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Movie review - The Muppets

Posted by Nathan Strum, 08 January 2012 · 1,254 views

Well, I was going to try and write this one in five minutes as I did with the Mission Impossible review, but well, that didn't quite work out. So that means you get to do more reading. Lucky you!

I loved The Muppet Show as a kid. It was irreverent, wacky, fun, silly, sly, adult, childish, and brilliant.

I went and saw the first Muppet Movie in the theaters, and while that captured some of the feel of the show, it somehow fell short. I think I saw The Muppets Take Manhattan, but I honestly don't remember it very well. I largely avoided the rest of The Muppets' films over the years, since what I saw of them just didn't seem to re-capture that magic of the original show. Too much emphasis on being "movies", and not enough on what made The Muppet Show work - short, funny, disconnected skits (but with the inevitable running gags). Maybe that was an unfair assumption, but also after Jim Henson passed away, it just didn't seem like Kermit was quite the same. Not easy shoes (or flippers) to fill, to be sure.

When I heard a new Muppet movie was happening, I was skeptical. But then I started seeing some clips from it, and it seemed more like the old show. Less about being a movie, and more about being the Muppets. Embracing the silliness, breaking the "fourth wall", poking fun at the movie itself from within the movie. So while on vacation recently, and having a couple of hours to kill, I went to go see it. I'm glad I did.

In short, The Muppets is an affectionate love-letter to the old series - fully embracing the goofiness of it all. The star of the film is a new Muppet named Walter, and while I've never been much of a fan of newer Muppets, Walter works because he acts as a bridge between the worlds of Muppets and humans in a really clever and effective way. He re-introduces us to the Muppets, and draws the audience along with him on his quest to meet them and find his place in the world. (Although my favorite new character would have to be 80's Robot.) The human stars of the film (some guy I'd never heard of named Jason Segal, and Amy Adams) do a good job of satirizing idealized middle-America type characters out of another time (from their wide-eyed small-town naiveté to impromptu musical numbers). There are a number of clever cameos in the film to watch out for too - my favorite being Dave Grohl.

The real treat of the film is that The Muppet Show is revived during a telethon, and we get to revisit what the show might be like if it were back on the air. It gave me hope (albeit a probably false one) that The Muppet Show might come back to TV someday with new episodes, guests and skits. The barbershop quartet number was especially funny.

One last important thing to note - Steve Whitmire really does a tremendous job playing Kermit. He's had over 20 years now to fill Jim Henson's shoes, and I think the highest compliment I could pay him is that what we see on screen is Kermit. It took me aback a few times, watching the film, realizing I was being captivated by some guy's hand in a green sock with plastic eyeballs stuck to it. Movie and Muppet magic, indeed.

If you love The Muppets, you should go see this film. Even if you don't - there's enough satire and in-jokes about movies, musical numbers and Hollywood (and just general silliness) to keep you entertained for an hour and a half. Check it out. 8/10