Cast: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Peter Linz (voice), and too many cameo’s to even begin to list…
Review: “It’s time to play the music, it’s time to light the lights!” And it’s about time indeed! The original “Muppet Show” aired in the late 1970s, completely missing my generation and even those before me, yet these Muppets still found a way to invade even my childhood. I can remember back to my numerous repeated watchings of films like The Muppets Take Manhattan and Muppet Treasure Island, and loving every hilarious minute. The Muppet films always have a clever level of self-awareness, mixing the puppets in with real humans, and will forever be a franchise the entire family can enjoy. The new Muppet film is no change of pace, delivering nothing but a simple wholesome experience with no real surprises. Some can argue the comedy is sometimes too squeaky clean and predictable for people my age looking for a nostalgia blast, so only the truest of Muppet fans should really get excited this time around. In my case, I wasn’t missing the midnight showing I’d been waiting patiently for, but in an empty theater I can only come to the sad conclusion that the Muppets are struggling to pick up new younger fans, but hopefully the desolate theater was just due to the hectic holiday travel. But what better way to spend some family time than with a musical frog, a sassy pig, a stand up comedian bear, and celebrity cameos out the wazoo?!
Walter (Linz) the puppet and Gary (Segel) the human are brothers living in stereotypical Smalltown, USA. Gary is taking his girlfriend Mary (Adams) to Los Angeles, and bringing Walter along to fulfill his dream of visiting Muppet Studios. Even in the desolate and dilapidated state of the once bustling studio, Walter’s love for the Muppets has him filled with wonderment. While exploring Kermit’s old office, Walter overhears Tex Richman (Cooper) talk about his evil plot to buy out Muppet Studios and demolish it in order to drill for oil. Wanting to help his beloved Muppets and save their studio, Walter meets with Kermit to devise a plan. Having to raise $10,000,000 dollars, Kermit decides the only option is to round-up the old gang and put on a one night telethon event to raise the capital. With the help of Walter, Gary, and Mary, Kermit has one night to save an entire franchise from vanishing, but will his efforts be enough to drive away the much wealthier Tex?
Just look at Animal….
The Muppets are already well-loved and that’s no secret, but the allure of their films comes with the celebs that pop in for a quick appearance. You have to think with the age of popular stars today, their generation grew up and saw the Muppets live, experiencing them first hand. They have a totally different respect for the characters unlike me who only got to experience them second-hand. So, I can only imagine the joy a true Muppet fan could have just getting their face in the film, be it for a 5 second bit piece with no speaking parts. Just to say they were involved in a Muppet film and be on set is a fun enough experience I can imagine, so lets point out some of the funnier famous faces:
-Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters guitarist/Nirvana drummer) dressed up as an Animal replacement in Fozzy’s band The Moopets
-Jack Black as, well, himself
-Donald Glover (“Community”/Stand-Up) as a Junior TV Exec
-Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover) as Hobo Joe
-Jim Parsons (“Big Bang Theory”) as Walter’s envisioned human form
-Emily Blunt (The Adjustment Bureau) as Miss Piggy’s receptionist
And these were just a few. Most were just little one liner parts, and in Grohl’s case a non speaking part, but hiding celebrities like so creates a game for the audience and just adds to the allure of the overall film, being able to boast so many big names that want to be a part of the action. The only disappointing thing was that when the cast was originally announced, cameo names like Danny Trejo, Ricky Gervais, Ed Helms, Ben Stiller, Eric Stonestreet, and Mila Kunis (just to name a few) were included. All their parts were cut out due to “time constraints,” which cut the final film down to an hour and a half. For my money, I would have gladly sat in my seat the extra time allotted just to watch the likes of Trejo and Gervais interact with the Muppets, and was actually bummed when they got zero screen time. This also ties into my complaint of the film…
Everything was over much too quick. The very average run time was felt to be even shorter and almost rushed, which is confusing as cuts were made to shorten the length (which meant the first cut felt too drawn out?). The discovery of our conflict, gathering of Muppets, and the Muppet-thon timeline flew by, not really stopping off to enjoy each aspect individually. I had some good laughs and chuckled most of the way, but I didn’t get a sense of depth out of the film. Segel wrote the script as an avid Muppet fan with collaborator Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall), wanting to expose a new generation to the adorable Muppets. Bret McKenzie (“Flight of the Conchords”) was brought in as Music Supervisor, so there was also a raised expectation with having such a talented comedic musician on board. But even with the fantastic collaborative efforts, some of the humor went under me. The film was obviously built with young children in mind, and the writing didn’t hide it.
Am I showing my age or losing my innocence? I refuse to admit it so I’ll just say no. But with that said, The Muppets did let down to a small degree. This was a huge opportunity for Henson’s gang to gain steam again, starting with some hilarious YouTube skits to start building momentum early (Bohemian Rhapsody/Habanera). In retrospect, the final film delivers on the upper end of passable, and can be branded as an overall enjoyable Muppet experience. Cameos add to the fun, even if some of the best name wise were omitted, and musical numbers fit The Muppet feel of old (oh yeah, ever want to see Chris Cooper rap?). A family film that will appease fans of all ages, The Muppets still shows us why iconic characters so old still retain relevance some thirty years later. What I’m most excited for is the DVD release though, undoubtably containing the numerous cameo appearances that fell to the chopping floor. Either way, I can only dream someday I’ll be famous enough to squeak myself in the next Muppet adventure *fingers crossed*.
Final Rating: 7 singing chickens out of 10
Why is Animal hilarious no matter what picture you look at?