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The Muppets...A Review by Robwrite
The MUPPETS (3.5 stars out of 5)
Anyone--such as myself--who watched when the Muppet Show first aired in 1975 would have never suspected that they'd still have some life left in them in 2011, but Muppet fans can rejoice to know that The Muppets is the best film featuring the irresistible eponymous critters since the Muppet Movie. (1979) This is a sweet and delightful film that will not only entertain kids but will be a nostalgic treat for older fans who grew up with the Muppets.
Many people (Myself included) have felt that the Muppets have been missing their heart and soul since the untimely death of their creator Jim Henson in 1991. Later films like The Muppets Treasure Island (1996), Muppets in Space (1999) and The Muppets Wizard of Oz (2005) have seemed like pale shadows of the earlier films or of the original Muppet Show. This film seemed doubly troubling since Frank Oz--Henson's number two man and the voice of many of the Muppets--decided not to be involved. Could a Muppet film possibly be any good without either Henson or Oz? Amazingly enough, it is!
What's so clever about this latest installment is that it acknowledges that time has gone by and that the Muppets are no longer hot properties. Many young children who see this film will probably not be familiar with the Muppets at all, except maybe the ones on Sesame Street. This lack of social relevance in modern times is utilized in the story. (In the film, someone asks Kermit if he is one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.)
The story starts with a pair of brothers, one is a human and one is a Muppet. The Muppet, named Walter, has always felt odd and different from the people around him. The one thing that made him happy was watching his VHS copies of The Muppet Show over and over. He felt a connection to them and became the world's biggest Muppet fanatic. As his brother Gary (Played by Jason Segal of How I met Your Mother, who also co-wrote the screenplay) grows up, Gary gets a girlfriend named Mary (Amy Adams). The trio go on a trip to Los Angeles together, where Walter gets to visit the old Muppet Studios, where the Muppets made their TV show and films. Sadly, the place is a run-down wreck and almost no one takes the studio tour anymore. While there, Walter learns that an evil oil tycoon named Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) has bought the land where the studio stands because there is oil underneath it. He plans to bulldoze the place unless the former owners, the Muppets, can come up with 10 million dollars in one week to buy him out.
Walter convinces Gary and Mary to come with him to warn Kermit the Frog of Richman's plans. Kermit is living alone in his big mansion with his memories of his glory days and nursing a broken heart over losing Miss Piggy. Walter convinces him to gather the old gang together to save the theater for posterity.
We find that Fozzie Bear is in a Muppet tribute troupe called the Moopets, working in dive bars in Reno; the Great Gonzo runs a plumbing company, which he eagerly blows up to rejoin his old pals; Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem are playing for donations in the subway, except for Animal who is in an anger management program along with Jack Black; Miss Piggy is working in France for a fashion magazine focused on plus-sized women. (They decide to save time by gathering everyone else using the expedient power of a montage) In a gag reminiscent of the Muppet Movie, big Sweetums misses the car and has to run the rest of the way.
The Muppets plan to put on a reunion show (A cameo by Mickey Rooney is a tribute to those old 'Hey kids, let's put on a show' films he made with Judy Garland in the 40s.) aired as a telethon to raise the 10 million to save the studio. They can't get any networks to back the obsolete act until a fluke of luck provides them a one-time opportuniy. They fix up the old theater and try to recapture the old magic, but Richman has plans to sabotage them. Will they be able to raise the money?
It's a treat for long-time Muppet fans when the old theme song finally plays, complete with Gonzo failing to play the trumpet note. Lots of familiar shenanigans are revisited. Even those perpetual hecklers Statler and Waldorf are back in their old theater box again. Poor abused Beeker gets some of the best laughs. Jack Black is shanghaied to be the special guest star, despite not wanting to do it. And the song "Rainbow Connection" is just as enjoyable to listen to as ever.
This film is far more poignant than other Muppet films. When Kermit sings about missing his old friends, it is genuinely touching. Even Kermit's conversations with Miss Piggy about their shattered romance are done in a sentimental way. Another sentimental subplot is that of Walter and Gary realizing that their life-long togetherness (they still sleep in the same bedroom) is coming to an end since Gary now has Mary and Walter has discovered a place where he finally feels he belongs.
The underlying message of the film is not that change is bad; it's that things of the past which were once considered valuable should not be forgotten because someone or something new has come along. This is represented by the cameo appearances. Old-time cameos (like Judd Hirsch) and the young cameos (Like Selena Gomez) work together to help the Muppets with their telethon. There is room in the world for the old and the new.
It's good to see the Muppets back in top form again and this is a nice tribute to them and to the late, great Jim Henson. Fun, harmless entertainment for the whole family.