Thursday, November 24, 2011

Review - The Muppets

When Jim Henson brought the world The Muppet Show some 40 years ago, the world was a simpler place. It wasn’t as dark and cynical as it is now. There were no reality shows, no CSI, no MTV or E! The world has changed, some for the better and a lot for the worse. So in a world ruled by CGI, explosions and Jersey Shore, is there still a place for the goofiness and innocents of The Muppets?

Yes. Yes there is. You will smile. You will laugh. You may even cry. The Muppets are back and it’s all thanks to Disney, Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel. This movie is pure Muppets bliss from beginning to end and it will take you back to a simpler place and time, even if you weren’t around when The Muppets were at their prominence. It just has that way about it.

Don't worry, they never steal the show from the Muppets.
The story centers are brothers Gary (Jason Segel) and Walter (Peter Linz), a young man who can’t help but notice he isn’t quite the same as his brother. Perhaps that has to do with him being made of felt. Anyway, Walter is a huge fan of the Muppets and wishes nothing more than to meet them and see their old studio. Conveniently, Gary just happens to be taking his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) to LA for their ten year anniversary and that’s where Muppet Studio is located. So Gary and Mary allow Walter to come along and it’s off to see The Muppets. Unfortunately for Walter, The Muppet Studio isn’t quite what he thought it would be. It’s deserted and an all-around mess, with nary a Muppet in sight. Why? Well, The Muppets broke up years ago and haven’t put on a show in a long time. So, when Walter accidently stumbles onto the films antagonist, Tex Richman (played by a delightfully hammy Chris Cooper), making a deal to buy the old Muppet Studio and drill it for oil, Walter enlists the help of Gary and Mary to find Kermit and the Muppets and save the old studio. It doesn’t take long to find him and from there, it’s all about getting the gang back together and The Muppets take center stage. They have to put on a telethon to raise 10 million dollars by midnight on Friday or Tex gets the deed to the studio. As you’d likely expect, madness, hijinks and hilarity ensues. 

Centering the plot around the actual Muppet Show is pretty ingenious. It connects the film to the audience and the real world on a much deeper level rather than just making it some superficial plot that could only happen in movies. Okay, yes, The Muppets aren’t real people but it really makes you feel like they are because The Muppet Show was real. They feel like real actors who fell out of the limelight and want to get back in. They want to save their roots and their heritage and their memories and it’s just a real strong plot for a movie about Pigs and chickens and whatevers. 

Is Crazy Harry really important enough to ride shotgun?

Trying not to give away too much of the plot, the film is filled with all the great Muppet humor and in-jokes you’d expect. There’s plenty of fourth wall jokes and references to past movies, it’s clear that Segel and company get what The Muppets are about. Very few jokes in the movie felt out of place in the Muppets world and never will you think “Kermit wouldn’t do that.” It’s pure Muppets through and through. 

Although you might be worried about the fact that the movie is being billed as starring Jason Segel and Amy Adams, don’t be fooled, this movie is completely about The Muppets. Segel knew nobody would want to be bogged down by the humans and while they do play an important role, they’re more a plot device than they are stars of the film. Same goes for the villain and the trademark cameo appearances, none of them overshadow what the film is about. Though honestly, the cameos are some of the best parts, especially Neil Patrick Harris and Jim Parsons. 

Seriously, Uncle Deadly! How cool is that?!
No the Muppets are here in full form, including some that haven’t been seen in years like Uncle Deadly and Thog. Now while not all of them get their fair share of scene time (It would have been nice to see more Electric Mayhem as well as Statler and Waldorf), there’s still a large amount of Muppets to be enjoyed here and all the main cast get their chance to shine. Even the new characters they created such as Walter and Kermit’s butler, 80’s Robot, fit right in and never overshadow the old standbys themselves.

Thankfully, this is the only scene Pepe is in.
Speaking of old standbys, the film is also a musical, as you’d expect from a Muppets film. All of the original songs are great, often being both incredibly silly and full of heart. The opening number “Life’s a Happy Song” is so cheery and sunny, you’ll likely be tapping your toes and smiling all the way through. While Kermit’s “Pictures in My Head” will likely cause you to shed a tear or two but still manage to make you maintain that manly smile of your’s. The rest of the songs are pretty great too. Tex Richman raps about how great it is to be rich “He’s got cash flow like Robert has De Niro” and Gary and Walters “Man or Muppet” will have you asking yourself the same question. There’s a new recording of “Rainbow Connection,” Jim Henson’s theme song, sang by Kermit, Miss Piggy and eventually the other Muppets, that is sure to put you in a very happy, emotional place (until they interrupt it with an unfunny joke which is the worst part of the film). And even though not all of the songs featured in the film are exclusively Muppets songs, such as “We Built This City” by Starship (Which they had enough common sense to only sing the chorus), all them have a very distinct Muppets charm to them. Plus, if you can’t smile at Camilla and her fellow chickens clucking through their version of Cee-Lo Green’s “Forget You,” than you clearly have no soul.

Though the movie isn’t completely without its flaws. The biggest thing likely to throw lifelong fans off will be the voices of the Muppets themselves. Almost none of the original voices and muppeteers are there which can be jarring at first, especially with Eric Jacobson as Fozzie. But most of them do a great job and some are really spot on. Rowlf and Dr. Teeth sound spot on and while it’s certainly no Jim Henson, Kermit still sounds mostly like his froggy self.

Kermit's talk is one of the most touching scenes in the whole film.
 The Muppets is not just a delightfully funny, charming and all around fantastic film and return to form for the felt characters, it’s a triumph. As already mentioned, in a world ruled by CGI backgrounds and characters, making the audience care about puppets, especially puppets as goofy as the Muppets, in this day and age has to be a hard thing to accomplish. And yet the theater applauded. The world needs the Muppets, now more than ever. This movie proves that and doesn’t disappoint in the least. If you need a laugh, a smile or even a tear, please see this movie. The Muppets deserve to be relevant again and you deserve The Muppets. 

                                                      Matt thought this film was...

Edit: I know we don't normally talk about movies here on Adamant Ditto and it isn't going to become a regular thing or anything, I mean, it isn't what we're about. But The Muppets are very important to many of us here at Adamant Ditto, me especially and we reference them often so I figured a review was warranted in this case. Also, I really want this movie to do well.

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