Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Movie Review: The Muppets

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The movie that I’ve been waiting a long time to see finally released this weekend. There was the time spent waiting for a movie to even be announced and then when it was, the anticipation of knowing that it was coming, anticipation for the final release date. While sitting in the theater waiting for The Muppets to start, several times shivers crossed by body. It was the good kind, similar to those that you would have anticipating the arrival of the big man in the red suit to visit your house. The wait was finally over and the movie was satisfying, but not wholly fulfilling.

The Muppets Movie Poster
Before we got to the actual Muppets, there was a Disney Pixar short Small Fry. Buzz Lightyear finds himself at a fast food restaurant where there is a Mini Me of himself in the form of a kids meal toy. The Mini Me manages to swap places with the real Buzz while the owner Bonnie was playing in the ball pit. Back in Bonnie’s bedroom the rest of the gang realize that they have a fake Buzz while the real Buzz tries to escape the restaurant. Unfortunately, he ends up in a storage room of unused and defective kid meal toys in a scene that is reminiscent of the Island of Misfit Toys from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The short seemed appropriate as how many times have the Muppets been used as a promotional tool for a fast food chain?

When the curtain metaphorically rises on the main feature (how many theaters actually have curtains any more that aren’t always open for the preshow spate of commercials) we are introduced to two brothers, Gary (Jason Segal) and Walter (Walter) who grew up in Smalltown USA. The two brothers have a very tight relationship. I’m wondering if they in any way, shape or form border where the Simpsons live in Springfield? Growing up Walter couldn’t help but notice that he was different from everyone around him. It wasn’t until The Muppet Show debuted on TV that he found there were others like him. In turn, he became the Muppets' greatest fan.

Jump ahead a few years. Gary is going with his sweetheart Mary (Amy Adams) out to California. Although it’s supposed to be just Gary and Mary, Gary tells Walter he can come along and they will visit the Muppet Studios. With Walter tagging along, Mary is relegated to become the third wheel. During the tour of the now broken down studios when Walter separates from the group to visit Kermit’s office, he overhears a plan by oil baron Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) and his cronies to buy the studio only to rip it down for the oil underneath. Walter tells Gary and Mary about the dastardly future diggings and convinces the couple to try to let Kermit know that the studio is in jeopardy.

They find Kermit at his Bel Aire home with an electrified fence and images of himself and Miss Piggy in the wrought iron fence. This is not the jovial frog we once knew. He is downhearted and missing all his friends, of course, especially Miss Piggy. With the encouragement of the trio, a road trip to collect the former gang ensues to get them back to the studios. They decided to resurrect The Muppet Show for a special one night telethon to raise 10 million dollars to buy the studios back from Tex. A TV exec (Rashida Jones) tells the gang they aren’t relevant anymore and denies them airtime until miracle of miracles a time slot opens up and she agrees upon the condition they can find a star to host the telethon. Of course in the effort to get the show on the air and meeting the necessary requirements all madness and mayhem breaks loose in all the wackiness and zaniness that is the Muppets.

What works about this movie? It’s the Muppets for pete’s sake! It was wonderfully stupendously awesome to see our beloved friends and generators of laughter up on the big screen once again. I’ll admit that there were times when I had the waterworks going on, especially when the stains of The Rainbow Connection started coming through the theater’s speaker system. Walter is a fun addition to the rest of the gang with his irrational exuberance and upbeat personality, he just needs to update his wardrobe and ditch the powder blue suit. A trade mark of the Muppet movies has been the cameo appearances by Hollywood and TV stars. We were not let down in this department with such luminaries as Alan Arkin, Neil Patrick Harris, Selena Gomez, Whoopi Goldberg, Mickey Rooney and one other that had me floored because it was a great appearance and I had not heard the name mentioned as a possibility for showing up.

What didn’t work? First was a rap number. It came out of the blue and had me scratching my head. If it wasn’t for the subtitles, I wouldn’t have been able to understand what was being said. The second was Jason Segal. God bless the man, it’s because of his efforts that our fuzzy, hairy, and cloth friends, old and new, big and small appeared once again on the silver screen. It was good to see you Wayne and Wanda! On How I Met Your Mother as Marshall Eriksen he does a wonderful job. As Gary…eh, no so much. He was ignoring the supposed love of his life Mary which leads me to number three. Why was Amy Adams in the movie? Certainly as eye candy, unquestionably, no mistaking that! Very sweet eye candy however she was totally under used. The Me Party sequence even with the flashy disco border appeared to be done out of good sportsmanship of her heart. Hopefully when the Blu-ray and DVD come out there will be some deleted scenes showing that there was a bigger plan for her character that for whatever reason just didn’t make it into the final cut.

Even with those few shortcomings, sitting in a theater with a mix of about half and half between adults and kids was one of the most exciting events I’ve participated in over the past several months. It was as if you and one of your best friends are separated for whatever reason for a number of years, let’s say twelve for argument’s sake, but when you get back together you just pick up and continue on as if the last time you saw them was yesterday. Kermit made the comment about us forgetting about them, the Muppets. We didn’t forget about them, we didn’t. We have been patiently waiting for just this moment when they come for a visit, we can buy some soda, sit down together and share a story and a good laugh. Jason Segal, thank you for fighting to bring them back to us and Disney, please don’t let them go away again.

The Muppets is 98 glorious attention grabbing minutes and is rated PG for some mild rude humor. Fart shoes anyone?

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