” from sales of the hat to the Welcome Back Veterans fund (previously, Kyle gave MLB heat for the shamelessness of contributing only $1 from a $37 MSRP item in order to play the “for the troops” card).
The Stars & Stripes hats are made in China, unlike the normal on-field New Era hats which are made by folks you’d normally see when there’s an aggressive Clint Eastwood voiceover talking about it being half-time or 7th Inning Stretch or Second Intermission in America. USA!
So… how do they look? In a word, ugly. Oddly, instead of just framing the camo pattern with the normal white of the “P,” they added an extra blue stroke on top of the white to frame the camo. Odd (and unnecessary). With just red and (generally green) camo, I’m stretching, but you get a nice “Christmas comes to Winter’s Bone” effect. Red+Blue+Camo? Nope. Looking through the rest of the league, they just look like dirty versions of the normal hats. Also, like the Phillies, other teams, such as the Blue Jays, have gotten vestigial strokes added to the design for some reason.
For some positivity, a detail I’ve always liked on the Stars & Stripes hats is that they also drop-in the pattern in the “batterman” logo on the back of the hats, and they’ve continued that this year.
Looking at the Phillies hats since 2008, the 2009 hat is the best (being that it looks just like the normal hat, minus the red button on top) with the navy blue 2008 as runner-up. 2010 is hideous and 2011 looks missed the retro fad by about 4 years. For those interested in such things, the 2009/10/11 versions are easily found on ebay, but the 2008 hats are extremely rare (as in there hasn’t been one on ebay in either hat size I can wear in the last 3 years). Last season, I offered a middle aged man at a Phillies game $60 for the one he had one his head, and he even knew not to sell it. I am not proud of any part of this anecdote…
Anyone out there planning on buying one of these? If so, you can line Kyle’s pockets by clicking this link to purchase.
You say you love the Eagles but your team-related footwear options are limited? Boom– NFL Draft Pack. Simply, Nike chose eight signature sneakers, either classics from the past or noteworthy current shoes, assigning one to each division, then laying out a custom colorway for each team within each division. Luckily, Nike chose one of their all-time best designs, the Air Max 95, for the NFC East.
Two notes: (1) nitpickers will notice these are actually the Air Max 95 No-Sews which, well, don’t have the color panels sewn together as on the original design from 1995, (2) The Air Max 95 is my favorite sneaker of all time—yes, people have such things—so I’m not the fairest judge. Heck, I wear Air Max 95s on an almost a daily basis (thank you job with minimal dress code). But come on, with both Midnight Green and Kelly Green present and prominent, what isn’t to like? (well, the list price is $150, so that’s something to not like…)
Here are the rest of the NFC East Air Max 95s (No-Sews). The Redskins version is fantastic. I’m not sure I’d be able to pull off actually wearing them, but it just proves how well their color palette comes together. The Cowboys and Giants aren’t quite as interesting, but I can’t really find fault with either of them, with the Giants, well, “Big Blue” approach working quite well, though I wouldn’t have minded some silver on the Cowboys [editor’s note: I see purple?].
This new one? Well, the good news is that it’s tied into an 80th anniversary celebration, so it’s a safe bet it won’t be seen after this year. The bad news is that it introduces a new type of “ugly” NFL uniform. Let’s look at the types of ugly uniforms that are currently out there:
There’s “modern does not always equal good” ugly: the prime offender being the 2000s Bills, with their non-white monochrome uniforms, inexplicable paneling, yokes, and a general sense of “this is over-designed.” Less egregious offenders: the Cardinals and Falcons.
There’s “why did you have to break something that was perfectly nice?” ugly: the current Jaguars uniform isn’t particularly… well, it’s not particularly anything. It just exists, devoid of any character. But, it replaced one of the best modern uniforms without improving it in any way (except maybe gimmicky color-change helmet). Another example would be the Vikings current uniforms.
There’s “old teams used weird colors” ugly: the 2007 Eagles throwbacks (yellow and light blue – together on a football uniform at last!) were harmless except for the ridiculous (though historically accurate) color scheme. It’s still funny to see these in the stands, serving as proof that Eagles fans will buy and wear anything associated with the team. Lesser offenders: throwbacks worn by the Packers in 2010 and 2011 (not to be seen in 2012, though).
