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Movie Review: The Muppets

November 23, 2011

The Muppets – A Walt Disney Pictures’ Release

http://disney.com/muppets

Release Date: November 23rd, 2011

Rated G for some mild crude humour and peril

Running time: 102 minutes

James Bobin (dir.)

Jason Segel (screenplay)

Nicholas Stoller (screenplay)

Jim Henson (characters)

Christophe Beck (music)

Jason Segel as Gary

Amy Adams as Mary

Chris Cooper as Tex Richman

Rashida Jones as CDE Executive

Peter Linz as Walter (voice)

Steve Whitmire as Kermit/Beaker/Statler/Rizzo (voice)

Eric Jacobson as Miss Piggy/Fozzie Bear/Animal/Sam Eagle (voice)

Dave Goelz as Gonzo/Dr. Bunsen Honeydew/Waldorf/Kermit Moopet (voice)

Bill Barretta as Swedish Chef/Rowlf/Dr. Teeth/Pepe/Fozzie Moopet (voice)

David Rudman as Scooter/Miss Poogy (voice)

©Walt Disney Pictures.  All Rights Reserved.

Gary (Jason Segel), Mary (Amy Adams), Walter, Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear in Disney’s The Muppets.

Our reviews below:

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The Muppets Review By John C.

**** (out of 4)

From the rousing musical numbers right through to the nostalgic and heartfelt story, The Muppets is a joyous celebration of how the world should be.  It’s also one of the best movies of the year.  I’ve always been a big fan of Jim Henson’s wonderful characters, so it’s no secret that this new movie was one of my most anticipated of the fall season.  I grew up watching The Muppet Show on video and in syndication, and this triumphant comeback doesn’t disappoint on any level.

Gary (Jason Segel) and his little brother Walter live a simple but happy life in Smalltown, USA.  Walter is the world’s biggest Muppet fan, and their bedroom is filled with all sorts of awesome collectibles.  Gary is looking forward to celebrating his ten-year dating anniversary with his lovable girlfriend, Mary (Amy Adams).  But when the three take a trip to Los Angeles to visit the abandoned Muppet Studios, they discover a plan by evil business tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to tear down the old theatre and dig for oil underneath.  The only way for them to save the beloved landmark is to get the old Muppet gang back together for a comeback performance.

The problem is that The Muppet Show hasn’t been on the air in thirty years, and Kermit the Frog now spends his days at a sprawling mansion, with only an ‘80’s robot to keep him company.  Miss Piggy is a fashion editor in Paris, Gonzo owns a plumbing business and Fozzie Bear is barely making ends meet performing as part of the Moopets.  “You guys aren’t famous anymore,” says TV producer Veronica (Rashida Jones).  But Walter hopes to prove otherwise, by showing her that even in this mean and cynical world people still want to be entertained by the good-hearted humour of the Muppets.  Not only are there appearances from all of the classic Muppets, but also cameos from numerous celebrities.

The fact that this was a labour of love for Jason Segel clearly shows through in every scene, including the montages and big musical numbers.  The film opens with the exuberant and joyous “Life’s a Happy Song,” a wonderfully performed production number through the streets of Smalltown.  The sequence where Gary and Walter ask the question of “Man or Muppet” provides some of the funniest moments, but my favourite song has to be the nostalgic and bittersweet “Pictures in My Head.”  It plays over one of the most important scenes in the film, and I would be shocked if it doesn’t win Best Song come Oscar time.

If none of this makes you want to see the film, then I’ll go one step further.  The Muppets is a celebration of how the world should be.  This is a film about the nostalgia we all carry with us for the past, and how it is never too late to relive the glory days or find your place in the world.  These themes have always been evident alongside the characters, and this sense of diversity and embracing spontaneity is squarely on display here.  The film is free of cynicism and nastiness, while at the same time acknowledging that these things are often a part of the entertainment industry.

This is a film made up of great humour, appealing characters and joyous musical numbers that tempt us to sing along.  What it also has is genuine heart, and a sense of nostalgia that is most effecting for those of us who grew up with the characters.  I’m sure I wasn’t the only longtime fan holding back tears of happiness at the screening.  If we could get more movies with the same joy and heart as The Muppets, then my job as a film critic would be that much easier.  Somewhere up above, Jim Henson is smiling knowing that his beloved characters are in good hands.

Before the film is Pixar’s latest Toy Story Toon, which features appearances from all of the beloved characters from the franchise.  Titled Small Fry, the 7-minute short has Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) attending a support group for lost toys after being replaced by a big-headed fast food version of himself.  With hilarious plays on the age-old question of what happens to lost kids meal toys, this is an entertaining short film that features supporting voice work by Jane Lynch.  

