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Not Sensational, Inspirational, Celebrational, or Muppetational
5/10 "The Muppets" plays the music and lights the lights, but it's not sensational, inspirational, celebrational, or even muppetational, and that's the most disappointing thing of all. What we have are two movies vying for the same space, neither emerging victorious because they're not handled particularly well. On the one hand, we have a soppy, innocuous love story between Jason Segel and Amy Adams, which is occasionally interrupted by musical numbers that have plenty of singing and dancing but hardly any life. On the other hand, we have the Muppets themselves, which would be fine except that they're almost completely reduced to background scenery and aren't given anything much to do. For all the effort that was put into the sets, the costumes, the special effects, and of course the puppetry, the film lacks the imagination and heart that made most of the previous Muppet films so enjoyable.5 years ago
In the earlier efforts, human actors were essentially supporting players. The filmmakers had enough sense to let the stories unfold from the perspective of the Muppets, all of whom were allowed to develop as characters. This is not the case with this film, which gives ample time to Segel and Adams. They play Gary and Mary, a wholesome, sunny couple from the all-American hamlet of Smalltown, where the population number on the welcome sign fluctuates due to the buses crossing the city limits. Much of the film is spent on their being deeply in love and, of course, on the circumstances that test their emotional fortitude. We know right from the start that their relationship is silly, but the real problem is that it's also unnecessary. It doesn't help that neither Segel nor Adams gives a noteworthy performance. Adams in particular is surprisingly out of place, spending most of her time mugging girlishly.
For their tenth anniversary as boyfriend and girlfriend, Gary decides to take Mary on a trip to Los Angeles. Along for the ride is Gary's brother, Walter, who, for reasons wisely left unexplained, is a puppet (performed by Peter Linz). Mary doesn't mind ... as long as Gary makes time for a romantic dinner. Naturally, Walter is not seeing this from their perspective. Being only three feet tall and made of foam, he always felt like an outsider. He found solace only in watching "The Muppet Show," and in due time, he because the Muppets' biggest fan. His sole purpose in joining Gary and Mary is to take a tour of the Muppet Theater in Hollywood (take note, Angelinos: The Muppet Theater is actually the El Capitan which, incidentally, is where I saw this movie). It turns out to be a shadow of its former self, a dilapidated tourist attraction no one is interested in.
In due time, Walter overhears the wealthy Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), who says he wants to turn the theater into a Muppet museum but has in fact discovered oil underneath and plans on taking it all for himself. The only possible way to save the theater, as stipulated by the Rich and Famous contract Kermit the Frog signed in 1979, is if Kermit raises $10 million by a certain date. And so Walter, Gary, and Mary find Kermit (performed by Steve Whitmire), who now lives in an old, decaying mansion in Bel Air. He decides that his only hope is to track down the rest of the Muppets and, in the tradition of the Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney backyard musicals, put on a show. But is such a thing possible? As a TV executive (Rashida Jones) eventually makes abundantly clear, the Muppets just aren't popular anymore. Under her orders, they must have a celebrity host.
We see some of the Muppets being found. Fozzie (performed by Eric Jacobson) performs in Reno with a mean tribute band called the Moopets, Animal (again Jacobson) is undergoing anger management, Gonzo (performed by Dave Goelz) has become a successful plumbing tycoon, and Miss Piggy (Jacobson yet again) has made a life for herself in Paris as the editor of "Vogue" magazine. The rest are gathered during a montage. What bothers me is that just about none of the Muppets are given their fair share of screen time; they're not characters, but objects for the audience to point at and recognize nostalgically. The only exceptions are Kermit and Miss Piggy, and even then something is missing. For the first time in their decades of being paired together, they have absolutely no chemistry.
