Monday, December 5, 2011

Jenn's Movie Review: The Muppets

I know.  This isn't remotely book related but the four of us at Girls Just Reading adore the Muppets, me perhaps a little more so than the others.  We love the Muppets in our house; our wedding song was The Rainbow Connection and our cake topper was Kermit and Piggy.  Needless to say, when they announced Jason Segel was doing an all new Muppet movie (not just another remake of a classic tale), I was pretty excited.  When the article came out where some of the original puppeteers expressed their concerns over the content of the film, I was apprehensive, but I held out hope.

There was no need.  It was fantastic.  The opening number, though some young teen on the way out of the theatre credited it to How I Met Your Mother, was a straight up homage of the opening musical number of The Great Muppet Caper.  There are  also  multiple occurrences of "breaking the fourth wall", awesome guest cameos, road trips (with Sweetums trailing the car), wholesome cheesiness, and plenty of other references to the original Muppet films.

I read someone's review (and I apologize for not giving credit, but I've read so many reviews since the film came out, I just can't remember which one) that said kids seem to connect more with the character of Walter than with the original Muppets.  This is not quite the case in our house -we raised our daughter on The Muppet Show DVDs (please, oh, please, oh, please release more seasons!) and the original Muppet movies- but, I can see how Walter's quest to fit in would be the most accessible to most kids.  As a matter of fact, that's yet another classic Muppetism, a story that appeals to all ages on many levels.

Was the humor updated?  Sure. One just has to see that Jack Black is in it to know there is going to be a different kind of humor.  I understand some of the things the old guard might have found fault with ...there were a couple of scenes that wouldn't have happened forty years ago, but let's remember that the Muppets were on the cutting edge for their time.  (For example, the original 'Manah Manah' song was from an Italian soft porn film... and let's not forget the Muppets were on the first season of Saturday Night Live.)  Plus Jason Segel's generation, my generation, is as much a generation of Looney Tunes as we are Muppets, so some of the humor is mixed.  Besides, the world is a different  place than it was four decades ago.  While the Muppets retain their whimsy, some of the innocence has fallen away with maturity, and quite frankly, it felt very right.

Some of the things stated in the article that the older franchise members were uncomfortable with in the script are taken completely out of context.  For example, there is an objection to Fozzie strapping whoopee cushions to his feet (the comment was, 'we wouldn't have gone there') which is true, however in the next few lines, Kermit tells Fozzie that.  I also read a nifty article on how the Muppets have been misused and miss-branded since Jim Henson's death, and I think this, along with a few other scenes, is a nod to that.  An objection was also raised about Kermit living in a mansion... but he just might if Piggy built it and then took off, which is exactly what happens.  And I don't think the Muppets are jealous of Kermit's success, as is suggested in the article, I think they just grew up and drifted apart.  Yes, there was a scene here and there I could have done without, but on the whole, it was pretty wonderful.

The music is also marvelous, original, covered, spoofed, borrowed, and otherwise.  I came home and immediately bought and downloaded the soundtrack and the entire family has been humming it for a week.  (My almost four year old daughter even decided we had to 'play' Muppet varitey show this weekend.)  Amy Adams is magnificent as was Jason Segel (though, I won't pretend that I didn't have a good chuckle over all the dance numbers being choreographed around him as a non-dancer.) I won't spoil this for anyone, but I just have to say -barbershop quartet  -a whole new level of awesome.

I laughed, I cried, it was everything a Muppet movie is supposed to be -everything they used to be.   I loved it.  It was an excellent tribute to the past and (I hope) a wonderful new beginning for a fabulous franchise.



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