Mania Review: The Muppets - Mania.com



Mania Grade: A

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  • Starring: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo the Great, Dr. Teeth, Electric Mayhem, Rowlf, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker
  • Written by: Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller
  • Directed by: James Bobin
  • Studio: Walt Disney Studios
  • Rating: PG
  • Run Time: 102 minutes
  • Series:

Mania Review: The Muppets

It's time to play the music!

By Rob Vaux     November 22, 2011

 It’s not easy being green. At least it hasn’t been in the last decade or two for Kermit the Frog and friends. The magic left behind after the death of Jim Henson dried up somewhere around Muppets From Space, and they’ve been limping along ever since. But now Jason Segel and his partner Nicholas Stoller have ridden in on a white charger to return their soul to them. As with the J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, The Muppets completely re-energizes the characters, not by trying to make them hipper, but by relying on their timelessness. It’s joyful and silly and iconoclastic in all the right places, and once it a while, it even leaves you a bit misty-eyed.

Segel and Stoller hit upon the ingenious notion of introducing the Muppets from the point of view of a long-time fan… who happens to be a Muppet himself. Walter (performed by Jason Linz) and his brother Gary (Segel) live in an idyllic small town, where no one thinks twice about a living felt puppet growing up in their midst. The pair are inseparable – much to the quiet consternation of Gary’s longtime girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) – and both of them grew up watching the Muppets. Now they’re heading to Los Angeles for a well-needed vacation, topped by a visit to the famous Muppet Studios.

When they arrive, however, they find a nasty shock: a dilapidated studio and the Muppets scattered to the four winds. Even worse, a greedy oil baron (Chris Cooper) has plans to knock the studio down and start drilling. When Walter gets wind of it, he hatches a desperate plan to find Kermit and reunite the original performers. With a little luck, they can put on a show and raise the money to buy their old digs back.

The story thus splits roughly in two, with Walter/Gary/Mary gradually giving way to Fozzie, Gonzo and the old gang. For the first hour or so, it’s almost perfect. Director James Bobin combines sophisticated wit, self-aware in-jokes and gentle affection in just the right amounts, while the script captures the irreverent spirit of the Muppets with a fresh set of eyes. Their smartest collective decision was to acknowledge how much the zeitgeist has moved on since the characters’ hey-day and turn it into a running joke. Not only does it diffuse any self-importance that might creep in, but it reminds us how much more cynical our world has become in the ensuing thirty years… and how much of a tonic the Muppets’ sweet, gentle ethos can be.

The brilliance of the first half slips a bit in the second, though not because the star attractions move in on the newcomers. Rather, the newcomers’ plot threads start to get in the way, as Gary and Mary’s romance struggles for our attention and Walter’s questions about who he is head towards an eminently foregone conclusion. Bobin seems aware of the problems, however, and uses the well-established irrelevance to counteract them as swiftly as they arise.

Most importantly, the film sells us completely on the fact that Kermit and his friends really do live in our world: that they’re not puppets but living beings whose adventures might be taking place just a few blocks away. We believed in that reality when Henson was alive and somewhere along the way it got lost. Bobin, Segel and the rest resurrect it from whole cloth: helping us smile, giggle and remember what it was like to be young again. Even better, they do so in a way that revitalizes the property for a new generation, even as they point nostalgically back to its golden era. The Muppets are evergreen; it just took an effort like this to remind us of the fact. Wherever he is, I can’t imagine their creator being any prouder.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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samurai1138 11/22/2011 5:32:26 PM

The one movie i assumed you'd hate. The trailer looked like crap. But the story actually doesnt sound too bad, i never cared for muppets playing other characters, ie christmas carol/treasure island, always liked too see them just being "themselves", so maybe I'll give it a go.

fatpantz 11/22/2011 7:56:28 PM

This is my guilty pleasure of the holiday season.  I was lucky enough to grow up during the original seasons of The Muppets and even though i was quite young, I have never lost my love for them.  Like Rob said, they seemed to lose their magic since the passing of jim Henson, and honestly i never expected to see that magic return.  When I first saw the teaser for this, i felt that spark and energy.  While Segel is a bit younger than me, i still sensed that passion and love for the Muppets in every interview he did about them.

First Winnie the Pooh, now The Muppets....Disney is really hitting it out of the ballpark in renewing their franchises properly!!!

TheMovieGuy28 11/22/2011 8:21:43 PM

Look, Muppets rock and all, and my favorite episode is when they made the bedroom forts, but where the frick is  THE WALKING DEAD REVIEW???? Best episode of the season and not a peep!

Argh! The longer the review is not up the further my thoughts go from memory!

violator14 11/22/2011 8:52:10 PM

 This is the kind of sleeper hit I've been waiting for cuz its seriously been FOREVER since I hit the theater. Screw it I'm gonna watch it, and for some reason I have a bunch of movie theater gift cards. 

shac2846 11/22/2011 8:52:55 PM

This film and Hugo are getting stellar reviews on rotten tomatoes. Hugo is already building some best picture buzz even. James Bobin was one of the masterminds behind Flight of the Conchords, never doubted for a second that this new Muppet movie would rock. Can't wait for this and Hugo. Hope to see them both this week.

Graebeard 11/22/2011 8:58:52 PM

 A - NI- MAL ... A - NI - MAAAAAALLLLL!!!!

TremorDeth 11/23/2011 5:17:37 AM

Great job.

Darkknight2280 11/23/2011 6:59:48 AM

Ive always loved the muppets movies! im sure this one will join the others in greatness :)

Darkknight2280 11/23/2011 7:00:25 AM

Oh..almost forgot... WACKA WACKA!

egoist 11/23/2011 7:03:38 AM

Somewhere Cinescape is turning over in it's grave.

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