Jan 11, 2012

Film Review: The Muppets

Here is Tableau Your Mind’s very late review of The Muppets:

The Lovers, The Dreamers, and Me (not in order)
Why review the Muppet film now, you may ask, when it's been almost 2 months since it entered into theaters? The answer is multi-faceted, but it boils down to this: the film lingers in
our minds, and I drew (and commissioned children to draw) a few photos and was damned if I was going to waste them.

The plot of the film, like most Muppet pictures, is relatively simple. The Muppets must join together to save the The Muppet Show theater from being destroyed by oil tycoon Tex Richman. But the Muppets have had a falling out and worry that there won't be anyone to care about them anymore. It's up to Gary (Jason Segel) and his Muppet brother Walter to save the day, even if that means Gary compromises his relationship with Mary (Amy Adams) in the process.

The film, like all good Jim Henson films that precede it, is incredibly depressing. More winky and nudgy than even the pretty meta former installments, the characters practically destroy the fourth wall. Even when the characters aren't actually talking to the audience, though, the film still seems like it's yelling at them, asking, “Why have you forgotten the Muppets? The disrepair of the theater and the discord among the Muppets is your fault. YOU forgot THEM, not the other way around!”

And it's true. Despite the prevalence of Sesame Street viral videos, the age of Jim Henson has long since passed. Are they still relevant but have simply been forgotten, or have the Muppets been forgotten because the values they extol are so out of date, too sincere for today's generation of children? The film tries to prove the former, and for the most part it succeeds. The mission statement of the film is something along the lines of 'prove that the Muppets still matter' - it can be a bit heavy-handed, and it sometimes seems like the film is trying too hard, but the message is sent.

The other problem with the film is that the main story revolves around Gary and his romantic and familial exploits. As a colleague of mine once said, humans are for cameos, not story. As Muppet-y as they are, Adams and Segel still aren't Muppets. All the adorable mugging and cute Anthropologie outfits in the world can't change that.

These are gripes in a film that is otherwise really strong and lovable. What this film succeeds at, even more than the much-loved Toy Story series, is bringing out people’s inner children - despite my jaded exterior, I couldn't help but root for those damn felt monsters right along with my fellow theater goers (see first picture). The music is tight, the humor is top notch, and Jack Black hasn't been this funny since High Fidelity. Perhaps the next movie could just dial down the human, dial up the Muppet.

Film grade: A-

As to who has the best cameo, I’m going to go with Whoopi, just because it’s always great when Whoopi pops into a Muppet movie. That woman always delivers.
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