The industry is stunned by the disappointing opening weekend for “Muppets Most Wanted,” but this is the price any franchise is destined to pay after tainting itself with divisive, partisan political positions.
Under the guidance of creator Jim Henson in the 1970’s and 80’s, Kermit, Fozzy, Animal, Ms. Piggy, Beaker, and the rest of the Muppets became American institutions through irreverence, a big and sincere beating heart, sharp writing, and an enormous amount of goodwill built up over the years on Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and a series of box office hits. The Muppets might have commented on politics and current events, but they were never divisive or partisan.
That all changed with Disney’s “The Muppets,” a 2011 feature film meant to reboot the franchise.
“The Muppets” just weren’t the same.
It wasn’t just the low-brow bathroom humor in the new film, it was a hyper-political divisiveness we had never seen before. The Muppets turned Left and were now attacking Fox News, the energy business, and religious freedom.
The result was a less than spectacular $88.6 million take at the North American box office for “The Muppets.” This was especially disappointing after a mammoth Thanksgiving opening weekend of $41 million. But the controversies took their toll after the film’s launch, though not enough to kill a sequel. This weekend’s sequel, however, opened to a brutally disappointing $16.5 million.
This is what happens when you alienate half your audience and reboot a beloved, no-brainer franchise with the taint of politics.
Disney’s Muppets might look like Henson’s Muppets, but we all know they are imposters. In 2011, the Muppets said to tens of millions of Americans, we no longer like you.
And now the left-wing Muppets are getting not-liked back.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC