THE MUPPETS 2011 REVIEW

 

Theme Song by Brian Setzer and owned by Walt Disney Records

Jim Henson got involved with the art of puppeteering when he was in college. After a bunch of odd jobs  doing television commercials with two prominent creations (Kermit the Frog and Rowlf)and having a hand in creating Sesame Street Henson finally got his own show The Muppet Show! It premiered in 1976 and made people laugh around the world. The Muppets became a part of pop culture and had enormous success. The success was so great that a feature film was only natural. The Muppet Movie was a really well done film that embodied the heart and humor of the Muppets and actually told something of substance as opposed to a cash in on the popularity. Other films followed such as the Great Muppet Caper, Muppets Take Manhattan, Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island, and (unfortunately) Muppets from Space. Space signaled the end of the Muppets and they wouldn’t prominently appear in any film outside of Muppetvision 3D (the last project Jim Henson worked on).

As a child born in 1991 the show was a little past my time, but there were reruns. I did watch them and enjoyed them, plus the Muppet movies were being released on VHS so I watched those like crazy as well. As I grew older I sort of drifted away from the Muppets (this was before I became a Disney fan mind you) and I ended up giving away most of the tapes of the films (except Christmas Carol because I really love that one). I have no idea what possessed me to do that! Once I became a Disney fan I saw what a terrible mistake I had made. I may not be as big a fan of the Muppets as Walter and Gary, but I really like those guys. Fast forward about 3-5 years later to when I saw Forgetting Sarah Marshall(funny movie by the way) I was intrigued by Jason Segel’s usage of the Muppet Show theme song. I put that in the back of my head and enjoyed the film. Then I heard it through the Disney Grapevine that a new Muppet movie reboot was being made with Jason Segel writing, starring and producing. Then it suddenly made sense to me. This excitement was only made stronger by the reveal that he was a huge Muppet fan and then I knew the characters were in good hands. I became even more hyped that Amy Adams (loved Enchanted and love her) was going to be in the film. This is now a must see for me. I never really had any doubts about this film just anticipation and when the lights in the theatre dimmed and the opening scene started I said to myself in some way or form “Everything is perfect. It’s falling into place. I can’t seem to wipe this smile off my face.” This is The Muppets (2011)!!!!!!!!

STORY

The story of the film has been around the internet for quite a while and it’s a very straight forward story. Walter is a Muppet with a human brother named Gary and Gary (Segel) invites Walter to go on a trip to LA so he can see the Muppet Studios and it’s combined with the 10th anniversary of Gary and his girlfriend Mary (Adams). Walter finds out that an oil baron (an enjoyably and deliciously evil Chris Cooper) has offered to buy the studios and tear it down to drill for oil. It appears that the only way for the studio to be saved is to raise $10 million. So Walter, Gary and Mary go on a quest to find Kermit and reunite the Muppets to put on one last show to save the studio. This story is very formulaic, contrived and cliché ridden, but it was intended to be that way. The film is self aware enough that it keeps the clichés from distracting the experience and the plot is simple enough so the film now has the freedom to branch out and focus on reuniting the Muppets to do what they do best which is to put on a show and to give us the 3rd greatest gift: laughter.

 

CHARACTERS

The character we know and love are back! The new puppeteers are excellent! These characters haven’t missed a beat and I love how the film holds back and doesn’t give us familiar Muppet faces till about 15 minutes in. Kermit doesn’t appear until about 20 minutes in and by holding back, establishing the plot, and building up the return his appearance means something and they didn’t just shove him or the other characters down our throats which would have been a major bummer for the fans who waited so long to see them again. The human characters were really good giving the Muppets fine people to be around and interact with and even a parallel story that affects Kermit’s relationship with Ms. Piggy. It’s very clear that Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller knows and loves these characters

 

KERMIT THE FROG: performed by Steve Whitmire

The frog is back. Much like Mickey Mouse before Kingdom Hearts and Epic Mickey, Kermit was just a symbol and mascot as opposed to an actual character. His return to the big screen is something to be celebrated (along with everyone else). He’s still the same kind and caring frog and we see a very heartfelt emotional side to Kermit showing that he really loves his friends and that performing is in their blood or felt and with the help of Walter’s kindness and optimism he finds the courage to put on another Muppet Show! The film also doesn’t forget Kermit’s tendency to get stressed out while running the show which is apparent when he’s organizing rehearsals.

 

MISS PIGGY: performed by Eric Jacobson

Everyone’s favorite Diva returns. She still as self assured as ever and still gives Kermit a piece of her mind. Let’s not forget her famous karate chop. HIIIYYAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!. Much like we see a more sincere side to Kermit the same is true for Miss Piggy. The film does an excellent job of examining their relationship and falling out and eventual reconciliation and you really feel for these two and want them together again which makes the Rainbow Connection moment even better.