Like most Muppet movies, we're treated to a slew of celebrity cameos. These would include Jack Black, Mickey Rooney, Alan Arkin, Neil Patrick Harris, Sarah Silverman, Whoopi Goldberg, John Krasinski, Selena Gomez, Zach Galifianakis, Rico Rodriguez, Jim Parsons, Judd Hirsh, Emily Blunt, and Dave Grohl. If you can think back to 1979's "The Muppet Movie," you'll recall that all of the guest stars were given more to do than flash their faces for a star-crazy audience. They played actual characters. Remember Steve Martin as the irritated waiter? I can count on one hand the guest stars in "The Muppets" who are given a purpose and are developed into anything resembling a personality. There's no reverence, only hype and a lot of one-note jokes. "The Muppets" may find an audience through its harmless tone, bright colors, and broad humor, but its thin plot, shoddy soundtrack, and badly developed characters are unlikely to appease die-hard Muppet fans or anyone in need of a good story.
-- Chris Pandolfi (www.atatheaternearyou.net)
The Most Sensational, Inspirational, Celebrational, Muppetational
10/10 The Muppets is essentially flawless. I know this is a weird way to start a review, but I feel I should just forego formalities and cut to the chase. This year has been a fairly disappointing year for movies, but The Muppets just about makes up for it all by itself. It's an absolutely life-affirming tribute to beloved characters and memories that should have never been allowed to fade into obscurity, and if you care at all about movies you need to see this, as soon as possible.5 years ago
Jason Segel, along with co-writer Nicholas Stoller and director James Bobin have made a film that is just absolutely bursting at the seams with affection towards the Muppets, and that love and passion has instantly rocketed this movie to the very top of the list when it comes to long history of Muppet shows, movies, and even viral videos. The film is one of the funniest movies I've seen in a long time and accomplishes this without being crass or cynical; it's smart, witty, and most importantly, completely heartfelt. Jason Segel with his obvious and undying love for the Muppets is, by all accounts, the most deserving person to be given creative control of the Muppets since Jim Henson himself.
The original Muppet Movie will always be a timeless classic, and it's charm and legacy will likely never be topped by another Muppet movie. However, The Muppets is the closest it has ever come, and, due to the timeliness and poignancy of the story, I would argue that right at this moment it is more relevant and moving than even the 1979 classic. I was unable to stop smiling during the entire running time of the movie, even while tears were coming to my eyes.
I know I'm not really reviewing the movie right now, and I'm more just beaming about how much I loved it, but really, I feel it would be a disservice to go into details about this movie. Simply put, you need to see it, and if you don't you're robbing yourself of a truly extraordinary film experience. This is the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational movie of the year. Go see it. Right now. I mean it, go buy tickets for this weekend, and you can thank me later.
5/10 I wasn't raised on Barbie dolls, or cartoons. I wasn't in love with Duck Tales or The Secret of Nimh (in fact it scared me senseless), but I was raised to love The Muppets. Fozzie the Bear was a safe old friend who always cheered me up, Kermit was my sense of justice and reason, Miss Piggy was an exercise in the unrestrained Id, Gonzo was something I didn't and still don't understand, but he's blue and adorable! The Muppets are incredibly precious to me. And I just LUCKED out, because the newest Muppet movie was made by a fan who took all of that into account and made a film that just celebrated the glory of the Muppets. Sure there were moments of overkill, sure it sometimes got ridiculous, but The Muppets is about more than just the Muppets. It's about yearning for something pure; something innocent without patronizing its audience. This film was really clever, self aware with a great sense of humor with a giant heart. Definitely see it!5 years ago
A loving take on the Muppets
5/10 There are very few of us twenty-somethings who grew up without the Muppets. Between Sesame Street, Muppet Show reruns, and videocassettes of the various Muppet movies, we saw these guys all the time. We even had one or two theatrical releases of our own during the '90s. (My personal favorite of those is The Muppet Christmas Carol, which is still annual holiday viewing.) In recent years, since the very underwhelming Muppets from Space, we've seen them pop up now and again, mostly in similarly underwhelming TV projects and in short (yet hilarious!) YouTube videos. I am quite happy to say that, in this newest movie, the Muppets are back in a big way!5 years ago
The movie starts by introducing us to a new Muppet, Walter, and his strangely human brother Gary. Gary has planned a trip with his girlfriend, Mary, to Los Angeles, and he is taking Walter along to visit the home of his heroes, Muppet Studios. They find the studio to be in disrepair, and hear of an evil plot to destroy it. Can the Muppets, and everything we hold dear about them, be saved? To get my one complaint out of the way, I do feel that this movie was a bit rushed in places. I wanted more time with these awesome characters, and it did feel as if they were trying to get from one place to the next a bit too quickly.
