National Review / Digital
The Week

(Roman Genn)


Another Socialist Plot

The recently released Muppet movie caused one of those five-minute fracases that pass across the Internet/cable-TV landscape like a summer squall. Essentially, the Muppet movie (official title, The Muppets) laid on a slew of Hollywood clichés — hardly shocking given that the Muppets themselves are something of a send-up of old vaudeville and movie bits. The one that annoyed some conservatives was the utterly typical casting of the villain as an evil businessman (in this case Tex Richman, dastardly oil baron).

Liberals made fun of conservatives for taking the movie so seriously. Liberals overlooked the fact that the reason it’s a cliché is that Hollywood does, in fact, have a deep-seated, long-established, easily verified animus towards capitalists and businessmen. Yes, yes, yes: Part of the reason businessmen are used as villains stems from the fact that you need villains to be rich and powerful. But part of the reason also has something to do with the fact that liberals run Hollywood and liberals think capitalism is evil — even though it makes them rich.

Enough about all that. If you don’t think Hollywood has liberal biases, all I can say to you is, “How on earth did you end up reading this magazine?”

But Hollywood could learn something from The Muppets. One of the reasons that so many movie sequels are so awful is that the producers think they have to re-create essentially the same plot, leaving audiences to say, “I’ve seen this movie before.” One of the best recent examples is The Hangover Part II, in which the whole gang is asked to film essentially the same movie as the first Hangover, only this time in Thailand. “I can’t believe this is happening again!” says one of the guys at the bachelor party gone awry. And neither can the audience!

I grew up watching Abbott and Costello movies every Sunday morning. I’ve seen them all: Abbott and Costello Go to Mars, Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Abbott and Costello Get Syphilis, Abbott and Costello Testify at HUAC, etc.


Okay, I made up a couple of those. But you get the point. The Marx Brothers, the Three Stooges, Shirley Temple, John Wayne, et al. made lots of films in which they essentially played the same character — i.e., themselves — over and over again. What changed were the plots.

These days we get the same actors playing the same parts repeating the same plots over and over again. Sometimes this is forgivable, of course. It’s not like Nightmare on Elm Street’s Freddy Krueger would really work as a romantic lead. And if you’re going to make a Jaws II, it’s pretty hard to get away from the whole boy-meets-shark storyline. But, really, why exactly did Return of the Jedi have to end with the rebel alliance blowing up a Death Star? And why couldn’t the gang from The Hangover come back in a sequel where they robbed a bank?

Obviously, making endless variations on a theme was easier to do under the old contract system than it is today. Movie-star trailers were like cells in a Hollywood-studio gulag. Of course Spencer Tracy would do another movie with Hepburn — anything just to get some yard time.

That’s the great thing about the Muppets. Because they are merely technically advanced socks with sewn-on eyeballs, you can make them do one movie after another and they won’t complain. Personally, I’d love to see an all-Muppet remake of All the President’s Men (Carl Bernstein could play himself!).

Alas, that’s as likely as Hollywood casting liberals as villains.

December 31, 2011    |     Volume LXIII, No. 24

  • Channeling TR, President Obama advocates rule-by-elites.
  • Now is the time to make the case for military action against Iran.
  • When people say ‘Zionist,’ what do they mean?
  • Earnest worship versus the worship of cynicism.
  • A correspondence, nonfictional, between a young boy, a housewife, a headmaster, and the young boy’s brother.
  • You take a dubious record, you take some wacky ideas, you take a narcissistic personality. . .
  • And why President Newt would not
  • Gingrich’s plan would reward criminals and make the law arbitrary.
  • The former Speaker has a longstanding love-hate relationship with environmental reform.
Books, Arts & Manners
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Happy Warrior  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
The Bent Pin  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .