Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Muppets - Movie Review

The Muppets
Rated PG for mild rude humor
Moral Rating: 

Thank you Walt Disney Company for getting it right!

When I first heard that Disney was planning a so-called 'reboot' of their lagging Muppets property, I was a bit skeptical. After all, the man who had pitched the idea to the studio and was attached to star was not exactly family friendly. Jason Segel, as likeable an actor as he is, comes from the Judd Apatow raunch-comedy troupe, has written and starred in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and is a current favorite character on tv's "How I Met Your Mother" - which is also not exactly for the kids. I can happily tell you however that Segel's take on "The Muppets" is far from offensive. The film reintroduces The Muppets to a 21st century audience, yet never compromises the character and humor that the long-lived franchise is known for.

In "The Muppets" we are introduced from the very beginning to Gary (Jason Segel) and his brother Walter, a die-hard Muppets fan. We are never given the reason or opportunity to question how or why a puppet and human are brothers, but are asked to simply accept it in the whimsical spirit of The Muppets. Even though Walter is a new character, he is a welcome addition to the franchise and is according to Segel "the crazy, crazy, Muppet fan who grew up with them and they meant so much to him." ( Walter gets the chance of a lifetime when Gary takes him and his girlfriend of 10 years Mary (Amy Adams) to Los Angeles. While Gary intends for the trip to be a getaway and Mary hopes it will lead to a proposal, Walter is simply set on seeing the historic Muppet Studios. Once in LA Walter overhears a plot by the film's villain, Tex Richman (played perfectly by Chris Cooper), to raze the Muppet Studios once their contract expires, giving him access to an oil reserve beneath the property. The only way that this plan can be stopped is for the Muppets to reunite and put on a fundraiser show to raise the 10 millions dollars necessary to renew their contract and save The Muppet Theater.

Walter and Gary share a moment...

While certainly not an original story idea, "The Muppets" pulls off this plot better than any other film I've seen. The entire time I was watching, I was reminded of a much-lesser Disney movie from 2002 based on their "Country Bears" Disney World attraction. Where that film floundered in its own stupidity, Segel's script is witty, fun, and constantly paying homage to "The Muppet Show" and the early years of these characters. Old time fans will be touched by Kermit's song "Pictures in my Head" as he reminisces over the old days, or the presence of "The Rainbow Connection", a classic Muppets musical number. The new songs here start off a bit campy (the audience wasn't sure what to do when Jason Segel burst into song within the first 5 minutes) but as the film progresses, so does the quality of the songs. Bret McKenzie (of Flight of the Conchords fame) did an excellent job writing songs that fit the style of The Muppets. (Check out my personal favorite "Man or Muppet" on iTunes)

While the plot and songs are fine, what audiences truly care to see is the return of their much-loved characters! We discover that Kermit and Miss Piggy have been separated when we first see them, so much of the film is devoted to their (interspecies) relationship. Fozzie Bear and Gonzo fans never fear though, for we see ALL of our favorites in "The Muppets"! While I would have preferred to see more of Beaker, Rizzo the Rat and The Swedish Chef, each character has a role in the fundraiser show. In a wise move, the human characters never overshadow the Muppet characters, with both Gary and Mary moving into supporting roles once our heroes are re-established on screen. Granted, there is something amusing about seeing Jason Segel carry on an earnest conversation with puppets as if they are human. This childlike attitude seems to more than qualify Segel for the job as producer, writer and actor. As a long-time fan of "The Muppets" he treats them fairly, giving the characters the respect they deserve- never having to "reinvent" them. 

On a slightly random note, while you are viewing "The Muppets" keep your eyes open for the many, many celebrity cameos. Some are more prominent (such as Jack Black in a hilarious supporting role) and others are blink-and-you-miss-em fast (Mickey Rooney, Sarah Silverman, Neil Patrick Harris, Whoopi Goldberg, John Krasinski, Selena Gomez among others). Back in the days of "The Muppet Show" the guest celebrities were always a delight, and this proves true today. 

In conclusion, "The Muppets" is a surprise hit at the cinema this Thanksgiving. Jason Segel has created a hilarious, heartwarming film is already receiving rave reviews from critics and movie-goers alike. I commented to my friend as I left the theater that I couldn't remember the last time I had been to a movie that I enjoyed so much where kids made up the majority of the audience. This is indeed one of the great things about "The Muppets" - it is good, clean fun for all ages. Truly funny, touching and definitely worthy of repeat viewings, this movie is a must see. 

Signing out,
The REAL Bowman

Side Note: "The Muppets" had one of the most brilliant ad campaigns that I have seen in a long time, spoofing other major film events of 2011 such as "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", "Breaking Dawn" and "Green Lantern". Check out the preview below....

No comments:

Post a Comment