The Muppets (U)
Directed by: James Bobin
Starring: Amy Adams, Jason Segel and Chris Cooper
Running Time: 103mins
It’s been 13 years since The Muppets graced our screens with Muppets in Space and to be honest it wasn’t great. And after it, it felt like maybe they had had their time. However, 13 years later, Kermit, Gonzo, Fozzy and the gang are all back, singing, dancing and firing celebrity cameos out at a rate of knots… but is it any good?
There’s a lot of expectation riding on this. It’s being hailed as the return of the Muppets. Their chance to reach the heights not seen since the 80s (the last great Muppet event was the Muppet Christmas Carol in 1992, discuss). And in some ways it’s a real triumph but in others it falls short.
The movie starts off with two brothers Gary (Segel) and Walter (voiced by Peter Linz) who are clearly not alike in some ways, most notably because Walter’s well, a puppet and Gary isn’t. And as the boys grow, Walter stays the size of a small boy because, as stated above, he’s a puppet, while Gary grows into the manly shape of Segal.
This causes a few issues between the boys and, while Gary tries to always be there for his puppet, sorry brother, Gary’s friends are not as forgiving – kids can be so cruel – and Walter becomes enamoured with The Muppets on TV and dreams of one day meeting Kermit and the rest of his idols. So, when Gary and his girlfriend Mary (Adams) decide to go to LA to celebrate their 10th anniversary they decide to take Walter too and let him see the famous, but closed down, Muppets theatre.
When they get there Walter accidently discovers that villain of the piece Tex Richman (a wonderful Cooper) is buying the theatre on the pretence of building a museum, but really he wants to drill the oil that lies beneath it. So Gary, Walter and Mary embark on a quest to reunite the Muppets to get together and do a show in order to raise the $10million needed to keep the theatre – it’s the Muppets, just go with it.
The movie itself works on several levels, Adams and Segel are likeable leads and are clearly having a blast, while Cooper’s pantomime villain is a real highlight, but subtle it ain’t as he is unable to laugh, therefore the idea is there’s no fun in his life… see what they did there?
And the movie, in the Muppet tradition, is prone to breaking into musical numbers at the drop of a hat, but this is ok as they are perfectly serviceable and manage to both honour the tradition and send it up at the same time.
There are many clever touches as the Muppets are united and a few amusing nods to ‘travelling by map’ and speeding things up with a montage and it’s undeniable that it’s a real buzz to see the gang all together again and spotting all the celebrities is great fun too (why they had to go with one-note-joke Jack Black as the main celebrity is certainly beyond me – take note Jack, raising your eyebrow and being fat does not make you funny).
However there are two real faults to the movie for me. Firstly the humour while clever is rarely laugh-out-loud, but mostly results in you smirking to yourself. And secondly, the movie relies too much on nostalgia. Much like Toy Story 3, the audience is manipulated into liking the movie. If you’re over 25 it will get you when SPOILER ALERT the Muppet Show starts up ‘It’s time to get things started…’ and you will realise how good and, yes, important the original series was.
But rather than being a great standalone movie – never does it even come close to Muppet Christmas Carol – it feels like a love letter, like a swan song if you will. Gone but not forgotten seems to be the overall message here END SPOILERS.
So while it is fun, it is over-reliant on familiarity and sly nods – Big Bang Theory fans are in for a treat. But it is mostly enjoyable and the audience I watched it with, mostly children and parents, all seemed to enjoy it in separate ways. The children enjoyed the funny puppets, the parents were transported back to the days of video recorders, small screens and childhood memories. That’s by no means a bad thing, I just hoped for a bit, well, more.
The movie features the Toy Story short Small Fry before the main feature. A quick review: It features Buzz being separated from the group and finding his way back but not before he meets a variety of strange and wonderful forgotten toys. So, I’m just gonna say it – it’s the same plot as Toy Story, Toy Story 2 and, oh yeah, Toy Story 3. I love Pixar and I’ve a soft spot for these toys, but if Pixar made a movie of them all pretending to be inanimate toys for ten minutes, people would say it was incredible. This was another lazy toy gets lost, toy is in strange situations, toy finds his friends story. Am I the only one who sees this? It was lovely to look at and amusing too, but let’s try something new next time, what do you say Pixar?