Until yesterday, the last type of “ugly” was “so bad it’s good” ugly: I like the Bengals orange alternates, whether paired with white or black pants. There’s a lot not to like there, but somehow it works. Sue me. (I know that liking the orange over black combo isn’t particularly philosophically sound given my previous opinions about odd color combos, but somehow that one is passable. Maybe due to my love of Halloween.)
The Steelers have managed to create a new kind of “ugly.” Welcome to “so bad it should be good, but it’s just bad” ugly. Everywhere you look, there’s something that would be noteworthy (possibly in an endearing way, more likely in an annoying way) if it were the only abnormal feature on a uniform.
Horizontal stripes like you’d see on a rugby shirt.
Putting the numbers in a box, then filling that box with white like it’s a letter on Wheel of Fortune
A non-color (light beige?) color for the pants, probably in an attempt to mimic an olde timey fabric like canvas or whatever real men wore (probably loosely woven burlap or similar) when they played real football.
They’re going with their normal black, logo on one side, helmets. It’s actually nice they’re not trying to match a leather helmet by going with brown (like the Packers did to middling results) but at least use a solid black helmet without a logo. I may even approve of the use of matte black for this special case.
Striped socks are good. Alternating stripes the entire length of the sock? Not good.
The 2009 Broncos AFL Throwbacks are thought to be in this category due to their vertically striped socks, but notice that aside from the socks and the jarring colors (see above about olde timey colors), the uniforms are pretty ho-hum.
It’s a ballsy move on the Steelers part to choose this look as their alternate uniform this season. Sure, it’s hideous (and is actually technically a “Pittsburgh Pirates” uniform from before the name change), but it’s the type of risk that gets fans engaged and the type of risk Eagles management would never take. The Eagles won’t even wear their black alternates which are about as safe as can be in terms of rocking the boat. Sure, these are just uniforms, I get that, but as Kyle detailed previously, they’re one more component of a team which, since the trade of Donovan McNabb, has gotten complacent about almost every facet of the organization.
I’m really, really surprised Kyle managed to not open his earlier article with one of his patented, lengthy comparisons between some sports-related event and some (hypothetical) relationship or “girl” story with expectations as high as they were. It would’ve practically written itself.
Of course, the high expectations were generated completely by Nike (and some widely circulated fan renderings made in the style of Nike’s “Pro Combat” NCAA uniforms which were frequently and erroneously reported as “the 2012 Nike uniforms” well after they were confirmed to be fanmade), as there’s simply too much money in the NFL to rock the boat. Patting myself on the back, I’ll point out that I predicted the uniforms generally wouldn’t change.
For what you care about, as far as we know from what we’ve seen so far, the Eagles uniforms aren’t changing at all this season. Being that Nike only showed the green over white combination (more on this below) and it didn’t change anything on that combo (in fact, according to Nike Corporate write-up for the Eagles, they “have chosen to stay with their traditional design aesthetic as well as their former uniform fabrication this year,” it’s safe to assume the Eagles other components (white jerseys, green pants, black alternates, assuming those ever make an appearance again) aren’t changing either. That’s it. End of story.
The best way to analyze today’s event is to figure out what it wasn’t.
Yesterday’s event was not for football fans. Every fan wanted to know what their team’s “new” uniforms looked like. Nike only showed one combination for each team. Of course, the reason for that is twofold.
1) With 32 teams and multiple jersey/pants combos for each team, there are simply too many combos to show in-person (the Rams have seven combos which they regularly trot out, for example), but even the Nike website and store show only the primary/color jersey for each. OK, maybe the merchandise/material isn’t available yet (these are two of the largest brands in the world, get your stuff together), but computer renderings could have been made for publishing on the Internet, a la an official style guide. Oddly, there are some substantial uniform updates for 2012 which weren’t even mentioned on the 3rd. The Jaguars will be adding a black alternate to their current set for the 2012 season, so there could be other notable updates for which teams want to control the release as opposed to Nike or the NFL.
2) There was nothing “new” about the uniforms from a fan’s perspective (other than for Seahawks fans, of course). If recaps of the event included lines like, “And after showing the Rams 5th effectively unchanged combination of 7, this reporter’s eyes began glazing over,” it’d ruin the coverage. Instead, we get reporting(?) on how these uniforms will “usher in [a] new era of sportswear” (note: they won’t).