That said, I spent nearly the entire movie with a smile on my face. These are the Muppets that I grew up with, doing what they are best at doing, with that gently edgy humor at which they have always excelled. While there are some moments that are very touching, it is mostly very funny, with lots of nods to The Muppet Show and The Muppet Movie. While new little Muppet fans should enjoy this, it will be much more meaningful to those who have a history with Kermit and Co.
Clearly made with love for Jim Henson and his creations of fur and felt, The Muppets is the most delightful movie I've seen in theaters this year.
The Greatest Possible Addition, and Tribute, to the Series
9/10 The Muppets may quite possibly be one of the best movies of 2011. I don't just mean that as a fan. The Muppets had everything spot on it was clever, entertaining, adorable, heartwarming, and absolutely hilarious. The magical thing though is that The Muppets pleases everybody -- average moviegoers and Muppet purists alike, and that I believe is its greatest triumph. On one side is a modern comedy, chock full of hysterical celebrity cameos and pop culture references. And on the other side is a nostalgic throwback to the Muppets era. Those who remember the old series will unquestionably find delight in seeing their favorite puppets reunite for another big show, literally.5 years ago
Funnily enough, the movie treats the Muppet characters as if they were real life actors, with The Muppets shows and movies being their past careers. The Muppets haven't seen any action in years (a fact also true in real life), and each muppet has taken his/her own path in life with varying degrees of success. When crisis arises, the old troupe is forced to find each other and give it another go.
It is all weaved through a fascinating metanarrative that begs the question, what happens to the Muppets when they aren't The Muppets? After all this time away, can The Muppets make a comeback through a reunion and relive their former glory days? a question ultimately answered by the movie itself.
The film opens with a common puppet named Walter, whose childhood consists of watching The Muppets and dreaming of joining them. His older brother Gary (Jason Segel) extends the invitation to come with him and his girlfriend of 10 years Mary (Amy Adams) to Los Angeles so that he can visit the Muppet studio. Much to his disappointment, the Muppet theater is abandoned and Walter even overhears an oil tycoon's (Chris Cooper) plot to tear down the place. Walter and Gary quickly seek out Kermit the Frog to reunite the Muppet crew and remedy the situation, but all the while Mary is upset that the turn of events is ruining her 10 year anniversary with Gary.
As you can imagine from the premise alone, the movie is a tribute to the Muppets in every sense. It travels respectfully through the old Muppet history, and relives it instead of trying to replace it. In fact, seeing how each one branched off from the group like members of an old band and "grew up" gave, I would say, substantially more character to each Muppet than they ever had before. I think fans will agree that this is the best possible way the muppets could have returned.
Simply put, I can't imagine anyone with a heart not enjoying this film. There's something in it for everybody, especially if you're in the mood for laughter and catchy musical numbers. The creative humor was a breath of fresh air. There is plenty breaking of the fourth wall and oh so much of that lovely deadpan irony and absurdist humor, reminiscent of old comedies like Airplane! The audience in the theater was cracking up almost every other moment, myself included. And while humor is its strong suit, the movie is also an incredibly heartwarming tale of friends that go their separate ways but are still connected through their hearts. Moviegoers and Muppet fans alike, go see this movie!