The Muppets Directed by: James Bobin Cast: Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Amy Adams, Jason Segel, Chris Cooper Running Time: 1 hr 38 mins Rating: PG Release Date: November 23, 2011
PLOT: Walter (voice of Peter Linz) dreams of hanging out with the Muppets, and now with the help of his brother Gary (Segel), they have a chance of bringing Kermit, Miss Piggy and the whole gang together to save Muppet Studios.
WHO'S IT FOR? If you are nostalgic for the Muppets, you'll be thrilled to see this film and hopefully share it with your whole family.
EXPECTATIONS: Having Segel excited to bring the Muppets back to life on the big screen was enough for me to hold out hope that the Muppets could return to the pop culture forefront. That's where they are going, right? I would love a new Muppet movie every three to four years.
ACTORS: Jason Segel as Gary: Even though Segel wrote this, and is the lead human, it's clear he is putting Muppets front and center. That's a great thing, the problem is that he barely does anything for the character of Gary. Sure, that smile and joy is infectious, and referencing that he's actually singing songs is funny, but the character does not have any motivation, to the point where the song, "Man or Muppet" isn't even something I thought he was dealing with. Score: 6
Peter Linz (voice) as Walter: He's new, nervous and terribly excited about the Muppets. He's blind to the growing needs of his brother Gary, even though they spend every second together. He can't wait to help the Muppets save Muppet Studios, but terribly nervous to get on stage and perform during a telethon toward the end of the film. He's the perfect character for kids to identify with and worry for. While he sings "Man or Muppet" it rings true, plus it's funny to see who is the Human Walter. Score: 7
Amy Adams as Mary: Adams is such a nice fit in a Muppet movie. It's easy for this actress to be sweet and sing a few songs. She gets a couple of laughs out of it as well. "Me Party" with her singing along with Miss Piggy gives Adams a chance to show her range as a singer, and get some chuckles as well. Score: 8
Chris Cooper as Tex Richman: What a great villain, complete with maniacal laugh. He's an evil oil man, who wants Muppet Studios for himself so he can drill underneath. There are large gaps in the film where Tex is nowhere to be seen. That's the only issue I have. I am curious if his rap/song "Let's Talk About Me" holds up on multiple views/listens. The first time is amazing. Again, maniacal laugh. Score: 9
The Muppets: It's good to see the old gang. I have to save, normally I feel like Miss Piggy is a little too self-centered, but this time around it was nice to have them focus on her affection for Kermit. Kermit has his typical ups and downs as the leader of the group. I'm going to need to see it again simply because I must have missed some of Fozzie Bear's awful jokes. I didn't feel like there were nearly enough. Gonzo is as crazy as ever. I love how he chooses to end his business and rejoin the Muppets, plus his bowling ball trick that goes wrong during the Telethon is classic "The Muppet Show" stuff. Animal is given a little more dialogue as usual to really fun results. I know Eighties Robot isn't a Muppet, but I think we need to give him honorary status. Only Chris Cooper got more laughs from the new additions in this film. Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Beaker and Swedish Chef get good moments, but Lew Zealand and his boomerang fish are sadly overlooked. Score: 8
TALKING: They reference that they actually sing, plus they break down the fourth wall a couple of times in true Muppet fashion. Little things like traveling "by map" crack me up. I think there are plenty of jokes that only adults will get, but it's never crass. That's an impressive thing to get right. Score: 8
SIGHTS: They could have done a little more with Kermit. I've always been a sucker for the facial contortions Kermit can make, but this time around it felt a little limited. The look of Walter and Gary as brothers is very amusing. The look of Walter dressed up as Kermit for Halloween is hilarious. The telethon theater works on an old-school level and reenacting "The Muppet Show" opening was great. Score: 8
SOUNDS: Most of the songs are completely fun, get stuck in your head, and you can't wait to hear them again. Most of them also move the plot forward, so they don't feel like a waste of time. My favorites are "Life's a Happy Song," "Rainbow Connection," "The Muppet Show Theme," "Man or Muppet" and "Mahna Mahna." Yes, I know three of those are old songs, but part of this film is about enjoying the old, so I didn't mind at all. Score: 9
BEST SCENE: If you're a regular reader, you know I love montages, so when the Muppets announce it would be quicker to regroup during a montage, I was extremely happy with the results, and Rowlf's final joke.
ENDING: Life is a happy song. It is. If you don't believe me simply watch this film all the way to the end (keep in mind when the credits start, there is nothing after).
QUESTIONS: Here are the complete list of cameos from The Muppets: Sarah Silverman, Alan Arkin, Bill Cobs, Jim Parsons, Rashida Jones, Ken Jeong, Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Schaal, Donald Glover, James Carville, Feist, Whoopi Goldberg, Selena Gomez, David Grohl, Neil Patrick Harris, Judd Hirsch, John Krasinski, Rico Rodriguez, Mickey Rooney, Emily Blunt, and Jack Black. Sure, some of those are more than cameos, but almost any human in a Muppet movie feels like a cameo. When I look at the list, it's impressive. When I watched the movie, it didn't feel that impressive, mainly because I feel like they totally blew the "special guest host" of the telethon. We had already been introduced to Black being in the film, therefore he's no longer special. I was absolutely shocked not to see Steve Martin. So my question is this ... Why, Steve? Why?
REWATCHABILITY: I was close to seeing it two days later, but recovering from knee surgery seemed like a better idea. I will probably see the film in theaters a second time, and I will definitely own in on Blu-ray.
Even the sunniest days can have a few clouds in them. That's a line from the film, but it also captures exactly how I feel about The Muppets. For me, to watch a new Muppet movie makes it a very sunny day. It's not a perfect film, yes there are a few clouds. I would have liked one or two more superstars show up. Jason Segel lets the Muppets star, but his character needed a little work, and just like in every musical, not every song works. Now that we're done talking about the clouds, let's get back to the sunshine.
The Muppets is a lesson in nostalgia. When I saw and loved Winnie the Pooh earlier this year, I stressed that you were nostalgic for Pooh whether you knew it or not. Well, in The Muppets they throw nostalgia right in your face and hope it sticks. For me, it absolutely does. Within the movie, the Muppets have been forgotten and they are reminding the people in that movie that the Muppets have a place in your heart.
This might be one of those rare cases where parents will be dragging their kids to a family movie. I hope they do. I want more Muppets ... the Muppets that I remember. Bobin and Segel have given it a great effort, and also given the Muppets the best chance to survive going forward. I'm hoping for more sunny days. And just to make sure we understand each other, sunny = more Muppet movies.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10