Monday, November 28, 2011

LIFE'S A HAPPY SONG



At long last, a movie worthy of the Muppet name! With writer/executive producer Jason Segel restoring the heart and soul to Kermit & Company, The Muppets uses nostalgia, humor and genuine good vibes to win back the silver screen.



The Muppets are a lot of things to a lot of different people. One of the reasons Jim Henson's characters are so universally loved is that there's no one unifying trait that defines them. For some people it's the self-referential humor. For others, the music. Some folks identify with the characters' sweet sentimentality, while many treat them as an important part of their own experiences growing up.

How they arrived safely here in 2011 wasn't as simple as hitting the big red REBOOT button. Disney struggled for the greater part of a decade in trying to "re-introduce" the Muppets to a post-80s, post-Henson world...with broad, charmless, pandering results (if you doubt this even for a moment, try watching ANY 5-minute chunk of The Muppets' Wizard of Oz). But watching the gang's newest film, it's easy to forget about the damaged past - mainly because there's such a hopeful present.



The Muppets plays to all of Kermit & Company's classic strengths, and in doing so also plays to nearly every segment of its audience. There's truly something here for everyone, which has always been the idea. Nostalgia - something I'm glad to see being used for good instead of evil - is a major component of not only the concept but the actual plot of the movie, and almost offers a warning-shaped lesson to anyone looking to resurrect an old franchise: Remember where you came from.



Gary (Jason Segel, who also co-wrote the screenplay) and his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) travel to Los Angeles to celebrate their 10th Anniversary. Along for the ride is Gary's brother Walter (decidedly not human, but it's never discussed), who's obsessed with the Muppets like no other. While visiting the dilapidated Muppet Studios, Walter overhears oil-mogul Tex Richman's (Chris Cooper) plans to raze the studios and dig for black gold. So now there are some very clearly-defined goals: Reunite the Muppets, put together a telethon, and raise the money to buy back the studios. 



Kermit is at first reluctant to try, and his sweet/sad song "Pictures In My Head" says so much about the movie's heart. For Generation X/Y Muppet fans, we're all at the age where over time - you lose touch with people. People who at one time you couldn't ever imagine your life without. The Muppets prove that it's not just a human trait, and that reunions are tough. Even though it broke my heart that Miss Piggy was initially the only holdout, it made the story feel more genuine somehow. But by the time the whole gang is back together, it just feels...right. Yet another lesson: Sometimes it's worth it. 



The rest of the original songs capture the 'catchy but not-too-serious' tone of the original movies, and (onscreen) throw in sight gags and inoffensive celebrity cameos. Feist and Mickey Rooney, together at last! The classic songs  are a welcome treat as well - and if you don't tear up just a little during the first banjo notes of "Rainbow Connection", you should probably have your heart examined. 

The additional celebrity appearances are all over the map, ranging from CBS (Neil Patrick Harris, Jim Parsons, Segel himself), NBC (Rashida Jones, John Krasinski, Donald Glover, Ken Jeong) and ABC (Whoopi Goldberg, Selena Gomez, Rico Rodriguez) to comedians Sarah Silverman, Zach Galifianakis and Jack Black. There's more, and they magically all work across the board.



So raise a glass to writers and executive producers Jason Segel & Nicholas Stoller. They figured out what Disney never could, on their own - You don't need to change the Muppets to keep them popular. Just let them put on a show. 


Additional, Celebrational,
Muppetational Observations:

  • Miss Piggy and Fozzie didn't sound interchangeable!
  • Walter was cute without being intrusive. A wonderful addition to the Muppet players.
  • Rizzo the Rat and Pepe the King Prawn barely appear...and Disney used to be obsessed with them!
  • Scooter working at Google is genius.
  • "That's nothing, I once waited a whole year for September!" Fozzie really shines here.
  • Did Disney demand that Animal no longer chase women?
  • Statler & Waldorf are working both sides. 
  • Uncle Deadly is a major character!
  • Bobo the Bear continues to be hilariously awkward.
  • Sweetums' callback to The Muppet Movie was perfect.
  • "Classic." Rowlf FTW.
  • Needs. More. Gonzo.
  • Dr. Teeth has a cassette of Starship's "We Built This City" on him!
  • 80s Robot is amazing, and he better stick around. 


1 comment:

Adam16bit said...

More Gonzo is always needed, but the dude stole the show. Or blew it up, anyway... explosions = Muppetness, and there's nobody more Muppety in this movie than Gonzo! (And the many people he caused to lose their jobs and/or die in burning rubble. Awesome.)