Every film is made better by the muppets, right?
Ah, the Muppets. These preposterous puppets have entertained countless children in the five decades since they first hit our screens. With their soft felt faces and their openness to having hands stuck up their butt, the Muppets truly are modern showbiz icons.
Which is why, for a period spanning the 1980s through to the early 2000s, they were bloody everywhere. It felt like you couldn’t turn the telly on without seeing Kermit’s wide, avuncular smile or Ms. Piggy’s voluptuous feminine form. There was nary a VHS that didn’t feature the delightful antics of a small fabric monster, and famously in 1996 a controversial piece of legislation was passed that ordered at least one Muppet be in the production staff of every major Hollywood motion picture.
Yes, this was the era of the big-budget Muppet movies, where famous IPs and story archetypes were given that fresh Henson spin. For classic literature you had The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island, for impressive spectacle blockbusters you had the incredible Muppets from Space and The Dark Crystal, and for haunting bisexual awakenings young children had the fantasy classic Labyrinth.
But these salad days would soon come to an end. After the original Rizzo the Rat committed suicide by cop, for many the magic was gone. Subsequent films had some success, but it never quite reached the same zenith. But now, in an era where cinema is a grab-bag of the same eight superhero franchises with the occasional prestige flick like Parasite or Garfield, a Tale of Two Kitties thrown in for good measure, we could do with a return to form.
With this in mind, I’ve compiled five films that should absolutely be remade starring a central cast of adorable cloth maniacs. Will they all be tasteful? No, but lest we forget this is a franchise that turned Tim Curry into a loveable roguish pirate, as opposed to the harrowing night-beast he truly is. Let’s start out with our safest bet:
Yes, I know I was just bitching about how every film out at the minute features superheroes, but the public needs to be weaned from their current obsession as smoothly as possible. Joss Whedon’s 2012 hit The Avengers arguably redefined cinema, setting the bar so high not even the Incredible Hulk could super-leap over it, or whatever it is he does.
Here’s my pitch: Steve Rogers (Sam the Eagle) is thawed from a glacier in the South Pole only to discover a world rife with super-powered entities on the cusp of intergalactic war. With the help of Tony Stark (Dr. Bunsen Honeydew), Thor (Swedish Chef), Black Widow (Ms. Piggy), Bruce Banner (Animal), and Hawkeye (Fozzie Bear), Steve must defend the earth from alien invaders led by the charismatic Norse trickster god Loki (Pepe the Prawn). As is traditional, there must be at least one a-list celebrity actor in the cast, so I propose we keep Samuel L. Jackson in his original role as Nick Fury. Come on, are you really trying to tell me you don’t want to see Mace Windu call Gonzo the Great a “motherfucker”?
Now that we’ve got the superheroes out of our system, let’s move onto something for grown ups.
Hear me out. Schindler’s List is one of the defining films of the 20th century. A Spielberg hit that launched Liam Neeson’s career, Schindler’s List is undoubtedly an artistic masterpiece, equal parts tasteful and hard-hitting, never shying away from the horrors it seeks to represent.
In my version, Neeson will reprise his role as Oskar Schindler, the factory owner who must reject the propaganda of the occupying Nazi government and join forces with Itzhak Stern (Kermit the Frog) to protect Krakow’s vulnerable Jewish population. His plans, of course, are threatened by the machinations of SS-Untersturmfuhrer Amon Goth (Gonzo the Great), who seeks to uphold the values of the 1000-year Reich by any means necessary.
Actually you know what? This feels wrong. I’m sorry. Scrap this idea, let’s try something else.
Walk the Line
Actually, you could slot in any music biopic for this section because they essentially follow the same formula. We open with Dr. Teeth, lead singer of the Electric Mayhem, as he readies himself to take the stage. His faithful saxophonist Zoot tells him that they’re due on in a few minutes, thus sending Teeth down a rabbit hole of tragic memories.
We see him as a young man, first taking to the keyboards and learning how to tickle the ivories with his massive felt fingers. We follow Dr. Teeth as he is enlisted to fight in Vietnam, an experience that has dire consequences for the young Muppet’s mental stability. Back on home soil we see his early encounters with future Electric Mayhem bassist Floyd Pepper, and the subsequent bender that leads to a lifetime of dependency and addiction. And then, when all hope seems lost, Dr. Teeth cleans up and finds Jesus – or the Muppet equivalent, at least.
This movie can be rife with celebrity cameos – Dr. Teeth and Janice doing rails with Keith Richards, an ill-fated encounter between pop superstar Ed Sheeran and Electric Mayhem drummer Animal, Zoot collaborating with Queen’s Brian May to come up with the groundbreaking riff behind Mahna Mahna. At this point we must really mourn the tragic loss of Frank Zappa, who himself was basically a Muppet and would therefore be perfect for this film.
Actually, I think this one has legs. Does anyone have the Henson estate’s number?
Alright, I’ll level with you. I’ve never watched Citizen Kane. This landmark of cinema, the film that would go on to cement acting legend Orson Welles as a pioneer of the dramatic arts, isn’t on Netflix and I refuse to spend £2.50 for a second-hand DVD about a bloke who makes canes or something.
However, consider the Muppet reboot. The final words of notorious media tycoon Charles Foster Kane (Bobo the Bear) unspool into a tale of vice, decadence, and corruption in this thrilling adaptation set against the backdrop of the Spanish-American war. As the majority of the central cast for the original film are long-dead, I suggest we bring in David Duchovny as – oh, I don’t know, Walter Parks Thatcher maybe?
Like I said. Never seen this movie. Next one.
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Here we bloody go. I’ve seen Star Wars. Everybody’s seen Star Wars.
Admittedly, the Muppets have already attempted the space opera genre before with the aforementioned Muppets From Space and the less-well known sketch series Pigs in Space. However, a scene-by-scene reshoot of the Star Wars film that started it all is exactly the shot in the arm the series needs given recent online controversies. It’ll be the classic hero’s journey, a galaxy-spanning quest in which young and idealistic farmboy Luke Skywalker (Beaker) must master the Force and defeat the tyrannical Darth Sidious (Uncle Deadly). In a satisfying mix-up, original Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill will make an appearance as the wise and cryptic Obi-Wan Kenobi. Unfortunately, Ms. Piggy won’t be featuring in this film, as the internet has clearly stated that putting women or people of colour into a Star Wars property makes it “political”, but hey: maybe we can bring back Rizzo the Rat using CGI like they did in Rogue One?
And there you have it: the five Hollywood classics that need to be remade with Muppets. In these trying times, I imagine we’ll be turning more and more to cinema for solace, comfort, and laughter, and what better source for all of the above than the wonderful puppets of the Henson workshop? Would it be hokey and sloppy to simply remake films for a new audience lacking the cultural context of the original rather than produce an entirely new intellectual property? Yeah probably, but it’s either this or another forty-six Avengers movies, so suck it up buttercup.
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