Should I Watch..? The Muppets
What's the big deal?
The Muppets is a family musical comedy film released in 2011 and features the numerous puppet creations of Jim Henson known as the Muppets. Intended as a theatrical relaunch for the characters after years of straight-to-video efforts and TV movies, the movies centres on new character Walter who coerces the gang back together in an effort to save their original theatre from demolition. It was the first Muppet movie made without long-time puppeteers Frank Oz and Jerry Nelson (who only has a voice cameo) but it became a critical and commercial success on release, even becoming the first Muppets movie to win an Academy Award. Its surprise success led to a later sequel - Muppets Most Wanted - in 2014.
What's it about?
Walter and Gary are brothers and lifelong fans of The Muppets, having watched them together as kids. Now adults, Gary plans a trip to LA with his girlfriend Mary to celebrate their 10th anniversary but invites Walter along so they can tour the abandoned Muppets studios together. Mary quietly disapproves of this idea as she feels Gary spends too much time on Walter but goes along with it anyway.
While visiting the studios, Walter discover Statler & Waldorf selling the studios to Tex Richman who ultimately plans to destroy the theatre and begin drilling for oil. Shocked at this turn of events, Walter and Gary begin a plan to reunite the Muppets to raise $10 million before their original contract expires so they can buy the theatre back. But having all gone their separate ways, it will take some doing to get Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie, Animal and the rest back for one night only...
Veronica, TV executive
Steve Whitmire *
Kermit The Frog, Beaker, Statler, Rizzo The Rat, Link Hogthrob, Lips, Muppet Newsman
Eric Jacobson *
Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Sam The Eagle, Marvin Suggs
Dave Goelz *
Great Gonzo, Dr Honeydew, Zoot, Beauregard, Waldorf, Kermit Moopet
Bill Barretta *
Rowlf The Dog, Swedish Chef, Dr Teeth, Pepe The King Prawn, Bobo The Bear, Mahna Mahna, Behemoth, Fozzie Moopet, Muppet Gary
Jason Segel & Nicholas Stoller *
Release Date (UK)
10th February, 2012
Comedy, Family, Musical
Best Original Song ("Man Or Muppet")
What's to like?
This is one film that sticks rigidly to its mission statement: make the Muppets relevant again. And it does, opening with a huge song and dance routine involving the entire town and a cameo from Mickey Rooney winking down the camera before setting off on its quest to charm and entertain in its own, unique way. The Muppets occupies its own little niche within cinema, being both goofy enough for kids to laugh at but smart enough to keep the adults engaged as well with characters that are familiar as well as the newer creations. There is a warm sense of nostalgia to the film which brings back many memories.
It can't be easy holding your own alongside such furry and funny co-stars as these but Segel and Adams approach the film with the right attitude, gamely playing the film for laughs and getting stuck in. But the true stars are the ones you don't see - the endless puppeteers have perfected their craft over a number of years and films and this outing is spectacularly good. It does make you wonder why people stopped caring about them. The songs are wonderfully funny, especially the brilliant "Man Or Muppet" which I guarantee you'll be singing to yourself after the movie's finished.
- The film-makers deliberately chose old-school techniques like battery-operated Muppets instead of CG, in order to retain the charm of the original productions.
- The Blu-Ray release is the first to use a 'Disney Intermission' feature - when the film is paused, the traditional red curtains appear and a series of gags plays which is different each time the film is paused. It can be turned off, if you want!
- During the telethon, the chickens cluck a version of Cee-Lo Green's "Forget You". Green would perform the same song at the Grammy Awards that year dressed in a feathery costume, referencing Elton John's appearance on "The Muppet Show" in 1977.
What's not to like?
It does take a little while to get going, once you've got your head around the fact that a human and a Muppet can be brothers somehow. But once that little plot point is addressed, you'll probably enjoy the film as much as I did. I would have liked a bit more variety from the Muppets themselves - nowhere near enough Swedish Chef or Beaker for me personally! - and if anything, the jokes aren't nearly as funny as the songs are.
Part of me wished there was more to it - the build-up to the telethon felt like it took a long time and the story involving Richman was wrapped up far too quickly as well. But on the whole, this is superb family entertainment and coming from someone who doesn't like musicals, that's a bold statement to make.
Should I watch it?
If you've got young children then The Muppets is a great way to spend a family evening together. Imaginative, inventive and annoyingly optimistic, the film not only pays tribute to past successes but paves the way for future Muppet endeavours which will hopefully be as successful as this. Frankly, if you're not singing "Mah Na, Mah Na" by the end then you're dead inside.
Great For: reviving the Muppet franchise, families, children
Not So Great For: fans of the more niche characters
What else should I watch?
I confess that Muppets Most Wanted has so far eluded me but appears to have the same style and energy that this film possess. But then again, Ricky Gervais is in it and I find him about as funny as a wheelchair with a puncture. The Muppets, of course, have a long cinematic history - their first cinema outing was back in 1979 - and for me, one of the best was The Muppet Christmas Carol alongside Michael Caine hamming it up magnificently as Scrooge.
Quality family entertainment is hard to come by as most efforts focus on pleasing the younger viewers instead of the whole family. If you aren't sick to death of them, the Wallace And Gromit claymation shorts by Nick Park are well worth watching as is their feature length movie The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit and Park's debut feature, the fun farmyard tribute to prisoner-of-war movies Chicken Run. These days, it is not Disney but Pixar who excel at producing movies to please everyone and two of their best are the entertaining throwback to superheroes of yore The Incredibles and the glorious sci-fi fable WALL·E.
© 2015 Benjamin Cox