Quote of the Day

"We're only here briefly, and while I'm here I want to allow myself joy. So fuck it."
- Amy, Her.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

RE:View: The Muppets

Spoiler Level: Minor

After years of minor TV movies and cameo appearances, The Muppets finally return to the big screen, and they're bringing all their charm, magic and beauty with them. Yes, despite all the worry, The Muppets come-back is a spectacular one that doesn't take itself too seriously, in true Muppets style, and delivers on almost every level.

  The story sees mega-Muppet fan brothers Walter (a little Muppety man in his own right) and Gary (Jason Segel, who also co-wrote and got this whole thing together), as they make their way to LA to see the legendary Muppets' Studios, along with Gary's long-time girlfriend, Mary (Amy Adams). But little do they know that their journey is going to involve reuniting their heroes, The Muppets to save their theatre from evil oil baron, Tex Richman (Chris Cooper).

This set-up to reintroduce the Muppets to a world from which they were staling with a humbling self-referential cheek, is what gives the story a very warm heart that hearkens back to the Henson days of Muppetery. In other hands, this could have seemed like a cheap and easy way to make another Muppets film, but in Segel (a self-proclaimed Muppet-nut himself) and director James Bobin's hands, it just works. Segel's love for the Muppets is ever present in the charming script, with some definite connections between his own fandom and the characters of Walter and Gary.

An old favourite and a new favourite.
With Walter, the team have truly struck gold, presenting one of the most likeable, relatable characters I've ever encountered. If you don't immediately fall in love with him, I think it's safe to say you have no heart. Not only that, but he's given a wealth of development despite the lime-light being shared between Kermit, Miss Piggy and everyone else. Watching Walter fulfil his destiny in becoming a Muppet is a heart-touching experience, worthy of any good Human centred story; perhaps even exceeding it in terms of emotional beauty.

Once Walter, Gary and Mary are all set up into proceedings, the film kicks into nostalgic high gear with the entrance of Kermit and his buds. Taking on a classic "We're getting the band back to together" vibe, we get to see the "Where are they now?" for the old gang, including Fozzie as a failed motel entertainer, Gonzo as a plumbing entrepreneur and Piggy as the editor of Vogue magazine. Again, the universal wit of The Muppets shines through this, giving out laughs for the kids, the adults and even a few subtle ones for the adult adults. One Liners, Set Piece Gags, Running Puns, Meta Mocking and "What's Going on In The Background There?" are all at the very forefront of the jokes, with the hits far more frequent than the 1 or 2 misses.

  The characters still feel like the ones we'd left behind, saying what you'd expect and acting as they would, resonating the Henson/Oz spirit that made them the cult-phenomenon that they are today. When they get on that stage for the "Save The Muppets Telethon Spectacular Show", everything comes flooding back and you just live in that Muppet world for those moments. The transition into a new era has gone as smooth as it could; the magic always intact - never the thought of "there's actually a bunch of dudes with their hands up some puppets behind it all". The truth is that when you see Kermit sitting on that log with his little banjo, singing "Rainbow Connection" with the same innocent earnest as he did 33 years ago, it is just pure, undeniable movie magic. Heart-String-Tugging indeed.

 Which brings me to the music, because of course, it wouldn't be the Muppets if there wasn't any giggle-a-long (and often strikingly meaningful and touching) songs. Flight of The Conchord's Bret McKenzie provides some of the greatest Musical numbers - even by Broadway standards - that you'll hear in a long time. Alongside the classic Muppet tunes and some renowned pop hits that have been "Muppetefied", McKenzie, like Segal, has embodied the old school Henson style, with the shiny, upbeat "Life's A Happy Song", the brilliant, Oscar Nominated ballad, "Man Or Muppet" and the villainous "Let's Talk About Me" rap from Chris Cooper (which comes off hilariously dastardly - hilarstardly). Tongue in cheek and gloriously Muppety, these new songs are sure to be well remembered, repeated and rejoiced. Oh, and the Conchord's style is so awesomely echoed throughout.

Ah, and the cameos, the glorious, glorious cameos. Whilst some may be missed by those less familiar with American TV and culture, those that get them will be overwhelmingly pleased. Their presence is frequent, with some well loved show-biz faces popping up in some delightfully funny places.  Believe me, one in particular was so exciting and genius that I was giddy beyond belief. And naturally, they all reappear in the during-credits "Mah Na Mah Na" theme, to much (in my head) applause.

 Sure it's got its flaws; some things don't get enough time as they deserve to truly flourish, predominantly in the relationship between Mary and Gary which feels a tad rushed and unfocused. A few Muppets, while featured, seem neglected (more Gonzo, Rizzo and Sam The Eagle please!), but it's justified with the obvious time constraints. Baddie Richman could have done with some extra motif via exposition too, but that does get cleared up in a cut section of his rap.

 But this is The Muppets: those things don't matter. We're not looking at an ultra serious movie here, after all. It's got all the elements it needs, and is fuelled by them to no end, resulting in an almost perfect rendition of The Muppets to date. And it's like Henson always said: "If it's too good, then it's not the Muppets". What Segel, Bobin and McKenzie have done is extraordinary; a true movie feat - to take something that's relevance was fading, and replenish it to audiences which will remember and love and crave, want, whistle and cry for more. One thing's for sure: THE MUPPETS ARE BACK.

The Beloved just got Reloved:
4.5/5 Stars
*Kermit Flail*


And stay posted for my upcoming review on The Muppets Original Soundtrack!

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