Review: The Muppets (2011)
The Muppets is a fun, funny family film in the best tradition of Jim Henson's musical puppets. While relying on the shopworn plot "Let's put on a show!" the film interweaves a new, clever twist which keeps it fresh and allows it to comment on the relationship between people and their puppets, Muppets and their fans.
All your favorite Muppets are here--Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Rowlf, Fozzie Bear, Scooter, Gonzo, Animal--along with some older and newer ones which even more ardent fans might be hard-pressed to pick out of a line-up, plus the aforementioned clever twist character, Walter, a new Muppet.
Walter has grown up with his brother Gary (Jason Segel, very good, and a co-scriptwriter) in Smalltown, USA, as, inexplicably, a Muppet-looking child among humans. Puppets aren't very good at sports or fitting in generally with other children in everyday situations, so Walter feels left out and alone--until he and Gary discover "The Muppet Show" on t.v. Suddenly a huge Muppet fan who imagines joining their crew someday, somehow, Walter finds new ways of fitting in and seeing himself in the world.
While Walter never grows an inch, Gary does grow up and finds a girlfriend, a beautiful, capable shop teacher, Mary (Amy Adams Enchanted, The Fighter, very good as well). Gary and Mary are planning a trip to L.A. for their anniversary, and of course Gary invites Walter along so they can make a sidetrip to Muppet Studios.
Instead of a bustling tourist attraction, however, Walter, Gary and Mary find a nearly abandoned entertainment complex with no Muppets nor evidence of Muppet production anywhere. Walter overhears a conversation about the future of the studios which prompts him and Gary to try to find Kermit so the Muppets can pull together a gig and save their showbiz home from destruction.
Pretty standard-sounding plot there, but the destination is in the journey. As the Muppet gang reunites and Gary's and Mary's anniversary trip gets sidetracked, some very simple but effective emotional tugs-of-war play out among the puppet and human cast and their jokes and musical numbers which make for an entertaining and solid movie (full of celebrity cameos I won't spoil here).
As for the music, classics along with new songs by Bret McKenzie of "Flight of the Conchords," I found it got off to a bit of a slow start, but it builds to two great duet montages between Mary and Miss Piggy and brothers Gary and Walter which bring it all together and reach heights of humor which had me laughing out loud pretty hard, which can be embarrassing. But I didn't mind. "Me Party" and "Man or Muppet," especially "Man or Muppet," are well planned and executed songs and numbers in the right place at the right time. I didn't, frankly, expect anything this funny in the movie, while still fully expecting to be entertained with at least passable Muppet goodness, so they were a very pleasant surprise indeed, and are a large part of what gives the film its heart and overall feeling. I could have done without the rap song and probably the Nirvana cover, but there they are.
I'm not the world's biggest Muppet fan, I admit. Not that I dislike them, I like them very much generally, and watched many episodes of "The Muppet Show" and the cartoon "Muppet Babies" when I was a kid, along with having seen most of their movies and t.v. productions. They're good fun, but I couldn't get canonical about it in a serious nerdy discussion.
Some people will never go see a Muppet movie, some people couldn't be held back with torches and pitchforks, but The Muppets just might please them all. Give 'em a chance if you never have, or if you always do. This one holds up and hits all the right notes. It's really quite good.
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