Movie Review - The Muppets

The Muppets are old news, all washed up. Miss Piggy is the new Anna Wintour, Gonzo a successful businessman and Kermit a recluse. They are relics of a bygone era unknown to the Selena Gomez generation. Sure, they've been at the back of many a mind but always at the forefront of one, young Walter.

The basic storyline of The Muppets is somewhat of a commentary on the current state of our felt friends, children of the late-great Jim Henson. This is the first theatrical release from the franchise in a whopping 12 years. Time enough to allow the rise of a new breed of family friendly entertainment in the guise of Justin Bieber, Glee and the aforementioned Gomez. The real test with this movie was to see whether it would appeal to its original audience, Gen X and early Gen Y's, or transcend generations to a broader appeal. It's time to play the music...

There is no denying the fact that I am a Muppet fan and it was a dead certainty that I would enjoy the film. However, it wasn't guaranteed that I would love the film... and I did. With such a beloved franchise things can go one of three ways:
1) It can be passable, due in most part because of your fandom.
2) It can be a disappointment because someone has butchered something so close to your heart.
3) It can be something glorious that captures the essence of the property, transporting you to a time and place in your life that has long since passed.
The Muppets falls squarely into the third category.

The Muppets was written by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, two guys that deserve a great deal more attention than they have previously been allowed. Segel shows us in this film that he's not just the big likeable one in How I Met Your Mother or the guy who gets Mila Kunis in Forgetting Sarah Marshall while Stoller shows that he's not just a Russell Brand wrangler. These guys show a definite love and understanding of the source material. Although possible inconsequential, Segel's character Gary lives with his brother Gary, in fact, they sleep in single beds parallel to each other while Gary's long time girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) lives by herself. This in itself felt as though it would be entirely in Segel's character. It is much more likely that it served better as a plot point but Segel made it feel natural.

Director James Bobin lets his musical and comedic sensibilities shine through with seemingly random musical numbers popping up when you least expect it. The co-creator of Flight of the Conchords also brings along Bret McKenzie as music supervisor which leads to a number of songs absolutely smelling of Conchord with Chris Cooper's "Let's Talk About Me" wreaking of "Hiphopopotamus vs Rhymenoceros". Any relation to the Conchords is a great thing in my opinion. Elsewhere on the soundtrack you'll hear Starship's "We Built This City", a barbershop rendition of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and an all chicken performance of Cee-Lo Green's "Forget You".

There's an absolute onslaught of cameos in this movie, not unlike many other Muppet movies before. Whoopi Goldberg, Zach Galifianakis, Mickey Rooney, Selena Gomez, Dave Grohl and ex-Muppet Show guest star Alan Arkin all play their part albeit in a minimalistic fashion. None of them linger, leaving the main characters in the film to their own devices. Jason Stevens is a guy that we all want to hang out with, a thoroughly likable character who deserves so much more credit, he is undoubtedly one of the most versatile comedic actors around. Amy Adams lets us see her inner freak as she lets loose in some hilarious musical numbers while Chris Cooper plays the cliched bad guy perfectly with a fine balance between being the straight guy while embracing the ludicrous.

My Dad and I would sit and watch The Muppet Show with "very special guest" stars such as Vincent Price, John Cleese, Marty Feldman, Alice Cooper and Mark Hamill. These were the stars that I knew but there were many more that I didn't, personalities that just never made their way to Australian TV screens. This fact was entirely inconsequential because it was Kermit, Fozzie, Floyd Pepper, Dr. Teeth and my personal favourite, Animal that had me watching. I don't remember ever thinking of these characters as puppets. In fact, I never really remember thinking of the characters as characters. The Muppets was a chance to visit old friends and I'm glad to say that they haven't changed a bit. Bobin, Segel and Stoller have created a pitch-perfect return with all of the Muppet sensibilities that you would expect. Excuse my earlier trip down memory lane but I use it as an example of how the Muppets aren't just a franchise, they are a time and a place in so many peoples lives. Based upon what I saw in the film I firmly believe that Bobin, Segel and Stoller would all have their own Muppet memories.

One of my favourite films from 2011, The Muppets is an absolutely wonderful film full of laughter, music and heart. On more than one occasion I found myself tearful. Both because of my own memories and because I wish Mr. Henson was still with us to see this film, I think he would have loved it.


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