Yesterday’s event was not for the NFL. The event was a Nike commercial where they could push their brand values of performance, etc. in exchange for the $1.1billion they (reportedly) spent for the NFL license. That’s all well and good (capitalism!), but that’s all it was. Fans don’t care that the new fabric is however many percent lighter or better at wicking moisture (unless they’re materials science engineers). It’s simply means to an end for associating all of Nike’s products with “faster, lighter, stronger.” Again, that’s fine, but the “new” uniforms aren’t a big deal to anyone other than Nike (or Seahawks fans). To talk about this “changing everything” or “the game never being the same”…geez, slow down, Nike.
Speaking of the Seahawks and their new design… they actually did post a complete set of pictures showing all combinations. Generally, the new uniform is an evolution of the current design, not a throwback-inspired 0r clean sheet redesign (don’t tell Nike that). They did add a grey alternate jersey (as well as pants), but the Seahawks generally wore monochrome White or Blue in the last few years in the current uniform, so let’s see if the actually exercise all of their combinations. BUT, with 3 pants and 3 jerseys, that’s 9 combos, so we could see an Oregon-typeeffect where they’re in something different almost every week (though the alternate is worn at most twice a year per NFL rules), especially if Nike pushes for it (and they probably will – fans seem generally supportive of Oregon’s non-uniform uniforms. For the record, I actually like the Oregon uniforms, though I wouldn’t mind if they stuck to an NFL-like Color/Home/Alternate, but I guess I’m old-fashioned. Note: this is slightly sarcasm. The NFL didn’t have predictable alternates until 2002.) The new Seahawks uniform is not awful, but in terms of emotional statements that can’t easily be refuted, it doesn’t look like an NFL uniform. In some big picture (let’s say 10+ years), it will look as dated as the current Bengals set, which was also a “product of the  times” type of design, lots of black, inexplicable paneling, non-white monochrome combinations, you name it.
My prediction (UniDiction?) for the Seahawks is that the trendy grey alternate will survive for three or four seasons, then be replaced with a throwback from this style (or similar), which will become a fan favorite and eventually replace the “this smells like 2012” design that was unveiled today. (note: if the Seahawks somehow become a dynasty in the next few years, fans will latch onto the new 2012 design, similar to how Boston fans like the generally ugly Patriots uniforms in which they won all those Super Bowls. Note: The Seahawks are not going to become a dynasty.)
And a quick word about the grey alternates: this was obviously a push from Nike to which the Seahawks did not say “no.” I say “obviously” because it’s the new “trend” color Nike’s been pushing. Look at this year’s special NCAA basketball uniforms… all made by Nike. Look at their Lunaracer sneaker. Look at the Kentucky NCAA Basketball Championship gear (made by Nike – you’d think Kentucky’s color was blue. Hmm…) This fad will die, and someone in the Seahawks marketing department will say, “Wait a minute. These grey jerseys and pants just look like slightly dirty versions of the white uniforms.” Really. Look at the grey over white combo. There’s so little contrast that it’s useless. There is no reason for this to exist other than Nike’s push for grey to be the next big thing, like the late 90s/early 00s black boom (which is beginning to finally fade away, though maybe just “fading” to grey…)
And finally, another pattern seen on the new Nike uniforms is the swapping of grey for silver for some teams. Nike claims this is due to limitations of the new fabric, but, not so coincidentally, look at Nike’s high profile “Pro Combat” NCAA uniforms. Nike loves matte colors. Not to get all conspiracy theory-ish, but if they’re billing the new fabric as the greatest thing ever, they couldn’t have figured out a way to keep the Patriots and Lions in silver instead of matte grey? (It looks like the Raiders are still in silver, so…conspiracy!)
On top of both of those reasons, grey has no place on a sports uniform other than “away” uniforms for baseball teams. It’s why I always complain when the Eagles play the Giants, and that’s not coming from a place of Giants-hate, if they wore white pants, I wouldn’t complain as loudly.
During an odd time in last year’s Eagles season, Kyle wrote a multi-step plan for how to fix the Eagles, one of which included the uniforms. In the next week or so, I’ll be looking at a few strategies for how that could’ve/should’ve taken place, and what changes would have helped the Eagles’ look
Follow me on twitter for a variety of uniform related updates during today’s NFL games (@dancfuller).
Click to enlarge.
