Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Movie – The Muppets (2011)

I’m old enough to have watched the original Muppet Show when it was on TV in the late 70s.  It was a lot of fun, but all good things must end and it eventually went off the air.  I saw a couple of the early Muppet movies, but none of the more recent ones.  It had probably been more than 25 years since I had really seen the characters, other than the Bohemian Rhapsody video that was released a couple of years ago.  As I sat and watched this Muppets movie it brought back all the great times watching the show.  I had a smile on my face almost the entire time I was watching the film.

Brothers Gary (co-writer Jason Segel) and Walter (voiced by Peter Linz) grow up together in Smalltown, USA.  Through the years Walter never seems to get any bigger.  One night he discovers The Muppet Show on TV and a lifelong fan is made.  Finally he sees other people like himself.  You see, Walter is also a Muppet.

Gary has been dating Mary (Amy Adams), a shop teacher at the local school, for ten years.  To celebrate they are going to travel to the one place Mary has always dreamed of – Los Angeles.  Gary invites Walter to join them so that Walter can tour the old Muppet Studios.  Mary is a little disappointed, but she doesn’t say anything.

When they get there they find that the old studios are run down and a rich man is going to buy them to revive them, or so he says.  This man, Tex Richman, is played by Chris Cooper.  His real plan is to tear down the studios and drill for oil.  Walter overhears this and tells Gary and Mary.  They try to find Kermit to warn him.  There is one way to save the studio.  The “Rich and Famous Contract” that Kermit signed all those years ago at the end of the first Muppet movie was good for 30 years.  It expires in two days.  There is a clause in it, however, that if the Muppets can come up with 10 million dollars before it expires then they can buy the studios themselves.

All the Muppets have gone their own ways, though, and Kermit seems resigned to that fact.  Walter convinces Kermit to try to get the old gang back together again.  They find Fozzie Bear in a bad lounge act in Reno.  Grover is a businessman who runs a plumbing company.  Bunsen and Beaker are in a science lab.  Scooter is working for Google.  Animal is in an Anger Management class that has taught him to give up the drums.  And Miss Piggy is the plus size editor for Paris Vogue.  All but Miss Piggy agree to come back.  It seems she and Kermit had a falling out a few years ago and they are now estranged.

They go to all the different TV networks to get some time for a telethon to raise the money, but they are told that no one remembers the Muppets anymore.  All people want to see now are reality shows like Punch a Teacher.  Suddenly, Punch a Teacher is sued and the network exec (Rashida Jones) has a two hour block of time two days from now that she has to fill with something.  She gives the Muppets the break they need.  Can they get the theater fixed up, and get a show ready, in only two days?  Can they find a famous host, or will they have to “briefly inconvenience” (aka kidnap) one?  Can they get Miss Piggy to come back?  Can they stay ahead of Tex Richman’s evil plans to stop them?  Even if they do, does anyone remember them anymore? 

Almost everything about this movie harkens back to the style and fun of the original show.  There are lines like “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you just recited an important plot point” and “Wow, that was such an expensive looking explosion!  I can’t believe we had that in the budget.”  There are cameos galore.  I won’t spoil any of them by telling you who, but several of them are quite funny.  There are musical numbers, and not just when they are putting on the show.  In fact, one of the songs, Man or Muppet, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song.  It is up against the song Real in Rio from the film Rio, so it has a 50/50 chance of winning.  The Rio song is catchier, but the Muppets will have nostalgia on their side.  Actually, I liked a couple of other songs in The Muppets better than Man or Muppet.  I’m not sure why that particular song was chosen.  Anyway, see the bottom of this post for the video of this song.

I’m not sure how people too young to remember the Muppets will perceive this movie.  They may think it is corny or they may discover the fun that their parents had when they were kids.  The movie has a number of self-referential jokes about this very thing.  One of the cameos features a recognizable teen who tells them, “I don’t know who you guys are, but my agent told me to get down here.”  Another asks Kermit if he’s a Ninja Turtle.

On the other hand, there are a number of jokes for the older folks.  How about a barbershop quartet of Muppets singing Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit?  Or an “80s Robot” using a modem, complete with annoying modem sound, to search for the other Muppets?  Or a well done reprise of The Rainbow Connection?  Of course, there’s a nod to newer songs, too.  How about the recent song Forget You being clucked by Camilla and her Chickens?  (Maybe this would be more fittingly titled “Cluck You”?)

Jason Segel obviously loved the Muppets himself and he co-wrote a really winning story with Nicholas Stoller.  By the way, this is not a Jason Segel/Amy Adams movie with some Muppets; this is a Muppet movie with Jason Segel and Amy Adams.  These two do have a subplot about how she is disappointed that he is putting Walter’s love of the Muppets ahead of their own relationship, but the main story is about saving the theater.

If you ever loved the Muppets then you have to see this movie.  If you have kids, this is a great film to introduce them to all your old friends.  If you are a young person yourself and are wondering what all the fuss is about, give this film a try and you’ll see.  I highly recommend this movie to everyone.

Chip’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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  1. I think for a much younger audience, such a pre teens, teens, and college kids, wouldn't be as interested as the over 30 crowd. Probably why the film didn't make more than 100 million at the box office. I think it was beat by Twilight on opening weekend.

  2. I was a bit skeptical before seeing this one, but I am so glad I did!! The movie was great, very enjoyable! Adults will like it just as much as the kids.

  3. @Tom - Well, I think Twilight was probably going to beat any movie that opened against it. I do agree that kids would be much more interested in that than in the Muppets.

    @DTG Reviews - I agree. I think if people watch the film they will probably end up liking it. It's getting them to do that that might be hard. The "it's just for kids" stigma can be hard to overcome.

  4. My husband loves the muppets. He really wants to see this one. I can't say I blame him. It got like 90%+ on Amy Adams is always darling. I just adore her.

  5. @msmariah - As you could tell, I certainly enjoyed it. Just a heads up, while Adams does sing a song or two, and she is in many scenes, she is more a supporting character to the story of the Muppets.

  6. The original Muppet Movie, was very charming and it's legacy will never be forgotten. Your movie review makes the newer movie sound very inspirational.

  7. I agree, it's one of the best i've seen lately- sweet, charming, funny, I loved it! I remember going out of the theater with a smile on my face!

  8. @Dawn - It was a very fun time reliving the Muppets.

    @Aziza - Thanks for sharing your story.