10 Dec 2011

Muppets movie review

It’s been roughly 65 years since the Muppets first appeared, giving Jim Henson’s creations, collaborators, and artistic descendants plenty of time to learn their strengths. And they don’t disappoint in The Muppets, the latest film from the company, that is seen as a revival for the aging franchise. Every door slam, leaping pig, and flying chicken here is perfectly timed for maximum laughs; and the breezy film seems to squeeze in every musical number, celebrity cameo, and poignant moment necessary before coming to a satisfying ending.

Don’t be fooled by all the pictures of Jason Segal and Amy Adams on the posters- they might have large roles, but the true star of the film is Walter, an orange Muppet with a shock of dark hair and a powder blue suit, who is inexplicably the brother of the very human Gary (Segal).

Walter grows up worshiping the Muppets, but (similar to real life) the group has disbanded and lost their former glory. When he travels to LA and learns that an evil oilman is planning to tear down the Muppets’ old studio, Walter sets out to stage a Muppet reunion performance that will raise enough money to save the day.

The human performances are full of well-cast, punchy cameos. But Adams gives the true standout performance as Gary’s neglected sweetheart Mary, highlighting her musical theater roots. Her singing, dancing, and comedy chops are first class, and well above those of most Hollywood starlets thrust into musicals.

Underneath the save-the-day plot, The Muppets shows a solid internal journey, as Walter struggles to find his place in the world, and Gary realizes that he risks losing Mary if he doesn’t step up. (These plots lead to the showstopping power ballad, “Am I A Man, Or Am I A Muppet?)

Actually, I found all this coming-of-age too cloying in parts. While a real emotional story is what many big budget movies desperately need, the characters here seemed like they couldn’t go five minutes without a pregnant pause or “poignant moment” cued by appropriate piano music. And when did Kermit become such a sad sack? Of course, I still go crazy watching him sword fight in Muppet Treasure Island, so take that into account.

Overall, the movie wins with a mix of kid-friendly antics and smart jokes for grown-ups. And I’m looking forward to much more 80′s Robot in the next movie.

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