The Muppets

17 Jan

Title: The Muppets
Year: 2011
Director: James Bobin
Writers: Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller
Starring: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones, Jack Black, Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, Dave Goelz, Peter Linz, Bill Barretta, David Rudman, Matt Vogel, Tyler Bunch, Alan Arkin, Emily Blunt, Zach Galifianakis, Donald Glover, Dave Grohl, Neil Patrick Harris, John Krasinski, Jim Parsons, Kristen Schaal, Sarah Silverman
MPAA Rating: PG, some mild rude humor
Runtime: 103 min
IMDb Rating: 8.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Metacritic: 75

 

I was bound to love The Muppets no matter what. I’m a huge fan of everything Muppet related, whether it’s The Muppet Show or The Muppet Movie or Muppet Vision 3D over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios or just those cute stuffed animal Muppets toys, I love these little creatures. The fact that Jason Segel was spearheading this reboot of the franchise only made my fanboy swell with excitement because he himself is the hugest Muppet fanboy in Hollywood, displaying such a sincere passion about these characters and showing in Forgetting Sarah Marshall that he knew how to make really awesome music sequences with puppets.

Mr. Segel would be starring in this film, and his regular partner in crime, Nicholas Stoller (who wrote and directed both Forgetting Sarah Marshall and its spin-off Get Him to the Greek) would be co-writing it with him, with directing duties falling to James Bobin, co-creator of Flight of the Conchords (which means he knew how to do awesome stuff with nifty little songs), who brought along the star of that series, and one half of the New Zealand comedy duo, Bret McKenzie, as a musical supervisor for this project. Add all of those insanely exciting names to the cast that included names like those of Amy Adams, Rashida Jones and Chris Cooper, alongside every single one of our favorite Muppets (alongside a new one named Walter), as well as a chockfull of cameos from the likes of Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Schaal and Donald Glover, and you could tell this film was going to be sensationally sublime.

Sublime really would be a good word to describe this film. It’s a truly brilliant film, and it’s really one that will be loved by longtime fans of Jim Henson’s creations as well as manage to win a lot of new ones (and, since I’m seeing it nearly two months after its release, we know that’s the case as it’s already grossed over $100 million worldwide), as it manages to have that nostalgic sort of charm for the heartfelt adventures of Kermit and friends as well as be charming in a fresh sort of way, being really smart and having some incredibly catchy tunes that people will surely leave the theaters humming along to. This is a love letter to the good old days of The Muppets, to the childhoods of more than one generation, and, going by on the innocence and not resorting to silly modern kid-oriented cheap tricks, it proposes the idea that today’s children will also be able to grow up with these characters, and that idea alone is worth smiling about.

That really is something I honestly loved about The Muppets. In today’s world of pop culture we’re so used to seeing quite crass things, even in kiddie fare, to seeing offensive jokes, and when not that then the jokes are mostly about poop or stupid sight gags and title puns. I worried this new take on old, good-hearted characters would be damaged by the world we live in; but instead it’s not, it’s just a super good-intentioned, well-mannered and joyful kind of film, and the fact that stuff like that isn’t associated with the world we live in today is but one of the many reasons why we need this film so damn much. These guys are just so damn likable, and there may be a couple of bits that are off about this film, but I don’t even remember them because of how balanced out they were by the ones that really worked, by the second ‘Man or Muppet’ finishes you’ll be head over heels for this film.

It’s just fun, you know, spending time with these guys again. It’s a film that, whether you want to or not, will have you smiling throughout, and not wanting for that smile to go away. The film is about this new Muppet of ours, Walter, who’s just the world’s biggest fan of The Muppets and who, alongside Gary and Mary (the characters of Mr. Segel and Ms. Adams) leaves for Los Angeles on vacation (they all hail from Smalltown, USA). But then they realize that an evil oil businessman from Texas, played perfectly by Chris Cooper, is planning on tearing down Muppet Theater to get some oil that’s discovered down there. So Walter, Gary and Mary embark on a mission to save the Theater, to raise $10 million with a telethon. The first step of that plan is enlisting all the Muppets to come back together, except they’ve all gone their ways apart, so seeing what they’re up to now, and how they get back together is what The Muppets is all about. And it’s too much fun.

That’s also something I liked about this film, the fact that right off the bat it acknowledges that these characters have somewhat outlived their shelf life, the last time they were on theaters being 1999’s Muppets from Space which, even though was an okay film, did really poorly at the box office, not even managing to get back its budget. I liked that self-awareness, I liked seeing these characters not immediately popping up all cheery like nothing had happened but instead seeing Fozzie bear performing with a tribute band in Reno or Animal in an anger management clinic. This is a film that knows these are charming characters, characters that will always be hugely entertaining and that that will be enough to get their younger target audience to fall in love with them even though they weren’t even born the last time they were in theaters, and their older fans will be happy seeing a kids film made not with computer-generated characters but with actual puppets controlled by actual puppeteers.

I loved that, that the people who made this film, Mr. Segel most of all, were such huge fans of the original film and TV shows that they left alone the innocence and charm of both the storylines and the actual employment of puppets. It doesn’t go for smart-ass jokes like, say, the Shrek movies did, it doesn’t try to be hip, it just tries to be an old fashioned kind of fun, appealing to fans that will be flooded by loving memories. I want more Muppets films, I want them to be done by people with hearts in the right places like it was done here, I want to buy the soundtrack to this film right away, just after I re-watch the awesome parody trailers made to promote this film, and maybe watch this one for a second time.

Grade: A

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