Thursday, December 1, 2011

My Review of The Muppets (2011)

The Muppets (2011)

Nobody seemed to be very interested in the Muppets after their last movie (1999's Muppets in Space) was released. That's why Jason Segel had to fight tooth and nail to get his dream project up and running, and once he did, you could be damned sure he would do it right. Well, he did, and what resulted was the single best movie I have seen this year. Just thinking about this movie I have a giant ear-to-ear grin, and I just saw it and already I want to see it again. This is pretty much a flawless movie, in fact, it is flawless. That's right, I could not find a single thing wrong with this movie. It is unapologetically saccharine and sweet, and it had me weepy-eyed with joy while also busting my guts with laughter. It's also ably acted by both humans and Muppets, and it's just plain awesome.

The film centres around Walter, a puppet who lives in Smalltown, USA, with his brother Gary (Jason Segel) and his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams). Walter and Gary are huge Muppets fans, and on a trip to the Muppet Studio, Walter overhears a plan by oil tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to tear down the theatre and drill for oil. In order to prevent this from happening, the Muppets have to get back together and hold a telethon to raise 10 million dollars, buying back the theatre and effectively bringing the gang back together. Walter, Gary, and Mary go to the house of Kermit, who now lives entirely off the grid in his mansion, longing for the good old days.

With the help of Kermit and his assistant/butler 80's Robot, they track down Fozzie (who now works
with a Muppet cover band in Reno), Gonzo (now the CEO of a plumbing empire), and the rest of the Muppets via montage. The only one who seems to have trouble coming around is Miss Piggy, who now works as a plus-size editor for Vogue Paris and doesn't want to rejoin the troupe because she and Kermit called it quits over his lack of commitment. However, the gang gets back together and starts to work on their comeback special, while a cynical TV executive (Rashida Jones) says she won't air the show unless they get a celebrity host. So they kidnap Jack Black and the show goes on, serving as the climax of the film.

There are several attempts at sabotaging the show by Richman, who will not only get the Muppet Theatre if they don't raise enough money, but he will get the Muppet name as well (as that is included the contract). I won't give away anything more, but one of the many things I like about this movie is that it has a relatively simple plot. Kids movies don't need labyrinthian plots to be good, and this is refreshingly straightforward. It's also not filled with pop culture references and crass humour like so many kids movies. There are a lot of fourth wall jokes though, and pretty much all of them are hilarious. In fact, pretty much the entire movie is hilarious, even when it's being tear-jerking.

I was happy to see all the Muppets back together performing their show, and if this film was used as a way to relaunch The Muppet Show, I would be extremely happy. In fact, the film takes advantage of the fact that there hasn't been a Muppet movie in over ten years and that a good chunk of the world has outwardly forgot them, using it for jokes and heart-wrenching moments at the same time. This film also inspired a wave of nostalgia to wash over me although I never really watched The Muppets as a kid (either the show or the movies), and I'm sure it will do that for longtime fans of the Muppets as well. Around the middle of the movie, Chris Cooper's character tells Kermit that he and his gang are relics, and they are relics, in the best possible way. They're soft and sweet in a cynical and hard world, and that's exactly what we need in times like this. This is what children's entertainment should be like, and this film should be held up as an example of how great kids movies are made.

However, the people that The Muppets is most likely to please are the longtime fans, those who saw the movies and/or the show growing up and wish to revel in a blast from the past. Longtime Muppet fans with children can also take them to this movie and introduce them to characters that every child should know because like I have said so many times, a lot of children's movies have pop culture references (this one has a few, but not too many) and crass humour and The Muppets does not resort to that. Instead, it delivers on the old charm and pure joy that the Muppets have delivered for so many people. Just because the movie is a blast from the past doesn't mean that it hasn't updated itself to become relevant again. There are a ton of celebrity cameos by everyone from Neil Patrick Harris to Sarah Silverman to Whoopi Goldberg (but my favourites being an uncredited role by Jack Black and a hilarious cameo from Jim Parsons of Big Bang Theory fame) and they reference some modern songs, but not to a degree of overkill.

Besides the cameos and the Muppets themselves, there are three main human performances that I'd like to talk about (four if you include a new muppet, which I will). First of all, there is Jason Segel as Gary. Jason Segel was the main driving force behind the movie and it was because of him that the movie even got made. He is now one of my favourite people in the world because of that, and he gives a decent performance as Gary. He doesn't overshadow the Muppets because he's not supposed to, but we do care about his character and we want to see him, his girlfriend and his brother be happy. Speaking of which, I loved the character of Walter, the world's biggest Muppet fan and the guy who gets the Muppets back together. I'm not sure who voiced him, but they were great, and if they brought back the Muppet show, I would be very happy to see Walter in it. Amy Adams gives a great performance as Mary (which kind of reminded me of her performance in Enchanted), but most of the things that can be said about her can also be said about Jason Segel. However, I really liked her costumes in this movie and how they were almost reminiscent of the old 50's schoolteacher, only Amy Adams makes them work because she happens to be very attractive. Chris Cooper plays the villain, and every time he insulted Kermit and the gang I wanted to punch that bastard in the face, simply because I love the Muppets so much and it's just impossible to be mean to Kermit the Frog. It's like being mean to a really cute puppy, it just can't happen.

One thing I didn't know about this movie going into it was that it was a musical. I had heard that there were songs, but I didn't know that it was going to be a straight-up musical. The songs were written by Bret McKenzie (of Flight of the Conchords) and I must say he did an excellent job, especially with the film's main theme, entitled "Life's a Happy Song". If either version of the song (at the beginning or the end) does not get an Oscar, or even get nominated for one, I will be extremely unhappy. My other favourite song is "Man or Muppet", and they do play some of the classics too, like "Rainbow Connection" and "Mahna Mahna". The score was also excellent and I definitely smell Oscar for it (as well as the songs and maybe even the script).

This is just a fantastic movie, and I can't run out of great things to say about it. I offer one of my highest recommendations possible as my single favourite movie this year. This film had me weepy-eyed from the beginning and especially weepy-eyed at the end, and this is coming from someone who doesn't cry at movies. The three people who gave this negative reviews are clearly made out of stone, because even the most cold-hearted and cynical of people could very well give into the power of the Muppets. The film is extremely well-made, and it will please longtime fans of the Muppets most of all, and seeing as how a good many of them are of child-having age, this is a movie that can be shown to kids who aren't familiar with the Muppets. All the characters are back, and better than ever in a nostalgic romp that is reminiscient of a simpler time. All that's left for me to say is that Jason Segel is a very good man and he will be forever associated with The Muppets as one of the men (and the driving force behind the many men) that brought them back.

Jason Segel as Gary in The Muppets (2011) (2011)
Thank you man, just thank you.


1 comment:

  1. Terrific review, Rachel. I cannot wait until this movie is released, I live in the UK so I have to wait until next February for a release, which sucks!