Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Muppets (2011)

Title: The Muppets (2011)

Director: James Bobin

Cast: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper


Of course The Film Connoisseur was going to review the new Muppet movie, I grew with these crazy characters, and by that I mean I watched the show on television back in the 70’s, when it was just about the coolest show on earth. The Muppets were really something back then, they even made it all the way to theaters, with three pretty darn good movies. The Muppet Movie (1979), The Great Muppet Caper (1981) and The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984). These first three movies were Muppet films orchestrated by the original creator of The Muppets, Jim Henson (and his right hand and partner in crime Frank Oz) and for that alone they are the ones that matter the most to me. These are the ones that really have that true ‘Muppet’ feeling to them; they had the most Jim Henson and Frank Oz in them. Every other Muppet film that’s come afterwards - with very few exceptions- hasn’t had that magic to them.  

I guess a lot of the magic behind The Muppets came from the folks doing the puppeteering. Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz…these were guys who puppeteered and voiced these characters for years and years! But then came the death of Jim Henson, and it’s as if The Muppets had lost their father, their creator. Brian Henson (Jim Henson’s son) took the reins of The Muppets for a while there. He directed a couple of the Muppet movies like A Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) and Muppet Treasure Island (1996), the last two good Muppet movies in my book. A Muppet Christmas Carol in my opinion had a lot of that Muppet magic infused into it. It was a Muppet movie that still ‘had it’, and honestly, it’s the one I watch the most, I love that one! Muppets from Space (1999) was alright, but nothing out of this world. And don’t even get me started on the abortion that was The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz (2005); that one was a real waste of celluloid, an embarrassment. Thing is that The Muppets now belong to Disney, who seem to be gobbling up every property they can pick up. Hell, even Marvel Comics is a Disney property these days! And now so are The Muppets. Would Disney treat The Muppets with the dignity and respect they deserve? Considering they are so beloved by people everywhere? How was this new Muppet movie?

With this new movie, what Disney was aiming to do was present The Muppets to a whole new generation of kids with a colorful, happy, shinny and new sing-a-long of a movie. At the same time, they went with the nostalgia factor and tried to please all those Muppet fans from around the world by making a film that pays respects to these beloved characters. And they did just that. This new Muppet movie is an explosion of happiness, I dare you not to have a smile on your face the whole time! The movie presents us with the idea that the world has forgotten about The Muppets who were once famous and had their own variety show on television. Their fame has waded and they’ve all gone on with their lives. Kermit has retired and lives alone in his mansion, Mrs. Piggy works for a fashion magazine in Paris, Gonzo has his toilet making company, Fozzy sings in a Muppets Cover Band, they’ve all forgotten who they used to be together and have moved on. But something is about to bring them together: a greedy businessman wants to buy The Muppet Studios so that he can destroy it and dig for oil. Fortunately, the contract states that if The Muppets can make 10 million on their own, then they can save the studio and not sell it to the greedy business guy! And so, the Muppets are off to resurrect their television show so they can make their 10 million dollars and save The Muppet Studios! Will they achieve their goal?

The biggest worry I had was that this new film wasn’t going to be special, that it wasn’t going to have that Muppet magic. To be honest, the movie did alright. I mean, it wasn’t completely magical, but it did manage to keep a smile on my face for most of its running time. They got one thing absolutely right, they made it into a musical, with people dancing and singing with a smile on their faces all the time. Everything is shinny and happy and colorful. Many of the classical characters are back, it’s so cool to see them again on the big screen! The story for this film is all about what the first Muppet movies were all about: putting on a show, entertaining people and making it in the big time! But would they be the same Muppets we’ve always loved? Would this new Disney version of The Muppets nail it? I’m feeling like they did. The whole gangs back, they might look slightly different in very small ways (Fuzzy the Bear for example) but it’s the same characters. The same style of humor, the same slapstick, self referencing, and breaking the fourth wall type of jokes we love to see in these movies.  

