Movie Reviews

The Muppets

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Movie Details: View here

Cast:
Jason Segel as Gary
Amy Adams as Mary
Chris Cooper as Tex Richman
Rashida Jones as CDE Executive
Steve Whitmire as Kermit / Beaker / Statler / Rizzo (voice)
Eric Jacobson as Miss Piggy / Fozzie Bear / Animal / Sam Eagle / Marvin Suggs (voice)
Dave Goelz as Gonzo / Dr. Bunsen Honeydew / Zoot / Beauregard / Waldorf / Kermit Moopet (voice)
Bill Barretta as Swedish Chef / Rowlf / Dr. Teeth / Pepe the Prawn / Bobo / Fozzie Moopet (voice)
David Rudman as Scooter / Janice / Miss Poogy (voice)
Matt Vogel as Sgt. Floyd Pepper / Camilla / Sweetums / '80s Robot / Lew Zealand / Uncle Deadly / Roowlf / Crazy Harry (voice)
Peter Linz as Walter (voice)
Alan Arkin as Tour Guide
Bill Cobbs as Grandfather
Zach Galifianakis as Hobo Joe
Ken Jeong as 'Punch Teacher' Host

Directed by James Bobin

Summary:
Fun songs, great humor, and a lot of entertaining cameos make "The Muppets" a fun movie for both adults and children. It's a good revitalization of the Muppets franchise.

Story:
Even though Gary is human and Walter is a puppet, they're as close as brothers can be. They live together, dress alike, and both idolize the Muppets. They even travel together to Los Angeles for Gary's anniversary trip with his girlfriend Mary (which she's mostly cool with despite the fact that three's a crowd). It's on that trip that they take the opportunity to visit the Muppets Studios tour. But when they get there, they discover that it is run down and a shadow of its former self. Even worse, Walter discovers that the evil oil executive Tex Richman plans to destroy the studios and drill for oil on the site (even in California). Now determined to save the Muppets theater, Walter, Gary, and Mary undertake a quest to reunite the Muppets and raise $10 million in a telethon to save the historic site. But as you might expect, this may be easier said than done!

"The Muppets" is rated PG for some mild rude humor.

What Worked:
I'm a longtime fan of The Muppets. I watched every episode of "The Muppet Show," I saw all of the original Muppet movies when they hit theaters, and I was raised on Sesame Street. So I completely understand Jason Segel's fondness for the characters and desire to restore them to their former glory. And that, after all, is the theme of the movie - getting the band back together.

Segel and company did practically every step right in reviving the Muppet franchise. First of all, they brought back the wit and humor that made it appeal to both kids and adults. A good example is seeing Animal in anger management. Kids enjoy his antics and trying to restrain his compulsive desire to play drums. Adults appreciate the irony of the situation and his celebrity sponsor. Later in the film three stars show up at the telethon to support the Muppets. Kermit greets them with, "It's Whoopi Goldberg and Selena Gomez and... you!" Like most adults, you may vaguely recognize the young boy from a Disney Channel show. And like Kermit, you probably can't name him while the children in the audience can. So it's another example where the kids get a laugh and so do the adults. Then there are more subtle jokes. In one scene, every time the camera cuts away, more and more Muppets inexplicably appear in the background. Nobody notes it and nobody even mentions it, even when there's an enormous blue Muppet suddenly there. The whole movie is filled with great moments like that.

The other good step they made was giving proper attention to the music. Bret McKenzie from "Flight of the Conchords" was music supervisor and his talent really shows in the writing. The tunes are funny and showcase both the talents of the Muppets and the human performers. Most notable is "Life's A Happy Song" which begins and ends the film. Also fun is "Man or Muppet" which features a rather unexpected cameo by the human version of Walter. But McKenzie's crowning achievement is a hilarious rap that comes out of absolutely nowhere from Chris Cooper. "Let's Talk About Me" is probably the best villain song to come along since Gaston's song from "Beauty and the Beast." Also memorable is "Pictures in My Head" sung by Kermit and written by Jeannie Lurie, Aris Archontis and Chen Neeman. And while the movie is jam packed with original songs, there are a few familiar favorites here, too. We get "Me And Julio Down by the Schoolyard" by Paul Simon, "We Built This City" by Starship, a chicken version of "Forget You," and a barbershop quartet version of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." There is something guaranteed to get your toe tapping here no matter what your musical tastes are.

