The Muppets (2011)

By Anthony Geehan
Released: November 23, 2011
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Walter, the world's biggest Muppet fan, is on vacation in Los Angeles with his friends Gary (Jason Segel) and Mary (Amy Adams). They discover that greedy Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) plans to raze Muppet Theater and drill for oil on the spot. Desperate to save the Muppets' former stomping grounds, the three friends join forces with Kermit to reunite Miss Piggy, Fozzie and the rest of the Muppets and hold a telethon to raise the 10 million they need to save the theater.

Soundtrack: The Muppets

App: Tap Tap Muppets - Disney

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Film Review
There is a certain section of American pop culture that can hit a chord with people of several different age groups and lifestyles. These works are difficult to produce, seeing as they have to stride a line between being clean enough for people who are easily offended and clever enough so as not to insult the audience's intelligence. Things such as Charles Schulz The Peanuts, Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes, and the works of Dr. Seuss can be found under this category, as can Jim Henson's classic characters The Muppets, a random assortment of felt puppets who once attempted and often failed to put on a successfully run, star studded broadcast once a week called "The Muppet Show". Now, some thirty years after the show's final episode aired, actor Jason Segal writes and stars in The Muppets, an extremely funny and true to form tribute to the legacy of Jim Henson's iconic creations.

The Muppets follows brothers Gary (Jason Segal) and Walter (Peter Linz), who throughout their childhood loved to watch "The Muppet Show". Walter finds great comfort in the show being that he was born a puppet (a fact that is slightly glazed over for comedic effect) and feels a sort of kinship with the cast.  Later in their life Gary takes Walter and his long-term girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) on a tour of The Muppet's Theater, which over the years has become a dilapidated L.A. tourist trap. While there, Walter overhears the scheme of billionaire oil tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), who plans to tear down the theater for the oil deposit that sits underneath its foundation. From there, Walter, Gary, and Mary set out on a journey to reunite the original Muppet team in order to put on a telethon to raise the $10,000,000 necessary to buy the theater back before their original lease expires and Richman destroys their heritage.

The Muppets stands, more than anything, as a celebration of what Jim Henson's creations mean to people. It's clean enough that parents don't have to worry about taking their kids, but has enough clever jokes and genuinely funny scenes that twenty somethings and up will find it entertaining. The only things that bog it down are a number of pop culture references that will most likely not age well (including a clucks only versions of Celo Green's "___ck You" done by Carmella the Chicken). Mostly though, it stands as an extremely funny and entertaining movie and a well paid tribute to its inspiration.
There are three different stories going on in The Muppets at once, though they are all simple enough to not be confusing. 1.) The Muppets have to reconcile and save the studio. 2) Gary has to begin to man up in his relationship with Mary while letting his brother go to live his own life. 3) Walter has to find his place in the world. Of these three stories the weakest is the relationship between Gary and Mary, mostly being used to bring Segal and Adams on the screen more often and give the movie human focus points among the all puppet cast. The plot thread is also wrapped up long before the movie ends, allowing for the finale to be mostly Muppet based. The most entertaining of the three plots is the Muppets reuniting and having to fight through the bureaucracy and would be hipness of the modern entertainment industry (including a "street" version of The Muppets known as "The Moppets", financed by Tex Richman to replace the original batch) in order to save their theater.

The writing does suffer once and a while from one to many "fourth wall breaking" jokes where the characters explain what is going on for comedic effect. The entire ending also hinges on the idea that you have a deep routed affection for The Muppets and could be seen as overdone by those who were not previously fans. But the movie is always moving and is rarely without a laugh, keeping the audience's attention throughout.
It has to be said that everyone in this movie acts like a Muppet, even those who are not made of felt. The facial expressions, body language, and dialogue of every character are delivered very simply and thick, which fits in a movie made up mostly of a puppet cast. The best example of this comes from Chris Cooper, who plays the role of an over-the-top evil villain so straight that he delivers a complete rap song about how rich he is without ever losing his bad guy snarl.

Many of the actors seem to be in the movie in order to point out how much like Muppets they are in their normal personas. Most notable of these is Jack Black, who at one point is on screen with Fozzie Bear, finishing his punch lines and padding his jokes. While there is never a move passed simple, base emotion range in the movie, the ability of the actors to ground The Muppets in the real world while simultaneously being made more ridiculous by existing beside them is something that must be applauded.
Comedy Factor
Though the movie is a tribute to a thirty year old act, it is laced with modern day comedy pacing and gags. Most noticeable are the influences of such T.V series as "The Office", "30 Rock", "Community", and "How I Met Your Mother", with many members of those shows casts making a cameo in one form or another. The cameos themselves work as quick sight gags, mostly being made up of such recognizable figures as David Grohl, Feist, Mickey Rooney, Sarah Silverman, and an almost endless list of celebrities making appearances for no more than a few seconds of screen time with few to no lines. Though it is a cheap laugh, it works for the chuckle and is never given more attention than it needs.

When the movie is at its funniest, the pacing allows for ridiculous, large scale jokes to be followed in rapid succession by quick one offs and corner-of-your-eye gags. Nothing lasts too long as the movie stays true to the vaudeville roots that The Muppets were born from while the modern sensibility keeps it from being anachronistic.

Release Date
November 23, 2011
MPAA Rating
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