Movie Review: The Muppets

Kermit the Frog wallows in his mansion. Fozzie Bear has joined a Muppets cover-band. Gonzo has become a business man and Mrs. Piggy now resides in Paris. If The Muppets is to be believed, this is the fate that has befallen our beloved puppet pals. Created by Jim Henson in 1954, the Muppets are a group of puppet characters whom have starred in countless television episodes, specials, commercials, and feature films. This rag-tag group of lovable creatures burrowed its way into the hearts of millions during the 1970s and ’80s with their unique blend of family-friendly humor and razor-sharp comedic prowess. However, it has been quite a long time since the Muppets have existed beyond the type of “do you remember when” nostalgia which has engulfed most cultural items from the ’80s.

Jason Segel and Amy Adams star in The Muppets

That is, until now. With their return to the silver screen, simply titled The Muppets, Kermit and co. have once again returned to relevancy. The film begins by introducing a new character into Muppet lore, a young Muppet named Walter, who just happens to be the world’s biggest Muppet fan. Along with his brother, Gary (Jason Segel), and Gary’s girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams), Walter travels to Los Angeles in order to meet his heroes and tour the famous Muppet Studios. However, upon his arrival, Walter is disheartened to find Muppets Studios in disarray. To make matters worse, an evil businessman by the name of Tex Richman has made plans to destroy the studio so that he can drill for oil underneath it. True to the Muppets’ inspirational form, Walter rises to the occasion and takes it upon himself to reunite the old gang and save Muppet Studios.

Much of the credit for the The Muppets’ success is due to writer/star Jason Segel. After displaying his affinity for puppetry in 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall (who could forget the Dracula Musical?), Segel has made good on his promise to revive the Muppets while also retaining all the charm and smarts of Jim Henson’s original productions. Segel had expressed interest in writing a Muppets film for quite a while and seems to have taken the responsibility of carrying the torch quite seriously. The film is an absolute pleasure to watch, both for children and parents. In fact, I would imagine that adults would actually enjoy The Muppets more than children, on account of its meta sense of storytelling and frequent references to the Muppets of yore. The film is littered with Hollywood stars, including the aforementioned Segel and Adams, Jack Black, Rashida Jones, Alan Arkin, Zach Galifianakis, Whoopi Goldberg, Neil Patrick Harris, and many others. In addition, many old Muppet fan-favorites have returned, including Animal, Dr. Teeth, Sam the Eagle, Fozzie Bear, and Gonzo.

Although the question “Why revive the Muppets at all?” is a valid one, it’s also one that’s answered many times over throughout the course of the film. Segel and directer James Bobin were well aware that concerns might arise over the rebooting of a franchise with fans as loyal as those of the Muppets. However, one would be hard pressed to find a cynic walking out of the theater after having seen The Muppets. Simply put, the film has the endearing quality of making its audience smile for 98 minutes straight, a trait which seems to have become a rarity in the cinematic landscape as of late. One source of the film’s offbeat charm is its soundtrack, and its musical supervisor, Bret McKenzie. Some might remember McKenzie as one half of the folk-comedy duo, Flight of The Conchords. Thankfully, McKenzie transferred the same type of irreverent, odd, but ultimately endearing humor which made Flight of The Conchords so successful. Highlights include a cover of Starship’s “We Built This City,” new song “Life’s a Happy Song,” and the return of the classic “Rainbow Connection”.

Although The Muppets is certainly not the greatest Muppets-related film of all time (that accolade would have to go to The Muppet Christmas Carol in my book), it succeeds in its intention of reviving a franchise which seemed to be on the verge of fading away. Much has changed since Kermit first serenaded us in 1955. However, it is credit to the Muppets’ everlasting appeal that “Rainbow Connection” still sounds, and feels, wonderfully delightful and wholly inspiring.

–Ben Klein, Editor in Chief 

Posted by on December 7, 2011. Filed under Arts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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