 

WALTER: performed by Peter Linz

This was a character that even die hard Muppet fans worried about (I wasn’t one of them). The reason is simply when someone new is added to anything fans immediately get suspicious of the character and wonder and doubt if the characters is as good as the original cast. Have no fear fans who haven’t seen it yet because Walter is a fine addition to the Muppet cast. He is a very kind and sweet Muppet that learns to believe in himself and find the place where he belongs which is with the Muppets. He is the reason why the Muppets got back together and is funny in his own right. Great character!

 

FOZZIE BEAR: performed by Eric Jacobson

Fozzie has a fairly prominent role in the film and being that he is the first Muppet to be collected on the road he has the most moments of great character interaction with Kermit and Walter. He is Kermit’s best friend and the film shows this very well with the very heartfelt reunion between the two in Fozzie’s “dressing room”. It makes me wonder why these two best friends never spoke to each other in 10 years. I kinda want the sequel to be a prequel on how the Muppets split up! There’s also a great moment with Walter and Fozzie where Fozzie is showing Walter how to use the rubber chicken and tell god awful jokes.

 

THE OTHER MUPPETS: performed by various

The other Muppets obviously don’t get as much screen time as the aforementioned, but there’s only 1 hour and a half of movie and time needs to be used for plot establishment and resolution plus interaction with human characters and Muppet characters alike. A good percentage of favorites all have their 1-3 moments in the film that are really nice and serve as excellent re introductions to great characters. My favorites are Sweetums running after the car again. Swedish Chef torching the rotten food in the refrigerator is hilariously surly. But my favorite is Sam Eagle, Rowlf, Link Hogthrob, and Beaker singing “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. That is just absolutely hilarious. It’s so goofy and surly with Beaker pulling out the ax and then replacing it with a hairdryer while they shrink Jack Black’s head! Hilarious!!!!!!!!

 

GARY/MARY: performed by Jason Segel and Amy Adams

These are the human leads of the film. They’re very nice and sweet people and you can see that they truly love each other, but as the first song establishes the dependency that Gary and Walter have is a problem in the relationship and that is worsened with the studio in jeopardy because even though she wants to help the Muppets she knows that Gary’s fandom will make him miss their anniversary which prompts her to ask him the question: Are you a man or a Muppet? This ties excellently with Walter’s story of him trying to find his place in the world it’s also Gary who must choose what’s most important to him and the brothers learn to let go. Gary chooses the path of manhood and it’s also this decision that sets an example that Kermit follows when he reconciles with Piggy.

 

Now don’t take this as the human characters have more precedence over the Muppets because that’s not true. The right balance is struck by having the human characters having subplots, but ones that correlate with a Muppet’s subplot. Gary and Mary are onscreen as much as they need to be especially in the beginning because the film needs to establish Walter’s relationship with humans and with Gary especially as well as introduce plot points and relationships that are visited upon throughout the film. The primary role of Gary and Mary is to be the moral support for the Muppets. In fact there’s a line where Kermit says their role “Your coming with me aren’t you? If I’m going to do this I’m gonna need some moral support.” The subplot is revisited at an appropriate time (I’m talking about “Me Party”). It’s when the main plot is already underway and the Muppets are hard at work rehearsing and the scene correlates with Miss Piggy’s fractured relationship with Kermit. The scene doesn’t overstay its welcome and the soundtrack version of the song is slightly longer so it has more relevancy to the relationship of Gary and Mary.

TEX RICHMAN: performed by Chris Cooper

I know a lot of people don’t like this villain, but I think he’s just so much fun and is just entertaining to watch. I love the joke of “Maniacal Laugh!!” I’m totally stealing that joke. You’ll see it in future reviews. People have said that he’s not as effective because the reason he hates the Muppets isn’t explained (In the soundtrack of his song he does explain), but I don’t care about his reason. Some villains you just accept and there’s no real reason for them to have a backstory because it’s not all that important and all you need to know is that he/she is evil. In fact, I know this is sacrilege, but I think he’s more sinister than Doc Hopper. Hopper wanted Kermit to be a spokesperson and didn’t get his way, Richman wants to destroy the Muppets. He wants to humiliate them. He wants their legacy to be destroyed. He wants their work and their achievements forgotten. He wants to replace them with the Moopets and desecrate everything we as fans hold dear about the Muppets. He wants to destroy what the Muppets stand for and what Kermit and company achieved so long ago in the original Muppet movie. As awesomely goofy as he is that makes all the difference.

 

MUSIC

In classic Muppet fashion this film is a full fledged musical with licensed and original songs. I have a feeling at least 2 will be nominated for OSCARS this year. One can only hope.

“Life’s A Happy Song” Music and lyrics by Bret McKenzie

This is my favorite song of the film. It’s ungodly catchy, it establishes the relationships between Walter, Gary and Mary, it establishes problems with Gary and Mary’s relationship, sets up the feel good atmosphere and optimistic feel of the whole film, sets up a contrast with how the rest of the world views entertainment and the Muppets by having Smalltown (I guess Smallville is just down the road since both towns reside in Kansas) be the utopian suburbia and LA being corrupted by the cynicism of modern culture. This one song does all of that. I love it! Most likely pick for OSCAR nod.

