The Muppets (2012)

Walter (Peter Linz), the Muppet brother of the coincidentally human Gary (Jason Segel), has struggled to find a place in the world, preferring instead to watch The Muppet Show re-runs at home with his live-in sibling. Invited to Los Angeles by Gary, who has booked the holiday to mark the ten year anniversary of his relationship with unorthodox school teacher Mary (Amy Adams), Walter is disappointed to find the official tour of the old Muppet Theatre all-but disbanded and the building itself in ruin. Overhearing a plot by tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to purchase the land harvest it for oil, Walter hijacks the romantic getaway in order to reunite the Muppets and save the theatre by way of a money raising telethon.

It does require somewhat of a suspension of disbelief to imagine a world in which the Muppets are out of fashion and long forgotten, particularly given the troupe’s recent runaway resurgence. Since the project was first announced, Disney’s marketing machine has been in overdrive as the brand began appearing everywhere from Children In Need to YouTube to your local cineplex courtesy of the requisite Orange Gold Spot. With a push for the Muppets to host the Oscars, and even an interview with Miss Piggy in The Sunday Times, the long-awaited movie ran the risk of missing its own bandwagon, and really had to deliver something special to justify the considerable hype.

Thankfully, Jason Segel’s script does just that, its alchemic mix of nostalgia and innovation ensuring that fans of the television show and extant franchise are duly honoured, while taking measures to charm newcomers and novices alike. The results are often laugh out loud funny as our heroes are forced to accept that the world has moved on and tastes have changed. From Kermit the Frog’s contact list of yesteryear’s celebrity (we’re looking at you, Molly Ringwald) to ’80s Robot’s reliance on a dial-up modem, the incongruity is played up to great effect. The film also has fun with certain well-worn cinematic shorthand, with montage and map travel both lampooned with a lovably self-aware wink to the audience.

As with his Dracula rock musical from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Segel shows a startling affinity for catchy show-tunes. Kick-starting proceedings with the delightfully upbeat Life’s a Happy Song, the wit and proficiency later exampled throughout subsequent hits Pictures in My Head and Man or Muppet will not only have you spouting half-remembered lyrics for weeks to come but living in wait of Segel’s next musical endeavour. The original music is complimented with a number of recycled hits that shall remain nameless so as not to spoil their impact, needless to say that a certain recent pop hit as interpreted by Camilla and the Chickens comes close to stealing the show.

Even onscreen, Segel (alongside Amy Adams and Peter Linz) cuts a likeable presence opposite the veritable institutions of Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and Gonzo. Their introduction is arguably the film’s biggest accomplishment, as the new characters and dynamics are established and we get to see the glowing effects of having a Muppet in your life. As the focus shifts, the trio is even missed, with their development and resolution having to contend with the film’s namesakes for screen time. Not that it’s not nice to have the Muppets back, the ensuing madness truly celebrating all that was great about the characters and franchise, but with a plot so slight it’s a shame that anyone had to lose out at all.

This is a problem, however, and unless you are willing to let the film slide on good will alone you are unlikely to be completely satisfied with the finished product. The careful balancing act of man and Muppet struggles to give each subplot its due; with so many supporting characters, it was always going to be a challenge doing each existing icon their due, even without adding new ones to the mix – however likeable they might be. The result is a movie which doesn’t quite hang together, a miss-mash of narrative threads and secondary characters that are rarely more than the sum of their parts.

With many of the skits involved in the marketing push proving so successful, and many of the gags in the film itself working so well, the film is often at its best during relatively standalone segments and self-contained sight-gags. As soon as director James Bobin attempts tie these segments together the movie starts to fall apart, the film’s punch compromised by a plot so cliché that you’re waiting for a send up that never comes. Although many of the characters are great fun and many of the ideas come together beautifully, there are moments that fall jarringly flat. Take the movie’s “celebrity cameos”: with many of Hollywood’s least funny contemporary performers cropping up in one way or another, the diversions from the already short-changed central relationships ultimately do more harm than good.

A hugely affable affair which confirms that the Muppets are back in a big way, The Muppets is an absolute joy from beginning to end. With Jason Segel gifting us with one of the most charming, witty and tongue in cheek scripts of the year so far, and a love and admiration for the franchise which goes beyond simple nostalgia, this is undoubtedly the comedy to beat in 2012. With one of the film’s key morals being that relevance is overrated, however, I just wish all involved hadn’t been so preoccupied with shoehorning in timely celebrity cameos.

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

2 Responses to The Muppets (2012)

  1. Pingback: February 2012 – Wow, that was such an expensive looking explosion! « popcornaddict

  2. Pingback: The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (2012) « popcornaddict

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