Sunday, November 20, 2011

“The Muppets” – Movie Review



This weekend in my movie class, we saw the new Disney comedy, “The Muppets” starring Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper and, of course, The Muppets.



When an evil oil baron threatens to buy The Muppets’ old studio so he can close it down and drill for oil there, can The Muppets reunite in time to save their former home? 



Gary (Segal) and his younger brother Walter are best pals – which is why Gary’s girlfriend Mary (Adams) understands when he wants to bring Walter along on their trip to Hollywood.  But growing up as a devout fan of The Muppets, Walter has only one goal on this trip:  to take a tour of The Muppets studio and visit their theater.  During the tour, Walter overhears the greedy oil tycoon Tex Richman (Cooper) talking to his colleagues about his plan to buy the land of The Muppets one-time headquarters so he can tear it down and drill for oil on that location. 

Walter immediately takes this as a call to action to save what he regards as a national landmark of his personal heroes.  Seeking assistance from Gary and Mary, they visit legendary Muppet leader Kermit the Frog to inform him of the impending crisis.  Hearing the details, Kermit realizes that the only way for them to raise the money that will prevent Richman from succeeding in his plan would be to reunite with The Muppets and put on a show.  Asking his three visitors to help him find his ex-Muppets in order to request their aid, the group soon sets out on a journey across the country and around the world to locate The Frog’s former cohorts. 

Once the old gang is back together, they begin pitching their idea of a Muppet Telethon to all of the TV networks – the only problem is that none of them appear to be interested because The Muppets are no longer considered “hip”.  Ultimately, one network finally agrees after they encounter an unforeseen programming crisis.  But when putting on the show, can they raise enough money to save their theater – and along the way, can they prevent Richman from foiling their plans?    



Time has in no way diminished the delightful whimsy and joyful silliness that defines The Muppets, especially when it comes to their movies.  If Muppet creator Jim Henson was still alive, I like to think that he would be very proud of this movie because it very clearly retains much of The Muppets sensibility and humor in the sense that they are self-aware, self-referential and always mocking the conceits of the medium in which they work by adding jokes that either wink at the audience or break through that so-called fourth wall.  I highly recommend you see this movie, whether or not you’re able to bring a child – seeing it will make you feel like a kid again yourself.

All of that said, I nevertheless have to wonder if this movie will be successful.  One of the reasons why I have my doubts is the fact that when it was announced that this would be the weekend bonus screening for our class, it received a less than enthusiastic response, even though students were permitted to bring kids (9 years of age or older) to the screening, which is a bit unorthodox for this class.  There weren’t too many students who responded to the invitation – and even fewer that brought kids – so you have to wonder if anyone still cares about The Muppets anymore.  Ironically, this is one of the key plot points of the film – the fact that The Muppets are irrelevant.  It may wind up being more prescient than the filmmakers or the studio (Disney, who now owns The Muppets) wishes. 

Just in case you haven’t already heard about this, the movie opens with a Toy Story short, which serves as the perfect curtain-raiser setting the tone for the feature.  This in itself gives me yet another justification for questioning whether or not “The Muppets” will find an audience with children of this generation.  Have The Muppets found themselves to be inconsequential because their gentle simplicity has been superseded by superior technological advances?   Hopefully not, but time will certainly tell.  Today’s kids are used to movies and video games that are visually stunning, while “The Muppets”, by comparison, is not.  If this movie does succeed, maybe it will be due in large part to the fact that adults who fondly remember them from their youth are amply ready to embrace this reboot. 


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