Review: The Muppets


The Muppets aren’t often in the public eye anymore. Disney hasn’t been pushing them very heavily, and their one theme park attraction is shoved off in the corner of California Adventures- you know, the one nobody visits. Kids can probably still recognize Kermit the Frog, but they’re a lot less likely to have seen The Muppet Show or one of the movies, and that’s heartbreaking. Luckily, The Muppets is here to enlighten this new generation, but can it hold up to its old standards?

It’s time to play the music. It’s time to light the lights. It’s time to read about The Muppets on tonight!

The Muppets
Director: James Bobin
Rating: PG
Release Date: 11/23/2011

Walter (voiced by Peter Linz) and Gary (Jason Segel) are two brothers from a small town called Smalltown who absolutely love the Muppets. Walter, being three feet tall and made of felt, feels particularly close to the Muppets, and adores them like no other. When Gary decides to take his girlfriend, Mary (Amy Adams), to Los Angeles for their tenth anniversary, he buys an extra ticket so Walter can visit Muppet Studios. Time has not been kind: the Muppets aren’t together anymore, and the studio was sold and left to rot. While touring the abandoned, decrepit building, Walter overhears oil tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), the owner of the studio, talking about his plans to tear down the building for the oil underneath it. Walter, Gary, and Mary set out to reunite the Muppets and save the studio.

There was a big to-do about the original Muppet Show cast refusing to work on the new movie, saying that it didn’t fit the original spirit of the older work, but it doesn’t feel like that at all. Yes, Disney took over and the original crew is not involved, and there are some modernizations to appeal to the younger generation, but it feels just like a Muppet movie should. The characters are silly, there are song and dance numbers all over the place, and it overall gives a nice feeling of warm fuzzies. With the exception of Miss Piggy and Fozzie Bear (both voiced by the same actor), the voices are spot-on, and the characters feel just as fun as they always have.

I’m very picky about movies that break the fourth wall. It’s hard to do well, and when it’s not right, it can completely ruin the immersion. The Muppets constantly breaks the fourth wall, and it’s fantastic. They know just how to poke at themselves with meta humor while keeping the story intact. It also helps that the movie is just hilarious in general. You know all those wonderful ads they ran? The humor is just like that. It’s the kind of movie that has the entire audience laughing.

Unfortunately, the film is far from perfect. The pacing is an absolute mess. The beginning of the movie is so strong, and the ending isn’t too bad, but the middle seems to drag on forever. A lot of the things happening in the middle of the movie are interesting in theory, but they’re presented so poorly that they aren’t fun anymore. It should be exciting to watch the Muppets searching for their friends! It should be great to watch them rehearse! Instead, it feels like the Muppets are moseying from one spot to another without much intent behind it. The musical numbers, while (mostly) clever and cute, just seem to delay the action even further, with the exception of a couple of large ensemble numbers.

One of the big problems is that it simply feels like there are too many obstacles to overcome. There’s the obvious problem of saving the studio and all the trials that come with that, and the loose ends between Kermit and Miss Piggy is very important to tie up, but there’s also Mary’s relationship with Gary, Gary’s relationship with Walter, and Walter’s relationship with himself. This would not be so bad if they were interesting characters, but they all feel rather one-dimensional. Since Walter is not an interesting character and Gary and Mary are really meant as side characters, their problems are uncompelling and hard to relate to. If there had been more emphasis on the core issues, it would have made for a much stronger film.

Despite its flaws, however, The Muppets is well-worth seeing in theaters. Kids will not notice any of the issues, and adults will be able to put them aside for the sheer joy the good parts bring. There’s nothing like seeing a little kid thoroughly enjoying the same material as a full-grown adult, and it’s nice to know that the Muppets won’t be entirely forgotten by this generation.

Maxwell Roahrig: I have to admit, my Muppets fandom is only a recent development. I mean, my parents and I watched Muppets Christmas Carol every year (and still do to this day), and I’ve always enjoyed The Muppets, but not like I have in the past few years. So it was with baited breath that I awaited Jason Segel and co.’s The Muppets. I had every right to be cautious, too. Since when did the inclusion of a new character in an established universe turned out to be a good thing? But you know what? The movie is damn good. It’s the greatest love letter to Jim Henson and all things Muppets. This is the movie the Jim Henson Company should’ve made ten years ago, instead of Muppets In Space. Everything about this movie just works, too. The music, the jokes, the characters, the cameos. They’re all wonderful! Well, except the inclusion of Chris Cooper rapping. That needed to be cut from day one. Aside from that, take the whole family to see The Muppets. Even if you’re a cold cynical bastard that only enjoys films that explore the human condition, The Muppets will find a way to warm that frozen heart of yours. Oh, and Kermit and Miss Piggy’s duet of “The Rainbow Connection” might be my favorite song from the year. 83 – Great

Alec Kubas-Meyer: Although I vaguely remember watching bits and pieces of Muppets movies and TV episodes over the course of my life, this film is my first real immersion in the universe, and it’s everything I could have asked for. I freaking loved this movie. With the exception of a couple of slow-ish parts, I laughed constantly throughout the movie. I actually think I laughed more than anybody else in the theater, much to the embarrassment of my younger sister. But no matter. The Muppets is hysterical. I absolutely loved the musical numbers (including Chris Cooper’s rap, though not quite as much as the others), and I loved pretty much everything else as well. It was clear that everyone involved was having a blast (the constant stream of cameos (highlights include Jim Parsons and James Carville(???)) served as an excellent illustration of that), and it really made the film so much more enjoyable. The Muppets is easily one of the best movies of the year, and no matter who you are it will make you happy inside. And, really, what more could you ask for? 89 – Spectacular