First off, Happy New Year! What’s even less inconsequential than a regular unidiction? One for a game taking place after the Eagles have been mathematically elimated from the playoffs! (OK, let me first brag about predicting last week’s Eagles win, then move on to the round-up and this week’s unidiction.)
Week 16 Round-Up
Actually, last week was a little more eventful than was expected. The Bengals wore their orange alternates over their white pants, keeping the everyone safe another year from the “world’s worst Halloween costume” orange over black combo (last seen in 2005, so consider that one likely retired). The Bengals get A LOT of hate from the internet sports uniform community (yep, it’s a thing), but their whole get-up is just uncaringly, unredeemingly goofy, and, especially in orange, it just works in it’s own, well, goofy way.
Though it’s not an alternate jersey, the Ravens paired their (normal) purple jersey with their black pants, something they did in 1996, then out that combo in their current uniform set for one game last year. It’s a great trivia answer, but it’s an awful uniform combination. It combines the issues of dark/black pants which don’t have any contrasting features (off-color socks, stripes, etc.) with a dark jersey. It’s all the issues of the Seahawks standard monochrome blue uniforms made even worse due to the black/purple combo. Blech.
Your Week 17 UniDiction (Eagles, Redskins – for bragging rights only!) is after the jump.
Week 17 UniDiction – Eagles vs. Redskins
The Redskins have deceptively nice uniforms. I say “deceptively” because they’re almost always forgotten in “best of” lists because they’re neither stuck in an “old timey” football aesthetic (Colts, Browns) nor do they have a whole “heritage of winning” in a specific uniform set (Packers). They’ve just been quietly wearing one of the best uniforms in the leage for a while. Last year, they added yellow pants, solidifying their status as having one of the best looks in the league.
[note: I apparently can’t read a football schedule, and I thought they were playing in Washington. Oh well, I like the graphic I put together, so I’ll go with it…]The Redskins usually pair their yellow pants with the maroon jersey at home, but they don’t always. There seems to be neither rhyme nor reason, so I’m assuming they’re going with their best combo, maroon over yellow. I’m feeling particularly spiteful, so I was harsher than usual on their helmet and intangibles this week.
Being that the Redskins are actually visiting and in white over maroon, let’s call that combo…18 points. Not loving the dark pants, but still a good look, better than white over yellow.
The Eagles will be in their best combo, “midnight” green over white (OK, so the Eagles only have two possible regular season combos this year, but it’s obviously the best one). Let’s say it’s worth 22 points.
Relevant Redskins-related Uniform Trivia
Yellow pants have come and gone (mostly “gone” during the lifespans of the majority of the readers of this site) throughout the Redskins uniform history.
In my picture above, I called out the “double headdress” effect on the helmet. I think that’s a product of keeping the ’70-71 helmet logo motif, but adding the head for the ’72 uniform update.
They were generally a White at Home team until they added the yellow pants in 2010. Since then, they’ve exclusively worn their maroon jerseys at home.
The maroon color is called “burgundy” by the team. Too bad. It’s not burgundy. It’s maroon.
Same as previous except “gold” is actually yellow.
The addition of the yellow pants in 2010 (temporarily?) retired the great white over white combo. (and also the not-so-great maroon over maroon combo).
Each pair of pants has its own, unique socks.
This is the last UniDiction of the season! Look for a 2011 baseball uniform/logo round-up sometime during Spring Training, as well as write-ups if anything else noteworthy from a uniform perspective pops up in Philadelphia.
A little more uniform action in Week 15 than we’ve seen in a while. The Chargers wore their powder blue throwbacks, which are better than the normal Chargers uniforms, but like some of the other (loud) throwbacks (Bucs, I’m looking at you), they’re best as a “two games per year” sort of combo.
The Cardinals wore solid red again (three weeks in a row). Repeating myself, these look awful, though the red pants mean that the rare, trivia-riffic white over red combo may yet make an appearance.
Finally, the Rams, the team with a bajillion uniform combos (and that actually pretty much all of them, unlike the Titans), brought out their throwbacks last week. They’re nice, but loud enough that they’re best as a (say it with me) “twice a year kind of alternate.”