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The Muppets Review by Erin V.  

*** (out of 4)

In The Muppets, the film starts when we meet Walter (a Muppet) and his brother Gary (Jason Segel).  Gary is getting ready to take his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) to Los Angeles to celebrate their 10 year dating anniversary, and at the last-minute decides to bring Walter along with them so he can see The Muppet Studios.  Walter spent many hours in front of his TV set watching The Muppet Show as a kid, the only time that he felt he belonged somewhere.  When they get to L.A. though, the studios are long abandoned and in danger of being sold to Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), who wants to tear them down.  The only way to save the studios is to raise 10 million dollars, and the only way to do that is to get the old gang back together and put on a show.

Overall, I found myself entertained enough to not be overly bored in the theatre, but unlike others, I couldn’t find a personal emotional connection to this film.  In all honesty, I never did completely connect with The Muppets.  I’ve always liked certain characters (Kermit, Gonzo, etc.), although others like Fozzie and Miss Piggy were far lower down on my list.  The humour here gets a few funny lines that I found myself crack a smile at, though I never really laughed out loud.  The finale (their telethon-style show) has some amusing and fun moments throughout though (chicken chorus, Jack Black, etc.)

Overall, I found this to be a passively pleasant film.  There is only one Muppet film that I would really call brilliant and want to watch several times though – and that is A Muppet Christmas Carol.  It’s not that I don’t understand why The Muppets are appealing, they just aren’t quite the same for me – I don’t seem to completely get them.  I find with the array of characters, their films on the most part feel hit and miss to me.  One thing I do always like is the music, so I’ll mention that briefly…

While Life’s a Happy Song at the beginning is cheerful and fun, I found the spontaneous dance numbers in films such as Enchanted and 500 Days of Summer felt more genuine.  But a little further into the film, there is one song called Pictures in My Head, and it is this song alone that feels directly in the vain of the melody and writing of Rainbow Connection.  The other song that got a smile from me in the theatre was Man or Muppet, another one I think was very well written (despite the ridiculous words).  Both great turning point scenes, these two are probably the best songs – and best scenes in the film.  There were a few other songs in the film (Me Party, Let’s Talk About Me) that were amusing in the film, but I didn’t spend much time thinking about afterwards.

There’s no doubt those who grew up loving The Muppets are going to love this one.  And to finish, I can’t help but suggest that you go see The Muppets in a theatre – only because if you wait for the DVD you’ll have “to let them into your home.”  For those who’ve seen the AMC pre-show ads with Statler & Waldorf, you’ll get the reference.  Those who haven’t, it won’t make all that much sense…

Just a brief note: Before the film is a ‘Toy Story Toon’ called Small Fry.  It is a 7-minute short featuring our favourite toys, as they encounter a smaller version of Buzz from a fast-food chain.  It is funny, just the right length, and fits well with the humour of the previous Toy Story outings.  In short, it alone in my book is worth seeing The Muppets in theatres for.  

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The Muppets Review by Nicole

**** (out of 4)

It’s time to meet the Muppets again, in this new and delightful family-oriented comedy.  Times have changed, and the Muppets are not as popular as they used to be.  However, Gary (Jason Segel) and his Muppet brother Walter are huge fans.  So they decide to visit the Muppet Theatre in California.  Gary’s girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) also comes along, only she thinks that the vacation is a romantic trip with her boyfriend.  But things take a serious turn once Walter finds out the Muppet Theatre is in danger of demolition by oil tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper).  So Gary, Walter and Mary have to get the Muppet gang back together for a fundraising show if they are to save the theatre.

The Muppets brings back all the charm of the previous films.  There are all the celebrity cameos and, of course, several great big musical numbers.  In fact, this movie is a musical, which fits the Muppet world perfectly.  The message of the film, however, is quite moving.  Far too many children of this generation are bored by entertainment consisting of puppets and good music, probably due to the presence of electronic toys and 24-hours kids television stations.

This film brings the magic of imagination back into a world of constant overstimulation.  Enjoyed by young and old alike, The Muppets are sure to last for years to come.

Pixar’s favourite toys are back in a new short adventure.  When Bonnie takes Buzz to a McDonald’s-type restuarant, he gets mixed up with a mini-Buzz kids meal toy.  While the mini-Buzz goes home, the real Buzz ends up at a support group for unwanted kids meal toys.  How will the Buzz swap get sorted out?  Small Fry, created by Pixar Canada, is a charming and funny short film that keeps the spirit of the Toy Story films.  

