Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Film Review - THE MUPPETS (2011)

It's hard to describe the nostalgic feeling I have for the muppets because Kermit and company were kind of before my time.  I was born in 1983.  The Muppet Show aired from 1976 to 1981.  The MUPPET MOVIE was released in 1979, and THE MUPPETS TAKE MANHATTAN was released in 1984.  The muppet movie I know best was THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL (1992) which is still an absolute classic.  Though I grew up on Muppet Babies, I know very little about the history of the muppets.  Anyways, it feels weird to have such a nostalgic feeling about characters that are both timeless yet before my time.

There is something wonderfully good and wholesome about the muppets.  Maybe that's where that nostalgic feeling comes from.  They're a reminder of a time without snark or irony or grit... an innocent time when I didn't even know what those words mean.  Maybe the muppets were ingrained on me way before I was capable of thought, so that Kermit's face and voice is an eternal, Pavlovian comfort.

The muppets are back.  The muppets returned to the spotlight.  And the world feels good again.   More after the break.

THE MUPPETS starts with the story Jason Segel's Gary and a new muppet named Walter.  They're siblings, and it's never explained how or why.  The beginning shows the alienated and alone feeling Walter has for being a muppet in a human world (he doesn't grow, and he's inherently silly), but Walter feels comfort and a sense of belonging when watching the Muppet Show.  It's his dream to visit the Muppet Studios in Hollywood.  So, Gary, Gary's fiance' Mary (played with delightful charm by Amy Adams), and Walter visit California and the rundown Muppet Studios.  There, Walter finds out that Tex Richman (a wonderfully, villainous Chris Cooper) intends to destroy Muppet Studios to dig for oil.  It's so silly and contrived that it's actually a great joke.  Walter, Gary and Mary then set off to find Kermit to save the studios.  Kermit gets an amazing reintroduction, and the awe that the three have in his presence mirrored my own reverence at seeing Kermit on the big screen.  And we're also introduced to 80s Robot.  I'm trying to cut back on swearing because it's a Muppets review, but 80s Robot is f*cking hilarious.  After that, Kermit reunites the muppets in a funny montage.  The rest of the movie is how the gang struggles to put on a telethon to raise money to save the theater.

This is a fantastic movie.  A fantastic movie that succeeds on every level.  It finds the perfect balance of nostalgia and new humor to connect to a modern audience.  From the moment that the muppets (the classic ones) hit the screen, I had a smile on my face.  There really is a wholesome innocense that kids and adults alike can enjoy.

Flight of the Conchords' Bret McKenzie served as music supervisor, and the soundtrack features contributions from other artists like Feist and Andrew Bird.  The songs are crazy catchy.  My favorites being the reminiscing, beautiful ballad "Pictures in My Head" and the incredibly upbeat "Life is a Happy Song."  Seriously, it doesn't matter what kind of mood you're in or how alone you feel... It's the sunniest frickin song I've ever heard,  You can especially hear Bret's influence on "Muppet or a Man."  It could EASILY be a Conchords song, and it sounds like Bret sings the part of Muppet Gary.  Another highlight, the barbershop quartet cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit."  ...Yes... They cover a Nirvana song in a muppet movie.  It's just... ridiculous and fun.

As with classic muppet movies, the film had great cameos.  Brilliant cameos.  I've said it on this blog many times, but Dave Grohl is the coolest man in rock in roll.  I won't say who ended up hosting the muppet telethon (as this became a big plot point), but it wasn't Tom Hanks.  They should have had Tom Hanks do it.  I don't know why, but he seems to better capture the goodness of the muppet.  He's like a white, human Kermit.  Neil Patrick Harris made a short cameo, and even he woulda been a better host.  I mean, the host wasn't THAT important to the plot, but if it were real... if they put the show on for real, they should have had a better host.

Random thoughts
- The movie opened with an entertaining TOY STORY short.  My first thought, though, was, "I wonder how this is going to depress me."
- Is anyone up in arms about a frog married to a pig?
- The voice of Miss Piggy was off.  It sounded off.  Frank Oz, the original voice, didn't like the direction of the movie and opted out... It's unfortunate.
- There was a lot of controversy about pupeteers and voices not liking the direction of the movie.. I really can't tell why.
- The movie needed more Pepe The King Prawn and Rizzo the Rat.  They weren't classics, but it seems to me that they've earned the right to be as highly recognized.
- I read that there was a different original ending, and I think it would have been better.  If you've already seen the film, google it, and tell me if you agree.

I can't stress, enough, how much I wish everyone would see this movie... thrice.  I genuinely feel that the world would be a better place.  I saw this film with a packed crowd made up of mostly children, and that's... awesome.  I like that parents are introducing their a new generation to the muppets.  And considering how well it's doing, I hope that this is a new beginning for this classic franchise.

I gave it 8.5 out of 10 Manah Manahs.

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