Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Muppets (2011)

It's time to play the music. It's time to light the lights. It's time to meet the Muppets. But first... it's time to write a review.

The Muppet Show may have been short-lived, airing from 1976-1981, but it's legacy certainly isn't. Jim Henson's wacky conception of the Muppets has since become a part of cultural lore. Before we can even speak as children, we already know who Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy are. Resultant movies, such as the 1975 The Muppet Movie, 1992's The Muppet Christmas Carol, and even the late 80's children's show Muppet Babies have all stemmed from Henson's creation to great success.

Jim Henson died at the age of 53 of organ failure, which resulted from streptococcus. Though he was the voice of many of the Muppets, including Kermit, longtime friend and voice actor Steve Whitmire took over duties as Kermit's voice, and Henson's legacy continued to live on.

So it's understandable that, in 2008, when buzz began circulating that popular comedic actor Jason Segel would be writing a script for a new Muppet movie, that the news was met with excitement by Muppet and movie lovers alike. Segel has a proven track record with his screenwriting, having written and starred in the highly successful 2008 comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Nicholas Stoller, Segel's buddy who directed the film, was also selected to co-write the script with Segel.

Segel is an avid Muppet fan, and in fact, next time you watch Forgetting Sarah Marshall, you may notice during the montage after he returns home from Hawaii, that his character can be seen playing the Muppets theme on the piano.

Walter, Jason Segel and Amy Adams in The Muppets.
Three years later, the movie was released and immediately received critical and commercial success. It's directed by James Bobin, who really is making his major motion picture directorial debut. The movie plays off the notion that the Muppets have been long forgotten. Jason Segel plays Gary, a very jolly man child who humorously is brothers with a Muppet named Walter. Gary's longtime girlfriend, Mary, is played very delightfully by the incandescent Amy Adams, who was an obvious choice for the role.

As a Muppet, Walter finds himself out-of-place in contemporary society. So to help him discover his roots, Gary purchases a ticket for Walter to accompany him and Mary on a trip to Los Angeles, where they can visit the Muppet studio. However, when they get there, they sadly discover that the studio is a rotted and decrepit. During their tour, Walter overhears the plans of oil tycoon Tex Richman, played by Chris Cooper, who states his intention to purchase the studio, only so he can tear it down and drill underneath, where an abundance of oil resides.

The last hope for the Muppets is for Gary, Walter and Mary to seek out the Muppets themselves, and reunite them to put one last final show to raise enough money to save their studio. They start with Kermit, and go Muppet by Muppet until they can round up them all.

The Muppets in travel.
The Muppets is everything that a musical should be. It is cute, adorable, amusing, funny and endearing. Segel and Stoller's script doesn't take itself too seriously. Many jokes are made to parody the film-making process, such as outwardly acknowledging the silliness of singing and dancing in public, and the phrase "travel by map" will become one of your favorite things to say.

Additionally, the music in The Muppets is fantastic. Original songs such as "Man or Muppet," and "Pictures in My Head," are delightful, and of course, you'll also hear Muppet classics like as the original theme as well as Kermit's famous song, "Rainbow Connection."

Segel, Adams and Cooper are all great, but the movie belongs to the Muppets. Watching the live-screen versions of Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzy, Animal, Beaker, Scooter and Waldorf will evoke a huge wave of nostalgia that will remain with you long after the credits roll.

Whether you're a Muppet lover or not, there's very little to not like about the The Muppets. It's certainly directed towards children, but the comedy is intelligent enough that it could appeal to all ages. Also, I mentioned earlier how the film is a comeback movie. Segel's script depicts the Muppets as forgotten and irrelevant, which before this movie, they basically were. With that, the movie carries very real and relatable themes, such as redemption and the importance of friendship.

Jim Henson may be gone, but The Muppets reignites the magic that he conjured when he first created the characters over 30 years ago. Muppet or man, whatever, it doesn't matter, because Segel and Stoller's script brings them to life in the most real of ways.

~ Review by Ddubbs

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