Week 16 UniDiction – Cowboys vs. Eagles
Of course, this game will be visual deja vu to week 8, as the Cowboys are a White at Home team. Of course, I hadn’t unveiled my snazzy new UniDiction format back then, so I’ll let the picture speak for itself. Even though I dislike (hate?) the Cowboys, I have to begrudgingly admit their uniforms are pretty nice.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that the Cowboys blue uniform set is almost completely incongruous with their normal white uniform set, and I’ll gladly point out the issues at great detail below.
The Eagles will be in their best combo, green over white, which is a 22 point sort of uniform.
I’ll also point out that games like this are the reason it’s stupid that the Eagles chose not to wear an alternate jersey this year (whether black or last year’s throwback). It’s like they’re not interested in making money.
Merry Christmas! (for the record, I’m not above commentary on Santa Claus’ uniform if there’s a desire from the readership….ha!)
A pretty good-looking football game, as usual between these teams.
The Buccaneers wore their Creamsicle throwbacks against the Panthers, which are ugly, but in that “so bad it’s good, but no more than twice a season, please” sort of way.
In less positive news, both the Texans and Cardinals went monochrome in their respective games, navy over navy for the Texans and red over red for the Cardinals. Neither is a good look, but it means that the Cardinals may trot out their rare (though not particularly appealing) white over red combo now that their red pants are available this season.
Finally, for trivia lovers, the Redskins and Jets mixed it up by having the Redskins wear their maroon over white (instead of yellow) combo at home and the Jets in their, again, rare (and, again, unappealing) white over green.
Eagles vs. Dolphins UniDiction
Lots of details in the picture, but the main take-away is that the Dolphins are an “almost always” White at Home team. Every now and then, they pull out their orange alternates for home, night games, but the Eagles announced they’d be in green this week, so the Dolphins are in white. Though not rigidly defined, the Dolphins generally wear white pants with the white jersey for home games and break out aqua pants for away games when they wear White jerseys (meaning: almost any away games).
Check out the Dolphins Uniform history on the Gridiron Uniform Database, and notice the 1997 “tweaking” which changed the shade of Aqua and added the 90s-riffic drop-shadows on the numbers. Generally, their uniforms have been adjusted numerous times (striping and logo tweaks, mainly), but no significant changes since 1966. Pretty impressive for a design to last that long and still look good.
The Eagles are in their typical home combination, Green over White. I’ll omit the full break-down, but in short, it’s their best combo of the current uniform set, and worth, let’s say, 22 points (generally, the Midnight Green is simply too dark).
Dolphins – 21
Eagles – 22
It’s actually going to be an unexpectedly great uniform match-up. Let’s hope the game is OK, too.
Well, I was wrong for last week’s game, too. 3-8. Of course, there was nothing right about the Eagles on-field performance, either.
There’s an all-new format for the UniDiction section which I think you’ll like, so let me know what you think in the comments.
Week 12 Round-Up
The Chargers wore their very nice Powder Blue throwbacks. I think the color’s odd enough that it shouldn’t necessarily be their primary uniform (and the Titans use light Blue, though in a very different way), but the Chargers normal uniforms are among the least notable in the league (neither good nor bad…they just…are), helmet with electricity on the sides notwithstanding, so file the “should the powder blues be the Chargers’ normal uniforms” under “let me think about it.” I covered the Thanksgiving uniform happenings in last week’s article.
Eagles vs Seahawks UniDiction (new format!)
click to enlarge
No full write-up for the Eagles this week because of the new format, but they’re in White over Midnight Green, and that looks awful and needs to be removed from their locker room. BUT, the Seahawks uniforms are awful.
Seahawks – 12
Eagles – 13
Some random Seahawks uniform info:
They’re strongly rumored (with the Panthers) to get more than just a tailoring and template update when Nike gets the NFL contract next year. My money’s on it looking like their pre-2002 uniforms.
Their current uniform set includes two combos which have only been worn for one game ever (Blue over White and Green over Navy). See above.
They have two different Blue pants. Again, see above.
I don’t hate the Neon Green (derisively called “Neon Snot” by much of the online uniform community – yes, there is such a thing), mainly because it’s only used on the uniforms as a trim color… except on those unfortunate alternates.
The Muppets have always been a big inspiration to me. I grew up watching reruns of The Muppet Show, the 9 episodes of The Jim Henson Hour that aired before it was cancelled, the movies, Muppet Babies, Fraggle Rock, Sesame Street and countless other productions. Muppet Christmas Carol is one of my favorite movies ever, and a yearly staple, as is the classic “A Christmas Together” album with John Denver.