“Pictures in My Head” Music and Lyrics by Jeannie Lurie, Aris Archontis and Chen Neeman

This is another OSCAR nod song. This is a very emotional song where Kermit decides whether he should reunite the group and I love the staging and how the pictures come to life and is an excellent scene and is so triumphant and emotional. It just goes to show that you can’t keep a group of performers like that down. One of the best songs in the film.

“Rainbow Connection” (Moopets Version) by Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher (sort of)

This purposefully bad desecration of a beloved Muppet Song is quite depressing and is effective in showing not only the low that Fozzie is experiencing, but the Muppets in general.

“We Built This City” Music and Lyrics by Starship

This is a great song to clean up a theatre to (although with Amy Adams there she could have sung Happy Working Song and it would have been okay). A really entertaining scene and the Muppets are getting back in the saddle. I find it funny that this song is also having the Muppets praise themselves by claiming that the Muppets “built this city” on laughter, variety shows, guest stars, and charm personifying LA as the city of Dreams.

“Me Party” Music and Lyrics by Bret McKenzie and Paul Roeman

I know that many people don’t really think this song fits, but the same thing can be said for god knows how many acclaimed musicals. It’s the film checking in on the Gary/Mary subplot and yes it had taken a slight hiatus since the beginning. I know because when I saw the movie the 2nd time I paid attention. It’s a great way of making a parallel with Kermit/ Piggy relationship and as I said doesn’t overstay its welcome and hold up the plot. Besides it’s Amy Adams singing, I think the Muppets can wait about 2 minutes so she can get a song.

“Let’s talk about Me” Music and Lyrics by Ali Dee Theodore and Brett McKenzie

Okay this is my least favorite song in the film. It doesn’t really add anything or advance anything about Richman (except his hatred for the Muppets in this version of the song) except that he’s rich and evil which both Muppets and audience know. It still is an entertaining and amusing little number and reinforces the contrast between the Muppets and Richman.

“Man Or a Muppet” Music and Lyrics by Bret McKenzie

This is an amusing song that is a turning point in both Walter and Gary’s stories where they decide what path to take and to eventually let go and live their lives where they belong. Sheldon ughh I mean Jim Parsons makes a really cool cameo as Walter’s human image and the song is one that excellently combines humor and emotion to develop these characters to set them up for the finale.

“ The Muppet Show Theme” Music and Lyrics by Sam Pottle and JIM HENSON!!!!!!

The classic theme is back and it’s on the big screen. I did get chills when Kermit came out of the sign and introduced the show and it was a perfect recreation of the opening with Waldorf and Statler’s return to the balcony and I was tapping my foot all the way. LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” Music and Lyrics by Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic

I decided to include this song because it’s just so goofy and funny. It takes an inappropriate song it does an excellent parody of it and it’s just so funny when Sam says “I know a dirty word” to the music so he was censoring himself. I love it!!! (sung by Sam Eagle, Rowlf, Link Hogthrob, and Beaker)

“Rainbow Connection” Music and Lyrics by Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher

Okay this was the moment that made everyone cry. Sorry folks I didn’t cry, but I loved every single solitary second of this scene’s emotional resonance of Kermit and Piggy’s duet and the nostalgia trip. What can you say about this song that hasn’t already been said? It’s a classic and it’s awesome!  ‘Nuff said.

“Life’s a Happy Song” Music and Lyrics by Bret McKenzie

What better way to end this amazing film than by going full circle with a reprise of the first song! The whole cast participates this time around and it’s so catchy and triumphant even though (at this point) they have lost the studio and they’re going to carry on with smile’s on their faces because they have each other and we get a resolution to Kermit/Piggy and Gary/Mary happily ever after. A perfect ending!

 

ARTISTIC PRESENTATION

Thank God this film wasn’t in 3D. That would have ruined the feel and I’m glad that they stuck with 2D (there’s only one Muppet feature that should be  3D and that’s Muppetvision 3D!). The puppeteering is absolutely fantastic! They do an excellent job of bringing these characters to life and the human actors do a very good job interacting with the puppets. There’s very little that I dislike about the film. I did think that some of the jokes weren’t all that funny, but that was only like 2 of them and the others were absolutely hilarious! I kinda agree with Doug Walker about the cop out ending, but either way it works and even he said it was nitpicky.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

As you might have guessed I love this movie!!! It’s definitely the feel good movie of the year and in my opinion one of the best movies of the year!!!!!!! Love this movie!!!!!!!!!! I might see it for a third time if I have money. This is instantly right up there with Muppet Christmas Carol as my favorite Muppet film. As for the original movie I need to see it again because it’s been so long, but I’m sure this one will be right up there as well. The Muppets 2011 is a great love letter to any Muppet fan. See it!!!! Join me next time where I take a trip to Hawaii to review a movie that has an evil genius, the 626th experiment of said evil genius and Elvis!!

 

VERDICT: 5 “maniacal laughs” out of 5

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