November 18, 2011 at 9:34 am #44044
Apologies if I missed a previous thread (no search engine makes things trickier here)
Very strong Variety review
New U.S. Release
By Justin Chang
Amy Adams and Jason Segel try to get the Muppets to reunite for a telethon that will raise money to save their old home in “The Muppets.”
OTHER RECENT REVIEWS:
A Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures release of a Walt Disney Pictures presentation. Produced by David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman. Executive producers, Jason Segel, Nicholas Stoller, John G. Scotti, Martin G. Baker. Directed by James Bobin. Screenplay, Jason Segel, Nicholas Stoller, based on Disney’s Muppet properties and characters.
Gary – Jason Segel
Mary – Amy Adams
Tex Richman – Chris Cooper
Executive – Rashida Jones
Effortlessly blending wised-up, self-reflexive humor with old-fashioned let’s-put-on-a-show pizzazz, “The Muppets” is an unexpected treat. Bright and perky, cheeky but never mean-spirited, the seventh Muppet-based theatrical feature finds Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and friends emerging from semi-retirement to reclaim the spotlight, just as Disney is banking (but not coasting) on the popularity of Jim Henson’s puppet creations to win back an adoring moviegoing public. Charming musical elements, a cluster of celebrity cameos and a thoroughgoing sense of creative resurgence engendered by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller’s smart script should ensure that happy outcome; hecklers will be few.
Joining this year’s “Winnie the Pooh” as an example of a beloved Disney-owned property renewing itself without sullying tradition, “The Muppets” is also the rare sequel conceived as a lovingly crafted tribute from one generation of comedic talent to another. After featuring a line of Henson puppets in their 2008 laffer “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” Stoller and Segel pitched the concept of a fresh Muppet movie (the first in the 12 years since the flop of “Muppets From Space”), and Disney brought aboard British scribe-helmer James Bobin (“Flight of the Conchords,” “Da Ali G Show”) to direct from the duo’s screenplay.
Whatever one might have expected or feared from a group of funnymen known for their associations with Judd Apatow and Sacha Baron Cohen, the creative team has somehow produced not only a vintage piece of Muppetry, but one of the better screen musicals in recent memory. That much is clear from the sunny opening number, “Life’s a Happy Song,” a soft-shoe setpiece giddily headlined by Midwestern small-towner Gary (Segel) and his puppet pal, Walter, who has nursed a lifelong obsession with the Muppets.
Gary and Walter have been like brothers since childdhood, as seen in a growing-up montage that ends with the comical sight of the pint-sized puppet sharing a bedroom with the 6’4″ Segel. When Gary and Mary (Amy Adams), his extremely patient g.f. of 10 years, head to Los Angeles for a week’s vacation, Walter tags along, eager for the chance to visit Hollywood’s historic Muppet Studios. But the Muppets have long since disbanded, the studio lot has fallen into disrepair, and as Walter conveniently learns, the aptly named Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) is scheming to seize the property and drill for oil.
Commenting on every cliche along the way, Gary, Mary and Walter drop in on Kermit, then Fozzie Bear, then Gonzo and Animal and so on, setting plans in motion for a Muppets reunion telethon that will raise the dough needed to save their old home. The lone holdout is the ever-diva-like Miss Piggy, now a Paris fashion-mag editrix still nursing hurt feelings over Kermit’s perpetual lack of romantic initiative. Similarly, Mary increasingly resents that the Muppets are monopolizing her time with Gary, while Walter experiences stage fright at the prospect of performing with his idols for the first time.
From the cheery visual design (Rahel Afiley’s matching Gary-Walter costumes merit special mention) to the upbeat score and songs, which include three fresh tunes by music supervisor Bret McKenzie (of “Conchords” fame), every aspect of the production radiates a sheen of clean-scrubbed optimism. Yet the marvel of “The Muppets” is how often it manages to express the most predictably earnest, wide-eyed sentiments, only to turn around and give them an irreverent poke, without seeming in any way insincere.
If the we-know-we’re-in-a-movie winking goes a bit overboard, the pic fosters considerable goodwill by having much of it delivered by Segel and Adams. (When a seemingly dead-end plot twist causes Mary to squeal, “This is going to be a really short movie,” it helps to have an actress as wholesome yet self-aware as Adams selling the line.) With their features and bodies possessed of a positively Muppet-like elasticity, the thesps couldn’t be more in tune with the silly sensibility at play here, or more game for song-and-dance duty. Still, the strangest musical perf comes courtesy of Cooper, busting out a rap so surreally unmotivated that the bouncy-ball subtitles seem designed to facilitate viewer comprehension rather than to get anyone to actually sing along.