This special that was made for The Jim Henson hour but didn’t air until much later on Nickelodeon was one of the first “behind-the-scenes” videos (now a ubiquitous DVD feature) of any kind I had ever seen, and I found it endlessly fascinating. I watched it every time that I came across it on TV. I might venture to say that it has had a profound impact on where my life has taken me.
I’ve taken puppeteering and puppet-building classes, walked around the Muppet Studio in L.A., briefly met some of the current puppeteers, and last year got to make a piece of puppet magic myself.
But enough about me. The reason that I’m throwing this out there is that there are other people out there like me. I would venture to say that I’m at the tail end of this multi-generational fascination with these characters. The last great piece of entertainment produced with Kermit, Fozzie, etc., was Chrismas Carol in 1992, nearly 20 years ago.
This lengthy period of brand failure is exactly what the new movie is commenting on, and it does so in such a marvelous way that all cause for concern about how it treats the franchise’s history should be thrown out the window.
Briefly, the movie’s about a two superfans (Jason Segel and Walter, a new muppet performed fantastically by Peter Linz) who travel from Smalltown, USA to L.A. with Segel’s character’s girlfriend (Amy Adams) and visit the Muppet studios, finding it decrepit and more-or-less closed. Walter finds out that an evil corporation has taken control over the studio, theatre and Muppets name and plans to run all of them into the ground. It’s up to the three of them to get everyone back together to save the Muppets legacy. To say that this bears some resemblance to the current state of affairs with the company is quite the understatement.
I watched the original Muppet Movie the night before seeing this, and I’d recommend you do the same. In addition to being able to recognize a few callback references to the original movie, rewatching “The Muppet Movie” puts things in the new film in such an interesting mindset. Kermit was once an idealistic leader, inspiring friends to uproot their lives and travel to Hollywood to become “rich and famous”. Now though, all these years later, Kermit has become sort of an out-of-touch recluse, living in a mansion with only his 1980s robot butler to keep him company. Any object that could remind him of the past, and the never-detailed, but often inferred event that caused them all to split up, is draped off. (As a side note, I would love to see this dark chapter in the Muppets history. It would be the most depressing scene ever — even more than this and the [i’m not kidding] attempted suicide scene that came immediately before it, which I can’t find now — but it would be so compelling. Side side note: this is the world where Kermit was never born.) He’s not cynical or bitter — Kermit could never be that — but he’s deeply saddened by how much he believes he let everyone down, which is a burden he’s put on himself since the first movie. Now, years after the split, he views his life’s work as a failure and sees getting everyone together as a fool’s errand, but is talked into it.
The rest of the movie parallels the original’s structure, in the “getting the band back together” sense, but it’s almost a flipped perspective. Instead of it being about the hope of becoming entertainers and being able to make people happy, it’s about the notion of losing your friends to infighting, and your legacy to years of inactivity and a company bent on ruining your name and replacing you with other people/characters. While Walter brings new energy and hopeful naivety, the rest of the Muppets seem like old souls. They’ve aged in spirit and seem a little weary. Fozzy looks a little grey. Everyone else has moved on with their lives, and it’s quite the effectively sad portion of the movie.
But the movie is greatly funny. The music is mostly fantastic, especially if you like Flight of the Conchords, whose Bret McKenzie wrote four original songs (and a reprise), and served as Music Supervisor. I didn’t really care for the Amy Adams/Miss Piggy splitscreen duet, but the Jason Segel/Walter duet, “Man or Muppet” is both catchy and hilarious. The direction (by “Conchords” TV show co-creator and director) is great, with extremely minimal CG work and many, many “How’d they do that?” moments. Segel and Adams are cute and bring great likeable human energy, even if their story feels a bit too much in the forefront.
The Muppet performers don’t seem to miss a beat at all. Considering the only original performer still involved is Gonzo originator Dave Goelz, it’s amazing that all of these characters can still “live” and “breathe” when being performed by other people. It has taken me a number of years to get used to Steve Whitmire’s slightly higher-pitched Kermit, but the range of emotion he was able to wring out of that puppet was remarkable. Eric Jacobson (Fozzy, Piggy, Animal, Sam Eagle) and Bill Barretta (Rowlf, Dr. Teeth, Bobo, Pepe, Swedish Chef) are incredible apers of the original Frank Oz and Henson voices and master puppeteers to boot. There is really no difference in the Muppet characters noticeable enough to be a distraction, as in some past productions.
