Despite the wide array of ages and backgrounds of the folks that comprise the Popblerd staff, there are a few things that are capable of catching the attention of the entire group. One such thing? The Muppets. It’s pretty safe to say that many of us were anticipating the release of the new Jason Segel-helmed Muppet movie for months, and when it opened on the day before Thanksgiving, many of us rushed out to see it. So many of us that we could just as easily have posted a review from an individual member of the staff each day this week. Instead, we have decided to do a group review. So read on, and find out what happens when a group of adults find themselves suddenly transformed into little kids again. Well, most of us, anyway.
Brittany: It’s 1 AM. I should be sleeping, but instead, I’m staring up at the ceiling with “Mahna Mahna” stuck in my head. I have, in fact, had this song from “The Muppets” stuck in my head since I saw the film four days ago. But I’m not really complaining- thinking of the song, and the movie, makes me smile.
Jesse: I grew up with “The Muppet Show”. I remember tuning into CBS every week when the show originally aired and I’m pretty sure I saw “Muppets Take Manhattan” in theaters. I’ve liked all the movies that have come since (Yes, even “Muppets From Space”!)
Brittany: I grew up in the age of “Muppet Babies” (which I watched religiously as a child, and can still sing the theme to), but I was also familiar with “The Muppet Show”/the host of other Muppet movies released in the late 80’s/early 90’s and have my list of favorite Muppets (Kermit, Miss Piggy, Beaker, and Fozzie the Bear, if you were wondering).
Dr. Gonzo: Since Jim Henson’s passing in 1990, I’ve been instinctively skeptical of new Muppet product, especially following Disney’s acquisition of the franchise in that same decade. The first major ventures post-Henson (“A Muppet Christmas Carol”, “Muppet Treasure Island”) never quite captured the Muppet magic for me. But I was forced to thoroughly reassess my assumptions when I caught “Muppets from Space” at a drive-in during the summer of 1999. That film was everything that I thought a Muppet movie should be, or as close to that ideal as we could get without Henson’s guidance.
Jesse: I was excited when I heard that Jason Segel was bringing The Muppets back to the big screen especially after seeing “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” Hearing all the casting rumors and then seeing the teaser parodies that popped up throughout 2011 warmed my heart to no end. I was a little skeptical that Frank Oz (Fozzie, Miss Piggy) was not involved especially when I read an interview where he basically said the script wasn’t true to what The Muppets were about.
Dr. Gonzo: The parody teasers and trailers were very promising, and I made plans in June to see the film opening weekend. Mission accomplished on that front.
Chuck: Driving towards the theater with my family last Saturday, I had major reservations regarding what would soon take place. Not only was I preparing to defend against my wife pulling the “I’ll-be-right-back-going-for-popcorn-then-skipping-out-to-catch-Breaking-Dawn” move, I was also preparing for a major letdown. I was totally amped to see The Muppets and share their greatness with my kids, but the cynic in me feared that my expectations would not just be unmet, but crushed….and worst of all I would have to hear my kids’ patented chant of ‘booooring’ the whole ride home.
Thankfully I was wrong. Very, very wrong.
Jesse: I was determined to see this in the theater. And I am so happy I did. It had all the heart I remember from those original shows and movies and even though most of the voices have changed slightly (Thank you, Dave Goelz/Gonzo The Great for returning), it was still ridiculously enjoyable from beginning to end.
Mike D.: Jason Segel really outdid himself here, crafting (with Sarah Marshall director Nicholas Stoller) the kind of can-do, unflappably happy script that most Disney acolytes would give an entire supply of pixie dust to make. The Muppets, from Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo and Piggy all the way down to Muppets you forgot you even knew about (my personal favorite was Bobby Benson and part of his Baby Band), are the same lovable characters with the same sense of tried-and-true, kitchen-sink theatricality and that same semi-anarchist streak.
Brittany: I loved the fact that the film didn’t try too hard to be anything but what it was: a musical about Muppets. There were no flashy special effects, though there were plenty of dance numbers. There wasn’t any gratuitous violence, or overt sexuality, unless you count Miss Piggy and Kermit’s relationship. I was a bit worried that the producers would try too hard to “modernize” the film, by adding in unnecessary things to win over a generation that’s grown up with flashier, sexier, more violent films, but they didn’t, and I loved that.
