Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Muppets (2011)

Seen: At the Clifton Common AMC/Loews, in Clifton, NJ. And again at the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square.

When the mere mention of a certain property can bring a smile to my face and a little bit of the warm fuzzies to my heart, it's probably something special. I didn't really realize that The Muppets were one of those properties until I started hearing more about its newest incarnation, which brought back memories of watching the films when I was a kid- especially Muppet Treasure Island-, listening to the Christmas soundtrack with John Denver, and oddly enough, Muppet Babies. Focusing on long-time Muppet fans Gary (Jason Segel, who also co-wrote the script) and his brother Walter (voiced by Peter Linz), the story seeks to re-unite the Muppets after they've been separated for years. They need to put on one more show to raise the money to buy back their old television studio from evil oil tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), who plans to destroy it. Gary's girlfriend of 10 years Mary (Amy Adams) is there too, but mostly forgotten.

With contagious ebullience and obvious reverence for the characters, The Muppets is entertaining as hell and legitimately funny. Plus it's a musical! Plus it's got... muppets! Jason Segel is having the time of his life as Gary, an aw-shucks good guy who sings, dances (sort of), and interacts with some of the cutest puppets in show business. He's torn between his human girlfriend and muppet brother, wanting to be a part of both worlds. Walter, on the other hand, has never really fit in and longs to be a part of his favorite group. They make a cute team, especially with Adams along to lend her own inherent adorability to things. And the songs... OH THE SONGS! Brett McKenzie (one half of Flight of the Conchords) gives us some downright fantastic tunes here, especially "Life's a Happy Song", which has become the only song I ever want to listen to for the rest of my life.

Though the script is funny and appropriately self-aware, it does have issues. The middle section drags as the main plot meanders around its characters, unsure where they're going to end up despite the cookie-cutter structure. There are also a few moments that just flat-out don't work, most notably the Cee-Lo chicken song (shudder) and the Chris Cooper rap (double shudder). They feel out of place and irrelevant to the type of humor and music the Muppets are associated with. Also Amy Adams' character is super under-written and complainy. Which I guess is no surprise considering the writing team.

The thing is though that every time I saw a problem, I was able to look past it because I was otherwise so delighted with the proceedings. The Muppets themselves inspire a certain warmth and friendliness, they're just so genuine. And for the most part their characters remain true to their origins, full of humor and the good kind of schmaltz. As a whole the film is so cute and goofy, though flawed, with lots of cool cameos and catchy musical numbers and flailing puppets. That works for me!

4/5

Pair This Movie With: Of course the original Muppet Movie is a good one, or whatever your favorite Muppet venture is. At times I was also reminded of Enchanted and The Blues Brothers. Personally I followed my first viewing with various clips of The Muppet Show on youtube.

9 comments:

  1. It's funny, I also made the Enchanted/Blues Brothers connection. The Muppets is basically what you get when you combine the plot of The Blues Brothers with the amazing warmth and charm of Enchanted. It's so much light fluffy fun, and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

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  2. It's not the best movie of the year - it's not even my favorite - but it'd be hard to think of one that made me feel any lighter and happier as I bounced out of the theater.

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  3. Longtime Muppet fans will undoubtedly have more fun than young ones, but for the most part, it's a witty, delightful romp, that shows you that you can still be funny, without ever being mean still in 2011. Good review.

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  4. awww...very cute. really interested to see this.

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  5. Haha I can't wait to see this, it's going to be amazing! Muppets can bring a smile to anyones face!

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  6. Im gonna see it this weekend! Glad to hear that this film attempts to capture what The Muppets are all about, happy songs, fuzzy colorful characters and comedy. Looking forward to it.

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  7. Loved it. A great revival of the wonderful franchise!I hope it opens the door for more Muppet movies and that they stick close to the Original spirit

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  8. I was very relieved when I saw this movie. It's not perfect but it does retain a lot of the original Muppet spirit.

    Here's my little review, hehe:

    http://herald7.wordpress.com/2011/12/04/go-see-the-muppets-2011/

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