Don’t worry, Jonathan Krisel is not going to ruin our childhoods. Krisel is the writer/director of the upcoming Anne Hathaway-starring Sesame Street movie heading to theaters. He says it’ll be a musical based around the words of its theme song, and my gut says he’s going to do this movie the right way.
Why do I think the Sesame Street movie will remain the Sesame Street we all know and love with Krisel at the helm? Because he’s had a hand in writing all 77 episodes of Portlandia over its 8 seasons, and exclusively directed the show’s first four seasons. He essentially created the visual language of the smart, surreal sketch show. Sesame Street is also a smart sketch show, and while it doesn’t go as dark as Portlandia, there’s a case to be made that both shows at their root are about people getting along despite differences. Also, anyone who says Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s Portlandia characters have absolutely no similarities to the puppet characters clearly aren’t watching the show. Peter and Nance all by themselves could have a room next to Bert and Ernie and they would not be out of place in the slightest.
Krisel’s got the chops to pull this off, no question. He’ll even handle the musical numbers. “The Dream of the 90s is Alive in Portland” matches up with anything on Sesame Street, such as “I Want A Snuffy for Christmas,” a parody of “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” That song in particular was performed by Snuffaluffagus and Anne Hathaway, who’s set to star in this upcoming production. As a father of toddlers I was subjected to Hathaway’s rendition over and over one holiday season —and currently, it’s now repeating in my head complete with verses, bridge and chorus— and you’ll be happy to know the song never got so precious that I needed to burn my ears. Hathaway will be the perfect match with Sesame Street for the same reason it worked so well the first time: she takes it seriously enough to act with the puppets as if they were co-stars rather than special effects, and she’s able to be perfectly silly without being self-conscious. She’s a pro who understands the mandatory magic.
I’m sure being a parent is a necessity for you to watch the upcoming Sesame Street, but there will be just as much entertainment for the parents as ever. Right around the time the show moved from PBS to HBO, they made a math-related parody of the Hunger Games movies. Kids weren’t meant to understand the reference, it was there exclusively for the parents to enjoy. Sesame Street’s been putting in references for parents since forever; in the early 90s there was a Twin Beaks skit obviously made as a parody of Twin Peaks. As Krisel has proven his chops for smart comedy and sending up pop culture trends on Portlandia, I’m interested to hear what references he sends up in this new movie, and how he does it.