Roster of supporting thesps includes Rashida Jones, Emily Blunt, Sarah Silverman and Zach Galifianakis, while James Carville, Whoopi Goldberg, Selena Gomez, Neil Patrick Harris and, most hilariously, an unbilled Jack Black all pop up briefly as themselves. But the human players never overpower the work of multitasking Muppeteers Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta, David Rudman, Matt Vogel and Peter Linz, whose endearing performances deserve no small credit for this enjoyable throwback.
Preceding the film in theaters is Pixar’s latest “Toy Story” short, “Small Fry,” which slyly sends up the fast-food industry with an amusing examination of toy abandonment issues.November 18, 2011 at 9:36 am #44046
Pretty good Todd McCarthy/Hollywood Reporter review
Jim Henson’s cultural mainstays return to the big screen for the first time since 1999 in the James Bobin-directed musical comedy.
“In this market, you guys are no longer relevant,” Rashida Jones‘ TV executive bluntly explains to a bunch of puppets hoping to make their showbiz comeback, but the veteran entertainers endeavor to prove her wrong in The Muppets. The first bigscreen outing for the colorful crew since Muppets from Space in 1999 and since Disney acquired the franchise from the Jim Henson estate in 2004, this perfectly enjoyable family comedy is disarmingly upfront about its raison d’etre—to reboot the Muppets for a new generation of moppets. In this is should succeed, while also entertaining old fans inclined to a bit of childhood nostalgia.
our editor recommends
A comic actor more identified with raunchy humor, Jason Segel has played a major hand in breathing new life into these 1970s-90s cultural mainstays, co-writing, co-executive producing and starring in this zippy feature that is about nothing more or less than the effort of bringing the long-since dispersed Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Animal and all the rest back together again. It does so with good cheer, a frank acknowledgment of changing mores and time passed and a wink at its own squeaky clean silliness.
In fact, the most clueless characters here are not the Muppets, who have moved on to other pursuits with varying degrees of success, but the two would-be grownups, Gary (Segel) and Mary (Amy Adams), naïve goody-goodies who have been going together for nearly ten years and live in Smalltown, U.S.A., which bears more than a passing resemblance to Disneyland’s Main Street. The stumbling blocks to matrimony are Gary’s thoroughgoing immaturity and his related lifelong palship with Walter, a muppet who has always dreamed of jumping into the TV set to join his fellow relations. Human dishrag Gary no doubt wouldn’t mind doing the same, but instead the two guys and a girl settle on the next best thing, a trip on a 1950s vintage Greyhound to Los Angeles to visit the Muppet Studios.
Alas, the facility (in the movie’s world located in a dilapidated rendition of Disney’s Hollywood Boulevard flagship El Capitan Theater) has shuttered, although a tired old guide (Alan Arkin) offers a tour of what remains (“Is this the Universal Studios?” a befuddled Asian tourist inquires). But sneaking into Kermit the Frog’s old office, Walter learns that evil real estate tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) will seize control of the whole operation unless $10 million can be raised to retain Muppet ownership.
So when in doubt or need, what do show folk do? Put on a show, of course. Finding Kermit in, of all places, Bel-Air, the intrepid group then traverses half the planet tracking down the other key players. On one end of the spectrum they find Fozzie Bear entertaining at a barrel-bottom lounge in Reno, while, by contrast, Miss Piggy now reigns over a top fashion magazine in Paris (with Emily Blunt, no less, as her assistant) and is understandably reluctant to chuck it all for a reunion of dubious worth.
But when a TV network desperately needs to fill a slot, the gang suddenly has but two days to pull together its fund raising special before Tex can move in replace the originals with his own “Moopets.”
Things bog down when the neglected Mary pouts over Gary’s preference for the Muppets’ company, although this does result in his pretty funny mock-introspective song bearing the essential refrain, “Am I a man or a Muppet?”
While the answer to that question remains unclear, due to the immutable rag doll nature of Segel’s limp leading man, the actual cloth creatures rise to the occasion splendidly, kidnapping an unbilled Jack Black to be their unwilling star headliner and putting on a show of which Mickey Rooney himself (who does a quick cameo early on) could be proud. For that matter, a good many others (Zach Galifianakis, Selena Gomez, Whoopi Goldberg, Neil Patrick Harris, Sarah Silverman) also support the cause by showing their faces for a moment or two, leading up to a climactic musical on Hollywood Boulevard that’s more than a tad self-congratulatory.