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The Muppets Review by Maureen

**** (out of 4)

Remember the Muppets?  Personally, I have fond memories of each and every Muppet movie ever made, and also of the quirky and entertaining TV show.  However, there’s a whole generation of folks who wouldn’t know a Muppet from a Moopet.  Thank goodness for the wonderfully sentimental comeback movie, The Muppets, starring Jason Segel and co-written by him and Nicholas Stoller.  This family-friendly story focuses on two brothers, Gary (Jason Segel) and the vertically-challenged Walter (Peter Linz).  The brothers grew up watching the Muppets together and Walter is a young adult with an impressive collection of Muppets memorabilia.

When bigger brother Gary plans a special trip to Los Angeles with his girlfriend of ten years, Mary (Amy Adams), Walter is counting on tagging along so they can all check out the famous Muppets Studio.  So the trio set off on a road trip travelling mostly by map.  The trip turns out to be more than they bargained for when they discover the old studio is falling apart and mean and nasty business tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) is going to tear it down to try drilling for oil.  It’s up to Walter, with Gary and Mary’s help, to track down the former Muppets, including the one and only Kermit the Frog.

Yes, the Muppets needing to get back together to save their studio is very similar to one of their earlier movies.  But this time it has an especially nostalgic feel to it.  When Kermit asks “does anybody even care about the Muppets anymore?” the answer is sadly obvious.  Today’s world has grown more cynical and no longer embraces the pure silliness and laughter that made the Muppets so popular.

To its credit, The Muppets is an unabashedly corny and lighthearted movie.  Right from the beginning, characters are smiling and singing their way through the storyline.  This is a world where Muppets and non-Muppets believably co-exist and breaking into song is a normal thing to do.  There are some really good song and dance numbers in The Muppets.  Kermit’s nostalgic song “Pictures in My Head” beautifully captures the whole point of the movie.  One especially fun number performed by Gary and Walter is “Man or Muppet” in a totally off-the-wall sequence.

There are so many cameos in The Muppets, including Jack Black as himself, that part of the fun is spotting celebrities.  The real fun is seeing the old Muppet gang back together again.  Each person will have their favourite.  They’re all just as I remember them.  Jason Segel and Amy Adams each do a great job as the leading non-Muppets.  There’s a real sense of fun and Muppet appreciation in their performances.

Muppet fans will no doubt find themselves smiling and singing along throughout the whole movie.  The Muppets is pure nostalgia.  Those who aren’t as familiar with the old Muppet gang can discover what some of us have known all along.  The Muppets are special.

Ever wonder what happens to the kid’s meal toys that nobody wants?  Buzz finds out when Bonnie accidentally leaves him behind in the restaurant’s play area.  Not only does he meet the other toys, he gets to be included in a very funny support group headed by a mermaid princess (voiced by Jane Lynch).  Kid’s meal toy Buzz ends up at Bonnie’s house and Woody and the gang are not impressed with this imitation.  Small Fry is one funny short.  The wit and animation are up to par with what Pixar fans have come to expect from the Toy Story characters and the perspective of how these cheap kids meal toys might feel is priceless.  

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The Muppets Review by Tony

***1/2 (out of 4)

Thirty years after their last TV show, The Muppets is about a reunion of the original cast to save their theatre from the ruthless Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) and his “Moopet” minions. Having grown up on tapes of the series, Gary (Jason Segel) and his Muppet brother Walter (Peter Linz) are their biggest fans, so much so that Walter goes along with Gary and his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) to L.A. to tour what remains of the Muppet Studio. The challenges of pulling the cast together and mounting a show seem insurmountable, including pitching to a network executive (Rashida Jones) for a prime time slot and the reluctance of Kermit and Miss Piggy (now a plus-size Paris Vogue editor) to reconcile.

A labour of love for co-writer Jason Segel, The Muppets brings back all the charm and wit of the original series, updated only where needed, full of clever and silly gags, with brilliant musical numbers and more celebrity cameos than you can count. Young adult fans will be most delighted, but their very small children missing most of the in jokes may be bored by the over 100 minute length.

A new Toy Story short from Pixar’s Vancouver shop precedes the feature. Called Small Fry, it introduces a support group of discarded toys from fast food kids’ meals in a very funny case of mistaken identity. 

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Consensus: With great humour and joyous musical numbers, Disney’s The Muppets is a labour of love for co-writer and star Jason Segel as well as a triumphant comeback for Jim Henson’s beloved characters.  ***3/4 (Out of 4)

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