The other thing Segel and crew did right was keeping a few tips of the hat back to the original films. We get a duet version of "Rainbow Connection" between Miss Piggy and Kermit. We also get a great recreation of the opening to "The Muppet Show" seen from new angles. There are a few other surprises along the way. And one of the biggest treats of the original films was the cameos by a variety of stars. That is done again here with all sorts of recognizable faces from your favorite movies and TV shows. I don't want to spoil many surprises here, but there are hilarious cameos by stars from "Community," "Parks and Recreation," "The Big Bang Theory," "The Office" and more. Every one of them that appear on the screen are funny and none overstay their welcome.

All of the Muppets return in top form. I'm still amazed at how closely Eric Jacobson mimics Frank Oz's version of Miss Piggy and Fozzie. And Kermit's still Kermit, Animal's still Animal, and Gonzo is still Gonzo. As for the human performers, Jason Segel seems to be having the time of his life as Gary. He seems to have a perpetual grin on his face. And Amy Adams is excellent as Mary. She comes across as so sweet and innocent, then she'll come out of left field with some funny comment or seemingly out of character song. And then Chris Cooper makes a great villain as Tex Richman, especially with his previously-mentioned evil rap. Finally, we have Peter Linz added to the cast as the new Muppet Walter. While it is a difficult task to integrate a new Muppet into the classic cast, they do a pretty good job of it. He's funny and his ultra-fanboy persona makes him endearing to audiences.

Also attached to the beginning of "The Muppets" is a new Toy Story short. It features Buzz Lightyear accidentally being left at a fast food restaurant and encountering a group of leftover Happy Meal toys. This is a really clever story since it explores a corner of the toy world that hasn't been seen yet. We get to see all sorts of ridiculous rejected toys celebrating movies or passing TV fads. There's even a cameo by a Condorman toy. I loved Disney's "Condorman" as a kid, so I was glad to see he may be gone but he's not forgotten! As fun as the whole short is, it's a tad ironic considering that Disney pulled all of their Happy Meal promotions from McDonald's because they didn't want to be associated with fast food anymore. Yet here we have a Disney cartoon celebrating it. Go figure. Anyway, this is a great lead into "The Muppets."

What Didn't Work:
If I had to knock "The Muppets" for anything, it's nitpicking, but I did feel that they missed a few good opportunities here and there. For example, Animal does his best to resist playing drums through the whole film. It is emphasized so much that you expect the mother of all drum solos when he inevitably starts drumming again. Yet when he does, you're left saying, "That was nice, but was that really it?" The same goes for Walter's act in the Muppet telethon. You expect him to have the ultimate Muppet act, but when he finally shows off his talent it's a tad underwhelming. Then the finale of the film is a little bit of a letdown, too.

I also have to add that though I really enjoyed the songs in the film and I thought they were cleverly written, none of them will be lasting classics. When you left the first Muppet movie, you were left singing "The Rainbow Connection" and "Moving Right Along." And as fun as "Life's A Happy Song" is, nobody's going to be singing it in 30 years. But that's probably unfair. The creators of "The Muppets" had incredibly big shoes to fill and they did a great job.

One last nitpick - where was the obligatory Sesame Street character cameo? This movie needed one to be complete.

The Bottom Line:
"The Muppets" is one of those rare family films that are entertaining for both adults and kids. Adults that grew up on the Muppets will love revisiting them and kids who haven't really seen them before will be thoroughly entertained. You'll walk out of the theater singing "Mahna Mahna."

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