So I debated on whether or not I wanted to write this review as I saw The Muppets on Thanksgiving Day and I typically like to review a movie with it fresh in my head. But I feel like I want to say something about the movie, even if it’s not a totally in-depth review. But before I get to that, I guess I should state that I, by no means, qualify as a Muppets fan, not because I have anything against them, but it seems that I managed to grow up with the Muppets on my periphery. The most I got into them was being an avid watcher of the Muppet Babies cartoon when I was younger. I’ve seen an occasional film here and there but I never really saw The Muppet Show regrettably (though I could correct that since its available on DVD). A lot of interest in this new film was centered around Jason Segel’s involvement. His Dracula puppet musical in Forgetting Sarah Marshall was really awesome and demonstrated his great affection for Jim Henson’s classic characters. When I heard he was writing the film with Nicholas Stoller, as well as starring in the film, I was really excited that he was being given the chance to be involved in such a passion project for him. Then James Bobin (Flight of the Choncords) came on board to direct the film and it was looking like there was just going to be an enormous amount of love for the Muppets behind the scenes that I couldn’t wait to see what these guys would bring to the screen. And bring it they did.
The Muppets is simply delightful. The movie exudes such an overwhelming amount of pure joy that I’d find it hard to believe anyone can’t find something to enjoy in the movie. One of the greatest compliments I can give to Segel and company is that they took inanimate puppets and made me care for them. They stopped being pieces of felt and fur and became real characters. I felt invested in Walter’s journey to find his place in the world and felt Kermit’s sadness over the displacement of the people (puppets) he cared so much for. There was a surprising amount of depth to the characters, something which is often substituted for cheap jokes in a lot of family-oriented films. There were themes of isolation, the struggle in becoming an adult and, of course, finding one’s purpose in the world that I took interest in. The writers approach the story with a sense of maturity and that is something that I think seriously lacks in the family film genre. There is also a plethora of funny jokes to laugh at and the humor appeals to a lot of different sensibilities.
The musical aspect of the film was actually pretty darn cool (as I write this review, I’m actually listening to The Muppets soundtrack). I admit I’m not the world’s biggest fan of musicals as sometimes people dancing and singing in a movie takes me out of the film. However, in The Muppets, there was almost an old Hollywood feel to some of the numbers, especially the ones with Amy Adams. She brought such an amazing charm to her performance that when she sang and danced on screen, I couldn’t help but have a big smile on my face. (Now I’m starting to think of how I looked while watching the movie.. probably like a big dork!) My favorite song/number is “Life’s A Happy Song” which kicks the movie off into happy place territory and comes back at the end to finish off the movie fantastically. I also really enjoyed Kermit’s song “Pictures In My Head.” It was a song of him recounting the happy memories in his head but was also kind of heartbreaking because those memories are all he has left of his dearest friends. “Man or Muppet” was also a good one as it was funny but also set the tone for Jason Segel’s character’s uncertainty of himself, as well as Walter’s struggle. If you haven’t seen the film yet, be on the look out for a barbershop quartet version of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and a take on Cee Lo Green’s “F#&! You” sung by Camilla and The Chickens, it’s pretty amusing.
The film itself isn’t quite perfect structurally as the second act feels like it loses some direction of the story and gets lost a little bit in trying to fit in screen time for all the Muppets. It’s not detrimental to the film but I think there could have been a better through line for Walter’s story. I find myself very forgiving of that though as the movie succeeds so much in creating an entertaining, thoughtful and joyous experience. There are a lot of fun celebrity cameos as well, which I won’t spoil for you.
Overall, The Muppets is a film that I think everyone of every age can enjoy. Jason Segel should be proud of what he’s done in bringing the Muppets back to the big screen. It’s a movie that you can watch and all your worries and troubles fade away through the power of laugher and song. I walked out of the movie feeling high on life and will definitely be purchasing the blu-ray when it comes out so that if I find myself down or caught up in our, at times, cynical world, my mood and outlook can be turned around by enjoying some Muppet optimism. I look forward to seeing the Muppets return again to bring us, to quote Kermit, “the world’s greatest gift, laughter.” Mah Na Mah Na.