Here's a tired joke: Q: What did Kermit the Frog say when Jim Henson died? A: Nothing.
As we know, however, Kermit didn't say nothing after the creator of the Muppets passed away suddenly in 1990. Kermit kept on talking and talking; puppeteer Steve Whitmire took on the unenviable task of reproducing Henson's voice for a series of films and TV shows that—charitably—are a pale shadow of the Muppet greatness of the '70s and '80s. Now Whitmire is lending his voice to the upcoming The Muppets, a re-launch written by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, the writer/star and director, respectively, of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the 2008 comedy that featured a goofy Dracula puppet opera—one of the only things that's successfully evoked the true spirit of the Muppets since Henson's death. (Roger Langridge's recent series of Muppet comic books also fits into that category.)
This year's The Muppets, out Thanksgiving weekend, seems all the more promising due to a splendid series of trailers that have either spoofed other films or completely misdirected audiences by waiting until the final seconds to reveal the familiar cloth-and-felt characters. In further anticipation of the reboot, the Hollywood Theatre will show some of the original Muppets feature-length movies in coming months, beginning this weekend with a 35mm print of 1979's The Muppet Movie.
As evidenced by a triumphant screening at the Bagdad Theater courtesy of Cort and Fatboy back at the beginning of this year, The Muppet Movie is even funnier than you remember. There are all the Muppets you know and love, plus an unending parade of celebrity cameos (Steve Martin's and James Coburn's are the best). It's a road-trip movie disguised as the Muppets' origin story, of how Kermit made his way from the swamps to Hollywood and along the way assembled the familiar crew of misfits and monsters. If your Muppet memory is dim at best, you owe it to yourself to revisit. And if you haven't seen it—or, perhaps more importantly, if your kids haven't—there's no better opportunity.