Thursday, December 1, 2011

Review: The Muppets

If you were a child anytime between 1976 and the late eighties you watched The Muppet Show. Created by celebrated puppeteer Jim Henson, the series was a gag/variety show that starred such soon to be household names as Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and Fozzy Bear. Think of it as and alternate universe where the stars of SNL are actually puppets. It was the older, more experienced cousin of everyone's favourite, Sesame Street and it was very funny.

Cut to nearly thirty years later and the Muppets are no longer a household name. What's more, an evil oil baron has decided to bulldoze their studio and drill for oil unless the Muppets can raise 10 million dollars in a week. This of course means that after many years of not performing together the gang's all back and trying to work together to save their beloved studio. Now, this to me was a very cleaver plot and one that is easy to follow. There's a threat, everyone has to work together to save something they love. It's clear, it's simple. Unfortunately, that isn't all there is to this plot as writer Jason Segel has written himself into the film as the brother of a lost puppet named Walter who's always known he belonged with the Muppets. And that's where they lost me.

The idea that Walter doesn't fit in at home is okay, it too is a simple concept to follow but the premise that this puppet has grown up in a family full of non-puppets is very strange. It is even bordering on offensive (since presumably the point is so that Walter can go be with his own kind at the end of the film). I would have liked to have seen other puppets in Walter's hometown so that his leaving to join the Muppets is less about his puppet personage so much as about his personality and performance ability. So too is Segel's appearance a little bit much, especially since he's overacting the crap outta his part.

One nice thing that resulted from this odd pairing was a duet in which the brothers lament their status "between worlds" so to speak. Entitled Man or Muppet the song amounts to a musical decision by the brothers to embrace who they each are. In the case of Segel that is to be a man and propose to his girlfriend of 10 years, Mary (played by fan favourite Amy Adams). In Walter's case it is to embrace his desire to perform and take Kermit up on his offer of a spot on the show. Ultimately the part where the film wins is in its final chapter which allows the Muppets to perform their tried and true favourites. This is where they won me over (and presumably where all the other critics were silenced as well). When they're on, the Muppets are simply fantastic and it's worth sitting through the awkward beginning of the film so that you can enjoy the end and remember for a few moments what it was like to watch the show as a child.

With cameos from many celebrities and a few catchy new tunes, this is one you can take your kids to see and who knows, maybe it will inspire you to go back and watch the original shows all over again.

I give it a 3 out of 4 (mostly cause I'm a nostalgic sucker).

1 comment:

  1. I think you were a little too easy on the film, but I still did enjoy it! I was mostly disappointed by Jason Segel's screenplay. I think Walter was a mistake - I think the story needed a little more complexity. And I agree he was overacting... but I think Chris Cooper was worse!