While the script he wrote with Nicholas Stoller nicely serves its purpose, Segel does neither himself and nor his costar Adams any favors with the infantile characters they portray; his Gary is a lumpen bumpkin whose development was arrested at no later than age nine, while the normally wonderful Adams has never been so ill-served by any movie role since her big breakthrough in Disney’s own Enchanted in 2007; literally taking a back seat to Muppets during the road trip, she’s the ultimate tag-along, never allowed to assert herself and instead forced to patiently and silently endure the obsessions of Gary and the fuzzy ones, who rightly continue to be played by real puppets and not by some newfangled technological rendition of them.
Still, a breezy, keen-to-please attitudes prevails, and director James Bobin (The Flight of the Conchords, Da Ali G Show for TV) moves things along with good cheer; at one point, when the search for stray critters begins to wear down, one says, “May I suggest we save time and pick up the rest of the Muppets in a montage?” It’s duly done.
An entirely superfluous shot of the team’s old Rolls-Royce emerging from the sea onto the beach in Cannes will vastly amuse anyone who’s ever been to the film festival there.
The Muppets will be preceded, at least initially, by a new, eight-minute Toy Story short in which the neglected toys engage in very amusing group therapy.November 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm #44047
I am so excited to see this!November 18, 2011 at 4:37 pm #44048
I’m so glad Segel was given the chance to reboot this franchise. He has a true love of The Muppets, and I’m glad to see that it translated into this film.November 19, 2011 at 8:13 pm #44050
The seventh theatrical film (and first in a dozen years) to star the late 20th century’s most beloved vaudeville gang works best as a sweet valentine to the troupe’s staying power. Made with palpable affection and childhood nostalgia by its comedy young-blood participants (director James Bobin and songwriter Bret McKenzie from HBO’s The Flight of the Conchords, and, more worryingly, co-writer and human protagonist Jason Segel of the Judd Apatow slobcom factory), The Muppets reverts to the let’s-put-on-a-show genre of The Muppet Show TV series and the initial 1979 movie, both of which are frequently invoked and quoted here. Disney, the new proprietors of Jim Henson’s creations, and the filmmakers know the Muppets’ oeuvre is catnip to tens of millions of adults between 30 and 50, who, with or without kids in tow, will be melting into tears at “The Rainbow Connection” or Kermit the Frog’s climactic “we are family” speech to his fellows (as I might have, though you can’t prove it).
More problematically, this nostalgic catering to the Gen X demo comes at some cost to The Muppets‘s child-friendly elements. Its early production number, “Life’s a Happy Song,” dares you to find irony in citizens brightly prancing through Smalltown U.S.A., but the satirical instincts for a Hairspray-style lampoon are just under the surface (the presence of both Mickey Rooney and Feist seems a giveaway). And puzzlingly, the movie introduces a new Muppet, the cross-eyed innocent Walter (voiced by Peter Linz), who serves as a surrogate for the young audience and dominates most of the early going; he’s kind of a drip. A Smalltown devotee of Henson’s felt-skinned clan, Walter tags along to Hollywood with his roommate brother, Gary (Segel), and Gary’s neglected girlfriend, Mary (Amy Adams), to Hollywood, where the trio beseech reclusive Kermit to reunite the Muppets to save their old studio from the clutches of an oil tycoon (Chris Cooper, bling-rapping “Let’s Talk About Me”). Walter is blandly inoffensive and unlikely to stir a Jar Jar Binks-style fan revolt, but the Muppets don’t seem sufficiently forgotten to need him as a bridge to the tots, despite Cooper’s snarl that “your Julie Andrews/Dom DeLuise-hosting era has passed!”
Fortunately, once Kermit has been persuaded (in the Bel-Air mansion built for him by ex Miss Piggy) to round up his old crew, Segel and Nicholas Stoller’s script morphs into a road trek so he can recruit Fozzie (fronting a grungy “Moopets” tribute band in a Reno dive) and Piggy (now a Prada-wearing, Paris-based fashion doyenne), then into an underdog backstage-drama parody, with Tarantino and Shawshank Redemption gags woven in. There’s plenty of traditional fourth wall-breaking, a funny Gary/Walter identity-crisis ballad (“Man or Muppet?”), and more long-layoff jokes (the first two telethon-host candidates from Kermit’s yellowed Rolodex are President Carter and Molly Ringwald). Missed opportunities include the two underutilized comedy queens in the ensemble, Adams and Piggy, sharing a cross-cut song instead of a paint-the-town-red teaming, but at least one third-act error (a tiresome Jack Black) is redeemed (rope-bound Black mocked by iconic hecklers Statler and Waldorf). The Muppets is finally irresistible, even overcoming the misstep of having Fozzie trot out some “fart shoes” for rehearsal, and supplies one of the year’s biggest laughs with a Cee Lo Green cover that victoriously plays chicken with the movie’s PG rating.November 20, 2011 at 7:13 pm #44051
I am really excited to see it. I love the Muppets. Not the Disney-fied versions of late. But, the old style Muppets. I was so hoping Segel’s fanatical love of the Muppets would translate into a good film. Really hoping I like it.November 20, 2011 at 7:51 pm #44052
Cannot wait for this movie!!!November 22, 2011 at 11:51 pm #44053
I absolutly love the Muppets and am disapponted the film dosn’t get released in Australia til January.
