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Seems like a lot of franchises have been getting reboots in recent years. Add the Muppets to the list, with a new film releasing this week. After a number of years in the wilderness/swamp, Kermit and Co. are back on the big screen—opening in theaters everywhere on Wednesday—brought to you by the promising team of screenwriter-actor Jason Segal and director James Bobin. Some of us find this prospect stupendously exciting, while others, no doubt, will shrug in indifference, writing it off as the latest example of Hollywood's increasingly lazy insistence on shilling nostalgia.

So why the Muppets and why now? Aren't they irrelevant cultural relics? Never mind the fact that they represent the vanguard of "family entertainment"—child-friendly entertainment that neither excludes nor talks down to adults, nor resorts to lewd cynicism. In other words, intelligently wholesome media. Never mind their loveable makeshift quality, the refreshing scruffiness amidst the increasingly pristine world of kid pop culture, or the way they conjure such life and energy without help from the virtual world. Never mind the obvious imagination at the center of it all. We would do Jim Henson's creations a serious disservice to align them with "culture war" concerns. Yet there is a moral vision at the heart of the Muppets that transcends those lines, and it is one that Christians, for the most part, can affirm.

Henson was, by all accounts, a bit of a saint. Read any biography of the man, and you will walk away almost suspicious of his overwhelming decency and personal integration, his unfailing optimism and boundless energy. What made the biggest impression on those around him was apparently not his astounding creativity, but the passionate ...

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November 2011

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