Friday, November 25, 2011
1643 - The Muppets
I'm a big Muppets-nerd. I grew up with them, loved the toys, the shows, the films, the dolls, you name it - I loved it. One of the main characters, Walter, is very similar to that. He grew up identifying with the Muppets (he happened to be one). So on top of that it appears that this is set to be one of the best reviewed films of the year - currently at 97% on Rotten Tomatoes (with over a hundred reviews in!) So with all that, combined with all of the hype, publicity, and press that's been going on the bar has been set pretty damn high for our fuzzy friends. So, did the film reach it?...
I think so. I have to be honest, it took me a little while to warm up to the beginning. I started to worry that this would be a Jason Segal film co-starring the Muppets (not that I dislike Segal - I like him a lot), but what I wanted was the reverse, and eventually it became that, and that's when the film really started to work for me (although the opening dance number worked pretty damn hard at winning me over). What's really quite interesting about this film is that it's really geared towards the adult Muppet fans. Sure, they're clearly trying to introduce the Muppets to a new generation, but it really feels like the film is made for us (how awesome is that?). After being subjugated to a series of pretty terrible made-for-TV films they have finally been given the proper love and treatment. The film is about how no one cares about the Muppets anymore, and how cynicism has taken over, and that's where the heart lies. There is a series of really funny moments, and a few that aim high and miss (I might be in the minority, but Chris Cooper was... not great... he tried his best but it just wasn't a good fit to me...).
The biggest issue that the film faces, and the thing that keeps it from being a perfect Muppet film to me, is just that it's really really hard to service all of those characters that have accumulated over the years. If you look at the original Muppets film it's just filled to the brim with these tender moments that really identify and make you pull for the characters. Rolph's "I Hope that Something Better Comes Along" and Gonzo's "I'm Going to Go Back There Someday" are not only two of the best Muppet songs ever, but they work so well emotionally for the story and the characters. We don't really get anything like that in this film, and that's what I feel is missing. It feels like we round up all the characters and have a bit of fun with them - kind of like a 'best of' album, but it's hard to say that any of the characters really get a 'great moment' here. So as a re-introduction to the Muppets I think it's pretty damn great and works well - but for their next outing (please please please let them make more quality projects) I really want it to focus on these guys, their hopes, dreams, flaws. Sure, get the celebrity cameos in there (there are some brilliant ones in this film), but I want the Muppets front and center the whole time.
Okay. So I think I did a good job of not giving anything away. I realize that my review might not seem the most positive, but know that I really loved this, I smiled the whole time, laughed a lot, and got emotional at a few moments. It's not perfect, but it's pretty goddamn great. If you're going to give someone your money at the theare in the near future, give it to a Muppet!