Friday, November 25, 2011
The Muppets, as always, are a comedy/musical/self-parody group delivering laughs and entertainment to all. Modern day Vaudeville with puppets, basically. Since I'm completely out of my depth reviewing a comedy, I guess I'll use this paragraph to describe what bits of the Muppets I've personally experienced. When in doubt, be egotistical, I say. So I saw a couple of the movies, particularly the ones that came out when I saw kid "Muppets Treasure Island" and "Muppets Christmas Carol". They're fine movies, sorta mediocre but fun enough, I guess. The 70s show is what I really recommend, though. Its amazingly clever, very funny, and full of great slices of old-timey 70s entertainment. I've only seen a pile of the original show's episodes (I started out with the Star Wars episode and worked my way down), but I think it really is a great bit of humor, even forty years later.
What this new Muppet movie brings to the table is actually surprisingly little in terms of an original take on the Muppets. There is a new storyline with human characters plus a new muppet sewn in, but they're not the story. They're part of a small ensemble cast out to save the Muppets Theatre from an evil oil magnate named, Tex "Blatant Name" Richman. Its all extremely old-school, even if big name actors Jason Segel and Amy Adams are in the mix. "The Muppets" is a warm-hearted charming retread of a classic series, just like Disney's earlier movie this year, "Winnie the Pooh". Both films were made entirely out of love for their franchise. Which is why, of course, they're both some of the best movies of 2011. "The Muppets" is great.
Personally I thought all the trailers for "the Muppets" looked very good right up until today, but I had my niggling doubts. Jason Seigel and Amy Adams are all over the trailers, making me wonder if the film makers were actually interesting in making a Muppets movie, or just using the license to make some quick bullshit for a quick buck. Compare to "Alvin and the Chipmunks" recent live-action movies, which are both abominably bad and will soon be joined by a third movie which looks even worse. Those aren't movies, they're scams to fleece money of stupid parents' wallets while being just barely artificially entertaining enough to keep the kids from talking for two hours. Why else do kids movies exist? To shut the kids up. But luckily "the Muppets" was actually written by Jason Segel himself, and he obviously loves the intellectual property he's working with, because this movie was wonderful.
I have to commend Jason Segel for giving himself such a secondary role in this movie. He could have stolen the entire spotlight, made this a human movie with Muppets in the background, and gone home with a fat paycheck. But he didn't. He's one of at least four or five prominent characters all of whom manage to complete their storylines while working to save the Muppets name. Walter is a Muppet growing up in Smalltown, Kansas with his big brother, Jason Segel. Because he's a Muppet in a human town, he immediately falls in love with the old Muppets TV show and is there biggest fan. He eventually learns to find his place as one of the performers on a revived Muppets group. Jason Segel himself is the boyfriend to Amy Adams, juggling his protectiveness of his little brother for his attention to his girlfriend. And then there's Kermit, for the eightieth time working up to re-getting Miss Piggy.
Because this is the Muppets, the movie is a mixture of humor of musical numbers. We got a few old classics like Rainbow Connection, but there's also a few good new songs, like Life's a Happy Song, the opening and ending theme. The jokes are a lot of fun, like how Gonzo decides to blow up the extremely successful plumbing factory he's built for no particular reason when he rejoins the Muppets. Chris Cooper, as the villain, plays it up super cheesy and cliched, but instead of actually doing an evil laugh he just says "maniacal laugh, maniacal laugh, maniacal laugh".
Curiously, me and my family found we were the ones laughing the hardest at this movie. The rest of the audience was stoned and asleep, I think. Which is odd, since they had their kids with them.
I guess if I must complain about anything, Rizzo Rat really did not have any lines at all in this movie. That annoyed me, since he's usually in the top tier of Muppets in the recent movies, and I really like him. Um... there's also a lot of Jack Black, but he's tied up most of the time, so he can't be too annoying. In the end he gets kidnapped by hobos, which interestingly is exactly what I want to happen to him in real life. The worst part of "the Muppets" though, is this huge irritating "Cars 2" poster they keep showing over the Muppets theatre. Don't remind me of that movie, I'm trying to enjoy myself here.
So what positive things are there to say about this movie that I haven't said already? Didn't I tell you to see this movie in the first paragraph? What the Hell are you doing still reading me? I know for a fact that I can't be as entertaining as "the Muppets" was. Get off this blog, go watch this movie.
* The remaining 3% is a statistic eerily similar to the 4% of critics who gave Adam Sandler's movie (if you can call it that) "Jack and Jill", a positive review. I have no problem believing that three people did not like "the Muppets", but I will never believe that three separate sober human beings with functioning nervous systems who actually sat through every second of "Jack and Jill" enjoyed that movie.