Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Muppets (2011) Review!

Before I get into the review proper, I have a few updates for everyone. Firstly, my computer went a little funny a while ago and I lost just about all of my written projects that I was working on. Luckily, my video work was spared, as that would have taken a lot longer to replace, but the loss of my article fragments has been near devastating. That is why it is taking me so long to get another piece up for everyone. It has been slow moving replacing all of the things I want to finish, mostly because for about three days I was just downright sad that I lost it all in the first place.

Me, after I watched my lappy top die in my arms.

Anyways, on to the review!

The Muppets (2011)

I can say without a hint of hyperbole that I am one of the Muppets' biggest fans. I grew up loving the work of Jim Henson through The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, Muppets Tonight, and the various movies that they have released. I was very excited for this film to be released because of the long span of time since the last time I saw the Muppets in any official capacity. I have to tell you honestly: The Muppets lived up to every single one of my expectations. 

There are several standards to Muppets humor that I have come to know and love and expect from all of my Muppet entertainment. The Muppets met all of these. 1) Muppet films have to be musicals. What is a Muppet movie without singing? Muppets From Space that's what. And I didn't particularly like that movie. Jim Henson invented the Muppets to sing, and that is the end of that. 2) Muppet films have to reference themselves with their humor. Everything the Muppets do draw attention to the fact that they're in a movie or on a television show or in a work for entertainment. The Muppets passed this with flying colors. And 3), Muppet films are funny without putting down others. What I mean is that the Muppets never insult anybody but themselves, and most of the humor comes from slapstick comedy or situational jokes. What other comedy can say that?

The two main characters of the film are Gary (Jason Segal) and Walter (voiced by Peter Linz), two brothers heading to L.A. with Gary's girlfriend (Amy Adams). Walter is "The Biggest Muppets Fan Ever," I title which he has not earned by doing battle with a certain blogger that believes himself to be the Muppets' biggest fan, because seriously: I love the Muppets. Jason Segal is absolutely perfect as Gary because it seems like he didn't have to act much. He is a man that loves to sing and loves the Muppets. There's a wonderful montage in the very beginning of the film which shows young Gary and Walter growing up and Walter gets made fun of for going as Kermit on Halloween. Gary proves that he is the greatest brother of all time and they both go back to their place and watch The Muppet Show.

When they get to L.A. they find the Muppet Theater run down and forgotten. When Walter sneaks away from their tour he overhears oil baron Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) telling his two lackeys, Bobo the Bear and Uncle Deadly, that he plans on tearing down the Theater and drilling for oil. In a movie filled with great performances by comedic actors and puppeteers, Chris Cooper really stands out. He is extraordinary as the villainous Richman, and I would venture to say that he stole the entire show. You would think the Muppets or Jason Segal would be the funniest part of the movie, but "Greatest Supporting Actor Of All Time" Cooper takes that honor from them, laughing maniacally as he does it. He's flat out hysterical even with his limited screen time. You can tell that he had an absolute blast making this movie, and that energy transfers from the screen to the audience.

The gang of Gary, Mary, and Walter decide they have to find the Muppets to help them prevent the destruction of the historic Theater, but that proves to be difficult. In the past decade, the Muppets have spread out and all taken different jobs. The first member of the old gang that they find is Kermit at his L.A. home. This leads to one of the best songs in any Muppet movie: 'Pictures in My Head', where Kermit sings about the old gang while walking past all of the old pictures from the Muppet Theater. I don't think it left a dry eye in the house. I know I was crying. I've never seen regret portrayed so powerfully through song before, and it definitely struck a chord with my romantic heart.

After getting Kermit on board, a Blues Brothers style "getting the band back together" segment occurs where the protagonists must find and bring back all of the Muppets to put on a telethon to save the Theater. Some of the funniest moments in the whole film come from this segment. It was interesting to see where everyone ended up. Some were obvious (Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem were playing as a street band), and some were delightfully creative (Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker were working on the Large Hadron Collider, and Sam the Eagle was on a news talk show). After getting everyone together, they must repair the Theater, book a time slot on a TV network, rehearse their acts, and put on the show of their lives. There is a sense of urgency, but it all takes a back seat whenever the jokes start flying.

The Muppet Telethon plays out perfectly, just like an old episode of The Muppet Show or Muppets Tonight. Another reviewer has pointed out, and I agree, that this segment harkens back and reminds us older folks of the fun that we had watching those old shows. There are gags, skits, songs, and mayhem throughout. There was a kind of intensity to this part of the movie. Everyone was laughing out loud or dancing quietly in their seats during this portion. It was fun to be a part of. The biggest hit seemed to be Camilla the Chicken's version of Cee-Lo Green's 'F*** You'. People actually cheered in my movie theater when the song started.

Like all of the Muppet films, celebrity cameos were abundant throughout. They were done perfectly, being obvious enough to be noticed but not overshadowing the action on-screen. I know that if I were a person of any importance at all it would be nigh impossible to keep me out of this movie, and that's what it seems like with the cameos. Everyone involved was there because they loved the Muppets, from Neil Patrick Harris to Jack Black to Mickey Rooney.

If there's one complaint I can have about this movie it's that the run time wasn't long enough. I wanted to see more of my beloved Muppets. Due to the time crunch we didn't get a whole lot of Dr. Honeydew and Beaker, Statler and Waldorf, and I was definitely missing Rowlf the Dog's piano talent. I know I know. I'm asking for too much. Not all of the Muppets could get their share of screen time. But it seems kind of cheap to me that Uncle Deadly, a lesser known Muppet, can be a central character and they can't work in at least a little bit more of Rowlf. Also, yes I realize that Rowlf was Jim Henson's favorite character and was voiced by him until his death, but they've been using the character since and I would love to see more of him. It just doesn't seem like the Muppets when he has a limited role. Now, I'm not complaining about Deadly. He is definitely one of my more favorite Muppets. I just think that Rowlf is more iconic and deserves to have a song all by himself.

The human performers were all excellent. Led by Segal and Adams and Cooper, they sing and dance and act in ways that are memorable without taking the focus away from the Muppets. It takes a serious amount of finesse to do this, and I was very impressed by the trio's ability to move aside and let a handful of felt puppets shine. Segal proves to the world in this film that he was born to be a song-and-dance man, and I really hope he continues his career with a few musicals in the future. Everyone already knew Adams could sing from her turn in Enchanted, but she still performs beautifully here. My favorite song from her was called 'Me Party', where she sings a full 70's disco song in a diner. Cooper has one song, and while it is meant to be funny and not a serious number he approaches it with the charisma and focus that he puts into all of his work. I really can't stress enough how much I loved him in this film.

Because of my love for all things Muppets, I had a hard time reviewing this film. On the one hand I had to resist my knee-jerk reaction to just label anything related to the Muppets as "STUPENDABLARG" but on the other hand I also have to concede the fact that this is a phenomenal movie. It's perfect no matter what age you are, no matter what kind of experience you have with the Muppets, no matter if you can name the pink fuzzy things that come out for the Mahna Mahna song (they're Snowths, by the way), or if you're just in the mood to take your kids to a movie and have them shut up for ninety minutes. I love this movie as much as I love The Muppet Movie or any of the shows. I would not say that there's been many films that can be classified as "must see" in this jolly year of 2011, but this is one of them.

I give it four stars out of four.

1 comment:

  1. After watching the trailers and promos on all the different shows... think Dancing With the Stars... I was not too excited to see this movie even though I'm a HUGE Muppet fan. Then I heard an interview on NPR with the writers/ actors and decided to give it a try.