Friday, May 4, 2012

The Muppets (2011) Review

 The Muppets (2011)

Nostalgia can be a funny thing. Despite being excited that the Muppets were back in some way shape or form, I realized that I haven’t actually seen all that much Muppet media. I only watched the show occasionally, enough to recognize the characters, and I have only seen the “Muppet Christmas Carol” and “Muppet Treasure Island” movies (which I’ve been told are the lesser movies). And as someone who wasn’t as familiar with the Muppets as I had thought, I can happily say that I was very entertained by their big screen comeback.

Plot Synopsis: Since “The Muppet Show” went off the air, the Muppets have gone their separate ways, and oil tycoon Tex Richman wants to demolish the old studio and drill for oil there. On their trip to L.A., brothers Gary and Walter (who is inexplicably a puppet) learn about this plot, team up with Kermit to get the gang together and try to raise the money needed to pay off Richman.

Although the plot is a simple one, it’s executed with enough charm and humor to overcome the familiarity of it. The individual lives that the other Muppets have now provide a lot of comedic material to mine, such as Animal’s anger management group with Jack Black and Fozzie’s band of the Mooppets (trashy knock-offs of the original Muppets). Miss Piggy also is living in Paris now, which soon becomes a “Devil Wears Prada” parody.

While on the outside the Muppets seem like purely children’s material, there is actually a lot of meta humor and in-jokes for older audiences to enjoy too. In fact the adults at my showing were laughing more than the kids were. There are TONS of celebrity cameos here, including Whoopi Goldberg, the previously mentioned Jack Black, and even Mickey Rooney. Many of them feel pointless and unnecessary (I don’t think Neil Patrick Harris had any lines), but there are enough good ones to overcome that.

Also know that the movie is a musical, especially in the first half, so those who are turned off by musicals may not be as entertained as others. I can’t say many of them are memorable, although Gary and Walter’s “Man or a Muppet” was hilarious, but they’re done with enough energy and enthusiasm to be entertaining.

Since the movie is basically set up as a giant love letter to the Muppets and the innocence they brought to television (points are made about how modern media is too cynical and appeals to the lowest common denominator too much), expect all your favorites to get moments to shine. Some may be irritated that newcomer Walter often steals time from the old standbys, but his storyline, in addition to Kermit and Miss Piggy’s relationship, provides the heart that raises this movie above most other fare.

The only character who feels one-dimensional is Mary, who is really just there to create drama with Gary and so actress Amy Adams can sing a few songs (the fact that she is a very good singer certainly helps). The movie also has scenes that border on saccharine, mostly where Jason Segel could’ve toned down his “gee-whiz” attitude. However, I guess that’s the point. The innocence and purity of the Muppets is what makes them and this movie so appealing, and it is definitely worth seeing for both longtime fans and newcomers willing to be won over.

3.5/4    Rating Criteria

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