The Muppets (Review)
Directed by James Bobin
Written by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller
After a far-too-long absence at the theater (I remember going to see Muppets From Space in a deserted theater like it was yesterday…), the Muppets return to the big screen in a big way. And as you can guess from the mention of seeing Muppets From Space, I’m a huge Muppets fan. Enough that I can rattle off obscure background Muppets and spot errors on the Muppet wiki. But I’m putting the fanboy aside to give a nice objective review. And that review is positive. Not because I liked the film (I did), but because it’s a good film.
The Muppets are more than just puppets, just entertainment for kids. The Muppets are entertainment for all ages, treating the audience of all ages with respect and dignity. They may not have invented that kind of entertainment, but they rode it to a new plateau. Jim Henson was never afraid to tread new ground, always experimenting and improving, wanting to put out quality products that appealed to everyone.
As for the Pixar short before it – most of the jokes seem to be just the concepts of the fast food toy characters rather than actual story. But it is funny and does deal with abandonment issued and support groups. And some of those toys look like they come from neat fake franchises. I should just design fake Happy Meal toys as a hobby…
It’s time to start the music…
Gary and Walter are brothers, but Walter was born a Muppet. As this takes place in a world where the Muppets are real, no one really bats an eye, though Walter is aware he’s different from all the normal people. Walter finds solace in The Muppet Show, where he can see people like him. He becomes the Muppets’ greatest fan. As Gary grows and becomes romantically involved with Mary, Walter is still stuck in childhood, ever obsessing over the Muppets.
But society has moved on, and the Muppets have gone their separate ways. No longer on tv, or seemingly doing anything.
on a trip to LA, Walter overhears that rich oil magnate Tex Richman plans to buy the Muppet studios and raze it to the ground to get to the oil underneath.
The only cure is to get the band back together and raise the $10 million needed to buy back the studio in the next two weeks. But first they have to convince Kermit that his legacy is worth trying to save. Once on board, they set out to get the rest of the crew, convince a studio exec to get them time on tv, and fix up the theater and rehearse. All of those things are easier said than done. Most of the Muppets have gone on to their own lives – Fozzie performs with a Muppet cover band (the Moopets), Gonzo is a plumbing magnate, and Animal is in anger therapy. Miss Piggy is miffed at Kermit over the latest stage of their relationship, and has been living in Paris for years. No one wants to put the Muppets on TV because kids don’t know the Muppets. And the studio is a wreck and everyone is rusty from the years off. Things come together despite Tex Richman’s efforts to sabotage, so will the Muppets be able to save their studio?
The opening segments are a bit cheesy, it was uncomfortable at first when everyone started singing and dancing (at this point, the only Muppet is Walter as the regulars appear only on TV or in a fantasy sequence) but things continue and we get sucked into the story, which improves rapidly once the established Muppets begin to appear. The Muppets is like a tidal wave of comedians, building up speed and hilarity as it charges forward. The nostaligia extends to the dozens of throwback references scattered throughout the film, it is the ultimate Easter Egg hunt and I look forward to spotting things I missed on repeat viewings. Background characters who have made little to no appearances since the run of the original show pop up in the background. And like any decent Muppet production, the fourth wall is thoroughly demolished and lame jokes litter the dialogue like beer cans on the side of the road.
The Muppets is more than just the latest franchise reboot, brought back “updated” to appeal to the latest demographics while capitalizing on brand recognition. It’s an attempt to bring back what the Muppets were all about. Jim Henson (as Kermit) once said that his favorite parts of the Muppets were “the times when the Muppets don’t try to be funny.” Because the Muppets are just as much about emotions and heart as they are about random explosions and puppets eating puppets.
Have we forgotten about the Muppets? Is society now just people wanting to watch Punch Teacher or Jersey Shore, with no time for good entertainment? I don’t think so. There’s already a backlash against reality shows and the culture of dumb. Occasionally, good entertainment with good messages win out against the odds.
The theme of the film is Life’s a Happy Song. Even when things get tough, life is still wonderful if you have someone. And the Muppets are a family, so they are never alone. Some of the troubles with Gary and Mary’s relationship is paralleled with the Kermit and Miss Piggy romance. The waiting forever to get proposed to, the being left alone because Gary/Kermit has to take care of a family member’s problem. But it’s not expanded on much besides the basics, which was disappointing.
Since the sale of the Muppets to Disney, they’ve had mixed results. The only thing I can confidently say they’ve achieved is success as a viral video producer. It took established Hollywood fans of the Muppets (Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller) to help kickstart their return in a proper fashion. Just the massive amount of celebrities that were willing to appear shows how much the Muppets are loved. Heck, there were so many cameos that many ended up on the cutting room floor. Disney shoved as much of their corporate synergy that they could into the film, to the point where even Kermit has no idea who some of the cameos are (the kid from Modern Family)
The marketing for the film was phenomenal, the parody trailers and posters kept the film in the buzz zone for months. Though The Muppets will probably be crushed beneath the mighty juggernaut of Twilight Breaking Dawn and it’s allure of shirtless werewolves falling in love with babies, they’re putting up a good show, and not going down without a fight. And the Muppets don’t go down. They aren’t going away. All Moopets stand aside, this happy song is still playing. May this song never end.
Rated 9/10 (tux, cook, separator of matter, hostage host, a hero approaches, flower child, dotcom hero, dentist, electrifying)
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