Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Movie Review: The Muppets

The Muppets *** ½
Directed by: James Bobin.
Written by: Jason Segel & Nicholas Stoller.
Starring: Jason Segel (Gary), Amy Adams (Mary), Chris Cooper (Tex Richman), Rashida Jones (Veronica Martin), Steve Whitmire (Kermit / Beaker / Statler / Rizzo / Link Hogthrob / The Newsman), Eric Jacobson (Miss Piggy / Fozzie Bear / Animal / Sam Eagle / Marvin Suggs), Dave Goelz (Gonzo / Dr. Bunsen Honeydew / Zoot / Beauregard / Waldorf / Kermit Moopet), Bill Barretta (Swedish Chef / Rowlf / Dr. Teeth / Pepe the Prawn / Bobo / Muppet Gary), David Rudman (Scooter / Janice / Miss Poogy / Wayne), Matt Vogel (Sgt. Floyd Pepper / Camilla / Sweetums / 80's Robot / Lew Zealand / Uncle Deadly / Roowlf / Crazy Harry), Peter Linz (Walter).

I have nothing but fond memories of The Muppets from my childhood. Watching reruns of the old show, their earlier, better movies are good memories from the past. They have languished in obscurity for a while – a movie studio who didn’t know what to do with them, or if anyone would care that they did anything at all – has kept them off the big screen for more than a decade. Perhaps they felt that The Muppets were too innocent for the cynical times we live in, or perhaps they felt that kids wouldn’t want to see puppets when they could instead see the latest technogical wizardry. But Jason Segel knew there would be an audience if he helped to bring The Muppets back – and I for one am grateful that he did.

This new film captures what is best about The Muppets – their innocence, their irreverent, self refrenetial sense of humor. And it doesn’t try to pretend that The Muppets are the big stars they once were. When we first meet Kermit for example, he’s walking around in a dilapidated mansion right out of Sunset Blvd. He is contacted by Gary (Segel) and his “brother” Walter (a Muppet) because they have just journey from their small town, called Small Town, to LA to take a tour of the Muppet studios, and have found it in disrepair. Even worse, they overhear the plans of rich oil man Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) who is planning on buying the studio to drill for oil underneath it. The only way to save their beloved theatre is to raise $10 million in just two weeks. Walter and Gary think that if Kermit can get the old gang back together and hold a telethon, they just may be able to do it. All of this is much to the chagrin of Gary’s girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) who has been with him for 10 years, and thinks this trip to LA may be when he finally pops the question.

So the old gang is reunited (via montage, which of course The Muppets point out, even if Roowlf is disappointed that he is left out of the montage because his backstory was fascinating – at least to him). They get the whole gang back together – including an irate Miss Piggy who is still angry at Kermit for something that happened years ago, and they try their best to put on a show. Unfortunately, no network wants them – and the one that agrees to have them, insists on a celebrity host. Can they possibly pull it off?

I had a smile on my face pretty much from beginning to end of this movie – it is so innocent, so fun that I couldn’t help myself. The songs – the opening number Life’s a Happy Song, the heartfelt Pictures in My Head and the inspiring Man or Muppet in particular – are all wonderful. The performers behind The Muppets have not lost their step in the decade since The Muppets were on the big screen and the human actors Segel, Adams and Cooper play along with them wonderfully well. Of course, there is an air of nostalgia hanging over The Muppets, which may mean I enjoyed the movie more than perhaps I should have but I didn’t much care. I was just happy to have them back.

1 comment:

  1. I've been Muppet deprived for a long time. I've known of the characters since I was a kid (in the 90s), and I'm not sure exactly where I knew them from (I feel like they made a lot of TV appearances), but I've never really watched anything solely about them. That being said, I'm looking forward to actually seeing this new movie and getting to know them. I would love to know why Miss Piggy is always so angry.