E very year there is one movie that is so darn entertaining and magical that once it finishes; all you can think about is seeing it again! For 2011 ‘The Muppets’ is that movie.
I can’t really express my love for this movie, but I did have a shit eaters grin across my face for the entire running time. I know that this year has been a sea of depressing films – even the huge films have been reflecting the current economic state; then there are films like ‘Melancholia’ – but even in any other year ‘The Muppets’ would still be the most joyful.
‘The Muppets’ stands tall in 2011 because it solely exists to make you feel joy. If you are a Muppet fan (come on, who isn’t?) then it’s a haven. All your favorite characters are there, the music numbers are fantastic, the acting (and many, many cameos) are great, and the film looks gorgeous and is as majestic a Muppet movie you could conceive of.
The film, directed by James Bobin (One half of the ‘Flight Of The Conchords’ duo) and written by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller (of ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’) have created a spellbinding ode to ‘The Muppets;’ without once sidelining the characters or insulting the legacy.
I’m not here to give you a massive backstory of the characters; but I’ll say the film is crowded with references and callbacks to previous films/television episodes (especially the original ‘Muppet Movie’), and if you are a fan then you are rewarded. But that’s not to say the movie isn’t accessible – it is!
The story follows Gary (Jason Segel) and his Muppet brother Walter (voiced by Peter Linz). Gary wants to propose to his longstanding girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) and decides that a trip to Los Angeles would provide the perfect backdrop to do so. Walter and Gary also happen to be the worlds biggest Muppet fans; so the three all go along together to L.A – the home of the Muppet Studio! The super excited Walter is devastated to see that the famed (and forever dreamt of) Muppet Studio is now run-down and barren – before leaving; he sneaks into Kermit’s old office; only to find Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) inside; an oil baron plotting to destroy the studio and drill beneath it for oil.
This leads in to a road trip movie (ala the original Muppet movie) to get the gang back together – so that they can stage a Muppet telethon; one big enough to raise the $10 Million dollars required to buy the studio back. The second half of the movie comprises of the most elaborate ‘Muppet Show’ episode you’ve seen; mixing the on-stage variety acts, with the backstage antics.
A lot has been made about the decision to have the Muppet characters no longer in contact with each other. Why would Kermit live alone in a mansion? Why would Gonzo return to the plumbing business? Why would Fozzie bear be performing in dive joints in Reno? And so forth. None of this is intentionally meant to degrade the characters. It’s reflective of the times: how the muppets aren’t as popular as they used to be. If anything it was a loving recreation of the first movie, and it definitely respects the characters. The movie is about us having forgotten how amazing and lovable they were, and then it proceeds to remind us what we forgot in the most passionate way ever. How could you be cynical about that?!
But as I said before; it’s not a depression fest. There is none of this ‘refusing the call’ bull crap to sift through: no-one of the Muppets has walked away because of any hatred/bad blood towards another. It’s just the times. Every character is handled well, and the LOVE of the characters is so deeply felt – you just can’t help but become infected by the magic.
My major concern was that Jason Segel and Amy Adams would be the central story; taking away from ‘The Muppets’ and relegating them to supporting roles. This is not the case at all. While they do have a running story (A super sweet and well drawn one) it is always directly related to what the Muppets are doing (particularly Walter).
Walter; the newest Muppet; spends the movie figuring out his place in the world, what his self worth is. Gary is about to propose, and is also trying to figure out whether he is mature enough to move right along. The movie is a simple ‘Growing Up’ story, and it’s all made clear in the films show-stopping number: ‘Am I A Man Or A Muppet?’
I guess that ‘Show-stopping’ is the best word for the film. It’s near perfect. It’s so beautifully shot and put together – but it’s the Muppets themselves that are just jaw dropping. The film should win Best Visual Effects! Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen a Muppet story in a long time, or that it was played on a huge screen – but the amount of effects work, and complicated photography just blows your mind. To think there are hundreds of puppeteers just below the frame is a very humbling thought indeed!
I loved all the songs (even an esoteric Rap number), I loved all the characters, and I laughed my ass off. It’s just as funny, irreverent and self referential as its always been. I haven’t enjoyed myself this much in a movie for a long time – it is by far the most entertaining film of 2011. If it had been playing again afterwards, I would have walked right back into it!
If you aren’t enjoying yourself by the time the films first number ‘Life Is A Happy Song’ starts; then the movie will be lost on you. Thankfully I have the feeling that this won’t be the case. I don’t throw around the word ‘Classic’ often, but then again I almost never want to walk right back into a movie I’ve just seen. Don’t be surprised if I label ‘The Muppets’ the best film of 2011 come this New Year.
Enjoy it you lucky bastards, I wish I could see it again for the first time!