The films seems to be doing pretty strong, surrently sitting on 100% at RT from 60 reviews, and 76% at MC from 25 reviews.
Wrote a piece on the film’s Oscar hopes today:November 24, 2011 at 10:25 am #44054
My review:November 24, 2011 at 7:50 pm #44055
Highly positive (3 1/2 out of 4 stars) from The Washington Post:
Miss Piggy rawks!!November 25, 2011 at 4:34 am #44056
I was stunned at how dull this movie is (spoilers).
Too much of the movie is about the boys. Amy Adams and Miss Piggy are woefully underused.
The newest Muppet, Walter, is a disappointment compared to Elmo and others evolved since the glory days of The Muppet Show.
There are no standing ovations for really good whistling, even if the whistler lacks lips.
Jason Segel, my apologies to the man, is not a movie star. This is not a face anyone wants to see ten feet tall. Ugh!
The humor is limited. Most of these characters are sad for most of the movie. This is not fun.
The finale performance of The Rainbow Connection reminds us of the wit and wonder of the Muppets. This film suffers in comparison.November 26, 2011 at 10:12 am #44057
Certainly one of the better films of the year (although it lost a little steam during the middle of the film, it picked up again towards the end). Segel and Stoller wrote a wonderful screenplay. Also, there are quite a few songs from the film that should be up for an Oscar, but I would assume Man or Muppet will be the lone nominee from the film.November 26, 2011 at 6:10 pm #44058
This might have been the most fun I had the theaters all year. Jason Segel cared about this film a lot and it certainly shows in the final product. My only complaint with this film is that it tries to cram into much material (the muppets comeback, Walter’s storyline, Gary’s relationship with Mary) into a short run time. Otherwise, everything else was well done: Amy Adams was perfect casting, the original songs are the best of this year so far (especially “Life’s A Happy Song”), each Muppet gets their moment etc.
8.5/10December 5, 2011 at 6:20 pm #44059
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but these Muppets…are COMMIES! How do I know this? I got it from Faux News, that’s where!
It ain’t easy being green, but according to Fox Business, Kermit the Frog and his Muppet friends are reds.
Last week, on the network’s “Follow the Money” program, host Eric Bolling went McCarthy on the new, Disney-released film, “The Muppets,” insisting that its storyline featuring an evil oil baron made it the latest example of Hollywood’s so-called liberal agenda.
Bolling, who took issue with the baron’s name, Tex Richman, was joined by Dan Gainor of the conservative Media Research Center, who was uninhibited with his criticism.
“It’s amazing how far the left will go just to manipulate your kids, to convince them, give the anti-corporate message,” he said.
“They’ve been doing it for decades. Hollywood, the left, the media, they hate the oil industry,” Gainor continued. “They hate corporate America. And so you’ll see all these movies attacking it, whether it was ‘Cars 2,’ which was another kids’ movie, the George Clooney movie ‘Syriana,’ ‘There Will Be Blood,’ all these movies attacking the oil industry, none of them reminding people what oil means for most people: fuel to light a hospital, heat your home, fuel an ambulance to get you to the hospital if you need that. And they don’t want to tell that story.”
Indeed, there was no mention of the benefits of oil drilling in the Muppets, but there was also no discussion of any other aspect of the industry. Richman, played by Chris Cooper, was out to destroy the Muppets theater. Kermit and his friends, then, were not committed environmentalists (though one must imagine the frog is concerned with his swampy homeland) but simply puppets looking to save a place they once loved.
Still, Gainor blamed the film, and its predecessors, for Occupy Wall Street and the environmental movement.
“This is what they’re teaching our kids. You wonder why we’ve got a bunch of Occupy Wall Street people walking around all around the country, they’ve been indoctrinated, literally, for years by this kind of stuff,” Gainor said. “Whether it was ‘Captain Planet’ or Nickelodeon’s ‘Big Green Help,’ or ‘The Day After Tomorrow,’ the Al Gore-influenced movie, all of that is what they’re teaching, is that corporations is bad, the oil industry is bad, and ultimately what they’re telling kids is what they told you in the movie ‘The Matrix’: that mankind is a virus on poor old mother Earth.”
The Teletubbies were unavailable for comment. Mahna-Mahna.
There must be some special kind of glue they sniff at Faux News…Jesus Christ.