Funny thing about this new Muppet movie is that FOX recently asked the question “are liberals trying to brainwash our kids?” in reference to this new Muppet movie. Ha! Goes to show who’s really controlling the media. I thought the news reporters were supposed to be objective with their points of views? Yet right there, by asking that question they are taking a side and assuming that everyone in American has to be a conservative capitalist! These comments on FOX news are so nausea inducing, they see that a film is sending out a message against evil businessmen (of which there are many in this world) and immediately see it as a threat to their way of life. You know what FOX news? So what if this new Muppet movie is speaking against capitalism? Isn’t the United States of America a free country, with freedom of speech as part of its way of life? Yes? Okay then, what’s the big surprise? I guess conservatives are scared that liberals will spread the germ of communism through the United States…oOoOooOOoohh scary! Gimme a break! And you know what FOX news; of course liberals will speak against capitalism! That’s what liberals do, that’s why they are called liberals, because they want to be free and speak their minds! And of course its liberals making films, artists are going to be liberals by nature; so deal with it! They aren’t trying to brainwash anybodies minds, they are just saying what they feel, if you like it cool, if you don’t like it then don’t go and see the movie. Last time I checked, saying what you feel was still okay in this country. It still is isn’t? We still got freedom of speech? Or have they written some new law that prohibits people from speaking their minds? I guess FOX is going to have to criticize a whole bunch of other films that play with the same theme of the “evil, greedy businessman”, in fact why don’t you just go full on fascist and prohibit films such as these? Ban them? Or make the whole world boycott them by saying your comments on FOX….jeeez…Look final word on this is GREED is a great evil that’s eating up the world isn’t it?  And movies that speak against it are doing a fine job in my book, so hooray for this new Muppet movie and its capitalism bashing themes.

Last words on this movie…it had the magic and sense of humor that the original Muppets had. I loved how they focused the whole film on them trying to start up their show, because that’s what the Muppets were always about, the theater, performances, entertaining the masses. Though the story has been used in other films before. This new Muppet movie is similar to films like Breakin' 2 Electric Boogaloo (1984), Waynes World 2 (1993), and The Blues Brothers (1980), all films where the good guys have to put on a show to go up against the evil business man type. Yet, in spite of its generic story line, the film is very entertaining. Jason Segel and Amy Adams play their roles innocently enough, like to kids falling in love for the first time. They lead a real innocent kind of romance through out the movie. I felt like their story was tacked on, I don’t know if we really needed the whole Jason Seagel/Amy Adams story line about them wanting to get married and she feeling ignored by him. They could have left that whole plot line out and focused more on The Muppets and the show, and their problem. On these movies, humans were always secondary, almost like window dressing. But not on this one, they decided to give a little more importance this time around to the human characters. There’s a lot of cameos on this one, but some of them feel really wasted! A stand out cameo comes from Zack Galifianakis as a bum, and Jack Black as…himself. But other cameos seem like wasted opportunities. The new songs were catchy and fun, except for Chris Coopers rap song which just felt out of place. But ultimately, this was such a nostalgic film for me. I must admit I enjoyed it so much when they sang “The Rainbow Connection”, I got teary eyed, which I’m guessing was what the filmmakers where going for. To have the target audience reconnect and remember the old movies with this one, to awaken that feeling of familiarity with The Muppets. I gotta be honest, they kind of achieved it.    

Rating: 4 out of 5


odenat said...

Fox TV's comment about Muppets even made news here, half a world away. Funny thing is they translated it like "the new Muppet show brainwash children to be communists" ! Then, they showed a bunch of Fox crap. Oh well, i guess conservatists are the same everywhere :P

Franco Macabro said...

Yeah, those headlines went around the world. Thing is that the headline appeared in Yahoo News, which is a pretty effective way to get an idea out into the world.

Everyone has a yahoo account, and every time you open it, bam! It's news! And easy as the click of a button, an idea is now on peoples minds.

So I guess it's a pretty safe assumption to say that, these "Muppets are Communists" headlines and news reports could be part of the reason why this new movie didnt make as many kajillions as Disney expected.

Canada said...

he Muppet Show season 1! it was a very musical movie, something that a lot of movies nowadays tend to lack. It was cute and i liked the story in it. Them doing Rainbow Connection nearly brought a tear to my eye. I laughed at a lot of the jokes. especially when they "traveled by map" LOL and landing in France the way they did! it was a very enjoyable movie and i would hope this would spark the idea to bring back the Muppet Show to TV again!

Franco Macabro said...

The Muppet Movies have always been very musical, they even have a band with them all the time just in case they need to break into a song!

The scene where Kermit is all nostalgic looking at his friends picture coming to life, and starts singing that song about doing it all over again, that was a good one too.

Musicals are a rare thing nowadays because the audience will either fully embrace them like Hairspray and Mamma Mia! or completely ignore them like Burlesque and NINE. Producers are afraid of musicals for this reason, they think its a huge risk.


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