“Statler: Is this movie in 3-D?
Waldorf: Nope! The Muppets are as one-dimensional as they’ve always been! “
The muppets haven’t been in the theatrical realm since 1999’s flop Muppets from Space and since then they’ve been reduced to TV movies at best which has left them to fade away into the memory of their now grown up audience. In a fairly daring, but brilliant move Disney finally decided to utilize the muppets property which they acquired over ten years ago to try to rekindle the grown muppets audience as well as bring them to a new generation of viewers. The Muppets promises fun for both the old and the young with plenty of nods to the classic series as well as enough fun gags to hold the attention of this younger generation of viewer. The danger with doing this type of nostalgic throwback movie is that so many movies have failed in the past(Alvin and the Chipmunks, Yogi Bear, The Smurfs) which puts the Muppets in a tough spot. Like these other throwback films The Muppets includes several celebrity cameos as well as a few musical dance numbers. Can the Muppets bring back this memorable and charming cast of characters or does it fall into the same rut as most of the other retro TV show turned movie films?
The story of The Muppets is both a simple and familiar one. The movie opens by introducing us to a muppet named Walter who is not exactly a muppet because apparently he is the brother of Gary(Jason Segal). We get to see these two grow up in an opening montage that shows us Gary grow up and Walter, well staying the same. We learn that when Walter is young he discovers The Muppet Show which he immediately falls in love with. Eventually they both grow older and Gary gets a girlfriend named Mary(Amy Adams). The movie really begins when Gary announces that he and Mary will be going to LA for their 10th anniversary(dating) and Walter is invited so that he can fulfill his lifelong dream to see The Muppets Studio. Once they get there they see that the studio is run down and hardly even has tours anymore. While on the tour Walter wonders off and discovers that millionare Tex Richman(Chris Cooper) is buying the studio and planning to tear it down to drill for oil. Walter has a nervous break down and goes to tell Gary and Mary who both decide to help. The three of them go to Kermit’s mansion to try and enlist his help. Once they convince him to try and raise the money to save the studio the movie plays very much like a “get the gang back together for one last run” type of story.
The movie plays out pretty much how you would expect and its actually been done several times before, but I really didn’t seem to care because of how well it was done and how unique it felt because of this terrific cast of characters. The movie could really be broken down into 3 parts; meeting Gary/Walter, getting the gang back together/rehearsal, and the final act. All three of the acts serve their purpose and I didn’t feel like the film really ever dragged with a short run time of 98 minutes. While the story is simple, basic, and fairly unoriginal; the execution is excellent. The movie is oozing with personality with everything from the cast of muppets, to the rather enjoyable musical numbers, to the very hilarious and self aware sense of humor the muppets have always had. One moment you’ll find yourself in a Broadway musical, the next in a fairly dramatic (yet funny) family flick, and the next you’re listening to the muppets singing a barbershop quartet version of Smells Like Teen Spirit. The movie truly succeeds at being nothing short of entertaining. For anything the movie lacks in originality it more than makes up for in charm, style, and substance. On top of all of this great stuff the movie still has plenty of jokes that break the fourth wall(and come on; who doesn’t fin those at least a little laughable).
The strength of the muppets has always been with the cast of very charming and memorable characters and most of your favorites make it into the movie. That’s right; Kermit, Piggy, Gonzo, and Fozzie Bear all make a return to the big screen and all of them are just as great as you remember them. I believe that the late Jim Henson deserves some credit here for being able to create such a great cast of characters who all have such distinct personalities that stand the test of time over 35 years after their inception(no not 3 layers deep). In a modern cinema full of CGI created characters with little to no personality, *transformers,minions, Madagascar animals* cough, it is great to see that the muppet is still king of memorable and personable characters. Aside from the always fun muppets, we also have the two leads Amy Adams and Jason Segal(who also co-wrote the script) who both do a great job at allowing you to believe that they believe that muppets are living and breathing people. They are also very enjoyable because both of them always come across as if they realize they are in a movie which adds that much more to the humor. The rest of the human cast is made up of celebrity cameos and man there are a bunch of them. The list starts with bigger cameos like Jack Black and goes on all the way down to minor appearances by Zach Galifianakis, Mickey Rooney,Neil Patrick Harris, and even Selena Gomez and Whoopi Goldberg. These celebrity appearances are usually short, but are also well used, memorable, and effective. Generally I am against movies throwing celebrity cameos in them just for the sake of humor, but The Muppets does such a good job at making these moments effective and meaningful which gives it an edge over many movies made in the same vein.
Both the writing and the directing deserve a little bit of a nod as it is these two aspects above everything else that makes this movie work. Without the great and memorable writing the nostalgia would have felt empty, and without the proper vision from the director the movie would have felt stale and unnecessary. I applaud both writer Jason Segal and director James Bobin for being able to properly execute this film which allowed it to fulfill the true potential of the brand.
Overall I think this is an excellent movie for both fans of the older muppets TV show and movies as well as parents who are looking to take their family to an enjoyable film. The movie has enough nostalgic charm and throwback moments to win over the fans of old, but also has enough slapstick and flat out funny writing to keep kids laughing and entertained. The writing, directing, and acting is as good as this movie could have asked for and the characters remain strong to this day. Despite the unoriginality of the story, the movie manages to execute things in a way that will keep the audience laughing hard enough to think anything about it. This movie is a win for both kids an adults. Lastly, Stalter and Waldorf are still freaking hilarious!
The story is something that is very simple and mostly unoriginal. There’s not too much new here that we haven’t seen before, especially in this sub-genre of nostalgic family films. Luckily the movie manages to make everything about this story feel new and entertaining through its excellent execution. The writing is terrific and the musical numbers are both fun and well executed. By the time the credits role its hard to even remember the story had already been done many times before.
The cast of the muppets remains very charming, memorable and as full of personality as it was over 35 years ago when Jim Henson premiered the muppet show. Most of your favorites make a return and all of them are as well written and portrayed as you remember. The fun and energetic chemistry remains just as good today as it has been for years. While there are really only three normal leads; the celebrity cameos more than make up for the lack of a human cast with brief, but effective and memorable appearances. In a modern cinema where new CGI characters rely on flash and fluff; it is nice to see that the personality of the muppets still prevails as the most interesting and entertaining to watch.
Both the directing and the writing of this movie were crucial to the success of this movie because nostalgia can only hold the audience for so long before poor and unoriginal quality becomes evident, and I’m glad to say that both of these categories give the muppets quality worth of their reputation. The movie retains the classic muppet humor while also injecting a modern spin on the characters.
Overall Effectiveness of the Movie: 9
This movie is a family movie and it excels at being so. It has plenty of nostalgic throwbacks which will win over the older viewers and has plenty of slapstick and flat out funny humor for kids to enjoy. I believe that this movie succeeds at showing modern audiences that the muppets are still as relevant today as they’ve ever been. This movie may never win any awards, but I do believe that it did a fantastic job at creating an experience that the whole family can enjoy on one level or another. The characters of the muppets have been entertaining kids for generations and because of this movie it can continue on with the tradition.
Overall Score: 9