The woman sitting in front of me at the screening and her hippie husband left the theatre complaining about the “Disneyfication” of the franchise. Granted, she was also complaining prior to the movie about bottled water being a scam, but she does have a valid point about the movie, to a limited extent. Yes, everything is slick, polished, and sanitized. There are overhead shots of the Muppet Theatre (Disney’s Hollywood Boulevard El Capitan Theatre repurposed for the exteriors) that show a “Cars 2” billboard prominently in the background. The three new principal roles (Segel’s “Gary”, Adams’ “Mary”, and Walter) do get a little bit too much focus.
But here is why all of those complaints are wrong. Every joke or type of joke in this movie that seemed out of place actually had a precedent set for it in some prior movie or project: breaking the fourth wall, presenting a popular song in a ridiculous way (the muppet show did this every week), the over-top bad guy bent on bringing them down (Chris Cooper, doing a great job in limited screentime), even the ridiculous method by which they travel long distances.
No matter what Frank Oz says, I don’t feel that the characters were ever disrespected, with one possible exception, which I’ll get to later. In fact, I’d say the opposite. The newer characters were either never used (Clifford, Johnny Fiama and Sal Manella were completely absent), or, like Pepe, were pushed to the background entirely. Even lesser-known, older characters like Uncle Deadly, and Wayne and Wanda make appearances.
Oz points to the ubiquitous “fart shoes” joke in the ads as something Fozzie would never do, but in the context of the movie, I think it works. The characters are out of touch and desperate to figure out what people want, and I don’t think Fozzie is below pandering for a laugh. I’d say this movie is truer to the characters than the “World Where Kermit was Never Born” business.
Gary, Mary, and Walter serve as an audience proxy for younger people unfamiliar with “The Muppet Show”. And without Segel’s Gary and Walter there is no real impetus for the characters to reconcile at all, in a not-so-subtle parallel to real-life. Walter and Gary’s storylines are also so simple that they work without being too off-putting, and they’ve found great ways to parallel other character’s stories (the two duets for example).
For me though, and this comes as a side-note, and probably just a personal gripe, but considering he’s the only original performer left, Dave Goelz didn’t have much for Gonzo to do.
I know the last movie, way back when, focused on him entirely, but in re-watching material recently, I’ve realized the hidden layer of soul and sadness that Gonzo can bring, that few others have. The emotion that comes across in this song…
… is something that Miss Piggy and Fozzy are never tasked with. Most of the other characters are just one dimensional, though Rowlf has on occasion brought the emotion in his Muppet Show performances. Because of this, Kermit is left to carry that burden, but his sadness comes from his failures to live up to his ridiculously high expectations of himself as the leader and guy who manages these ridiculous personalities. Gonzo’s pathos has always stemmed from not fitting in, being weird, and not knowing exactly what he is.
Since these characteristics are basically the entirety of Walter’s personality, and his character arc, this brooding side of Gonzo gets pushed to the backburner, and even his comical side does as well. I’d be interested to see his number of lines compared to other characters. I get that not everyone can be properly serviced, but as a member of what I consider to be the core four characters, he feels like an afterthought. You can sense the regret in Fozzie and Piggy, but Gonzo has just seemed to move on. And this overlooking of him is even sadder considering Goelz is the longest-tenured performer here.
I have some mixed feelings about the end, but I have to talk about it in vague ideas. Basically, I feel like it glosses over a majorly important plot point, but the way in which it does this seems to render it fairly unimportant in the overall scheme of things. It sort of takes their literal goal and says their figurative one is more important, which is a great idea, but leaves the main plot as almost a side story.
On the whole though, I felt every emotion I was supposed to, including my normal disinterest in Miss Piggy. I welled up a few times, laughed a lot, and left with a smile on my face, and no feelings of contempt in my heart. I never once thought that they ruined a good thing here, and that’s all I could ask for.
The crux of this movie is whether or not The Muppets are a viable entertainment in today’s pop culture landscape, and I’d say that with the right material (and this is great material… mostly fleece and foam… wocka, wocka), they can be. Let’s hope that the kids that are getting their first taste of these characters feel the same way.