Jesse: Similar to the last half of “Muppets Take Manhattan”, “The Muppets” is all about getting the gang back together (Rowlf’s bit during the montage is a treat) to save the Muppet Theater from an especially menacing Chris Cooper (Along with sidekicks Bobo The Bear and Uncle Deadly! Uncle Deadly is back, folks!). The in-jokes are incredible (Wayne & Wanda fans rejoice) and the sheer amount of Muppets that are crammed in here is astonishing.
Blerd: Seeing Muppets both familiar and forgotten turn up on the big screen took me back to such an extent I literally shouted and clapped with delight when certain characters made their entrances (I apologize to everyone in the theater with me.)
Chuck: For me, the gold lies in the details….and no detail was overlooked, right down to Scooter leaving his job at Google to get back with the gang.
Another great treat in the film is the acting of the ‘non-muppets’. Actors always seem more uninhibited, visually playful and really more human-like than ever when they appear in a Muppet movie and this was no different. From Chris Cooper singing, errr rapping, to Amy Adams being perfectly silly at times, to Jason Segel being, well…..a muppet, the performances of both humans and non-humans were wonderful.
Dr. Gonzo: Because a Muppet film is poking fun at entertainment more generally (Hollywood, musicals, fads, etc.), there’s bound to be a level of self-awareness on the screen. But I felt that Segal and Adams took that self-awareness too far. Their characters simply required a dash of subtlety to make the characters a little more palatable for my taste. Granted – The Muppets are NOT about subtlety. But aspects of the movie (especially Segal and Adams) ended up making caricatures of a caricature, which made the film feel a little empty to me.
Blerd: There were some great musical numbers, including routines set to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and, um…”The Song Otherwise Known As Forget You.”
Brittany: I was especially pleased by the musical numbers. One of my favorite TV series is “Flight of the Conchords” and Bret Mackenzie (who is one half of the Conchords) actually served as the music director and wrote most of the original songs in the film. This made for a ton of hilarious numbers, which had me laughing to the point of tears, a few times.
Jesse: “Life’s a Happy Song”, “Me Party”, and “Man or Muppet” were so good that I immediately went home and bought the soundtrack online. Also, as a fan of The Big Bang Theory, “Man or Muppet” was especially great (I don’t want to ruin the surprises).
Dr. Gonzo: I was not as taken with the musical numbers. I understand that in a film like The Muppets, they’re to some extent satirizing the musical genre, but even so, the songs generally felt very forced to me. Sure, I wasn’t expecting a new classic a la “The Rainbow Connection,” but the new tunes went on too long to really hold my interest.
Jesse: Like most Muppets movies, it’s not so much the end result that’s the satisfying part but rather the journey getting there.
Chuck: My family loved it and my children walked away as new fans of the Muppets…..cementing (in our home anyway) a whole new generation of the Muppets being not just relevant, but loved.
Blerd: As kid-friendly as “The Muppets” are, there’s more than enough material that will go right over the heads of the junior set and cause the adults in the crowd to laugh themselves silly.
Brittany: Seeing the Muppets again transported me back to being a child. For that time during the movie, I felt like I was six again- clutching my Kermit and Fozzie stuffed animals as I watched the shows on TV.
Blerd: Ever seen those commercials for some cereal or one another (I think it was Frosted Mini-Wheats) where the guy suddenly turns into the kid version of himself? That was my experience watching “The Muppets.”
Dr. Gonzo: Overall, there was a great deal of humor, some classic Muppet wit, and of course some of that magic that any Muppet product never seems totally devoid of. Leaving the theater, I was pleased but somewhat unsatisfied.
Blerd: For 90 minutes, “The Muppets” took me back to a more innocent time. Simple lessons like believing in yourself and being surrounded by loved ones serve as the subtly delivered messages in the movie, and they’re not beaten into your head. You’ll probably be too busy laughing and/or crying to catch those messages right away. As funny as the movie was, some portions were so poignant that the person behind me was sobbing loudly almost continuously through the last 15 or so minutes.
Brittany: Whether you’re a new fan, or veteran, “The Muppets” is a great film and the most enjoyable two hours you’ll spend in a theater this year- I promise.
Blerd: Considering what day-to-day life is like for a lot of us these days, it’s a most welcome hour and a half of pure escapism.
Mike D. : It’s great to have The Muppets back – and I personally can’t wait to see what Disney (and hopefully Segel) is able to do with them next.