Thursday, November 24, 2011

Movie Review: The Muppets

I'm 24 years old and programming from The Jim Henson Company has been a part of my entire life. I remember when Henson died in 1990, ten days before my third birthday. I watched "Fraggle Rock" and "Muppet Babies" and had Muppet sheets, which I still sleep on, by the way. "Dinosaurs" was required weekly viewing. I watched "The Dark Crystal" in elementary school, though I've still not seen Labyrinth. The Muppets, and all that comes with them, are a part of my identity. So, when I heard that a new Muppet movie was in development, I was apprehensive. I was afraid that this "reboot" would sully the good name of Kermit and Gonzo. Granted, I know that things weren't quite as good after Jim Henson died, but I loved everything that his legacy produced. (Also, my mind was blown when I learned Frank Oz did the voice for both Miss Piggy AND Yoda.) More muppety goodness after the break!
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(Courtesy of IMDB)
I was somewhat comforted when I learned that Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother, Freaks and Geeks) was developing the script and that he was a huge fan of the Muppets. When I began seeing trailers and other marketing, I became excited. Finally, when the movie started (following about 15 minutes of trailers and an awesome Toy Story short) I was absolutely in awe. A smile never left my face the entire movie, even during "Rainbow Connection" when I was crying. "The Muppets" was a sensational movie and invoked the spirit of "Muppets Take Manhattan" or even The Muppet Show. There was innocence and purity, but there was also the occasional dark moment. Above all, this movie will allow a new generation to fall in love with the Muppets.

Segel plays Gary, who along with his strangely Muppetesque brother Gary, grew up idolizing the Muppets. Gary's girlfriend is Mary, portrayed by Amy Adams (Enchanted, Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian), a woman who feels slighted by the relationship of the two Muppet superfans, though no less in love. There are several heartfelt numbers which drive the plot forward. Wonderful celebrity cameos dot the landscape, which I won't share for spoilers sake, just know that they are magical. "Life's a Happy Song" is a theme which recurs throughout the film and is most definitely a jaunty original tune which I can see becoming a part of the Muppet repertoire.

Movie still courtesy of Disney
Parallel to the story of Gary and Mary is the story of Walter, who just wants to find a place in the world. He absolutely idolizes the Muppets and when he's given an opportunity to visit Muppet studios, he jumps at the chance. But the excitement he feels is short lived when he learns of a plot by the rich oil baron Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to tear down the iconic studios. With the help of Gary and Mary, Walter sets off to reunite the "old gang" and help raise the needed funds to allow Kermit et al to save their old stomping grounds. Richman tells Kermit that they're washed up, old news, yesterday's big thing. His opinion is echoed by others in the movie who say that the Muppets are no longer relevant. Without being overly preachy, this speaks to the cynicism of today's television audience. In a time where people are obsessed with reality television, the average viewer is hard to please and even harder to captivate. Gathering around the television used to be a family event, a special time. Today's television has lost that magic.

The original score by Christophe Beck (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel) is accompanied by original songs like "Me Time" and "Muppet or Man" - the latter of which features, hands down, my favorite cameo of the movie. The songs are true to Muppet form and allow the film to stay current, but at the same time bring back the old Muppet magic. The only downfall of the film, in my opinion, was a number by the tycoon Richman. The rap song "Let's Talk About Me" is overreaching and overdone. It tries too hard and is the only portion of the movie which sets this film apart from any of the others of the franchise. One blip in two hours? I'll take it. 

I implore everyone to see this movie. I don't care how old you are, how cynical, how much you think you are above seeing The Muppets, you will not be disappointed. In a theater with over 300 seats, 85% of which was filled, there were toddlers and septuagenarians. The bulk, however, was people just like me, twenty-somethings who have felt the magic of the Muppets since childhood. But when we sat down in the theater, we weren't 78, or 51, or 25, we were all one age. The Muppets was a great equalizer and the point of the film isn't to reboot a franchise, it's about entertainment. I wasn't 24 anymore, I was 4 years old sitting in awe of these fantastic characters and their story was alive for me once more. Ladies and gentleman, the Muppets are back.
Have you seen The Muppets? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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