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Review: The Muppets

The Muppets made their triumphant return to theaters during Thanksgiving this year, their first theatrical release since 1999’s mediocre Muppets from Space.  If you are even a tiny bit of a Muppets fan, you have to do yourself a favor and go check out this new movie as it’s like a warm, felty hug with lots of laughs and great songs.

The plot of the movie, even though the plot has never been the priority of the Muppets movies, finds evil Texas oil baron Tex Richman (played by Chris Cooper) launching an evil plot to tear down the Muppet Theater and drill into the deposit of oil underneath it.  Fortunately the Muppets biggest fan, Walter (himself a Muppet), is hiding in Kermit’s old office at the time and overhears the plot.  He and his brother Gary (Jason Segel) and Gary’s girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) (who are all on vacation in Los Angeles for Gary and Mary’s anniversary) decide to try and find Kermit and see if he can save the theater.  Kermit agrees to help and they all set out on a trip to round up the other Muppets and plan a special telethon show to raise $10 million and save the theater.

As far as the human actors go, Chris Cooper is definitely the stand out and he completely commits to being as hilariously over the top evil as possible, culminating in an awesome/awful rap song dissing the Muppets and their attempt to appeal to his sense of decency.  Yes, you read that right; Chris Cooper raps.  Jason Segel and Amy Adams are delightful but don’t really have much to do outside of their musical numbers.  Rashida Jones is great as the completely uninterested network executive who reluctantly gives The Muppets their telethon airtime and Jack Black, in one of his best recent roles, plays himself who gets roped, literally, into being the “celebrity host” of The Muppet Telethon.  The movie also has the usual slew of celebrity cameos with some of my favorites being Alan Arkin as the tour guide of the rundown Muppet Studios and Zach Galifinakis as “Hobo Joe”

I can’t imagine how you decide what Muppets to feature from the 50+ years of shows and movies and, for the most part, most of the Muppets get at least one good bit, with a few notable exceptions I’ll get to in a bit. Obviously Kermit, Fozzy and Miss Piggy are the three main Muppets featured, with Kermit and Miss Piggy having a weirdly serious sub plot about their failed marriage.  One of the funniest sequences of the movie is the montage where Kermit, Walter, Gary and Mary set out to gather the team and they find Fozzy working with a knock off group called The Moopets, who have turned Rainbow Connection into a commercial for the casino they’re in, Gonzo is a toilet and plumbing manufacturing magnate, Miss Piggy works in Paris for a fashion company and Animal is in anger management (with the aforementioned Jack Black) to deal with his obsession with drumming.  A bunch of the more obscure Muppets are brought back including one of my favorites, Uncle Deadly, who is one of Tex Richman’s henchmen along with recent addition to the gang, Bobo the Bear.  Walter, the newest addition, is a great addition and extremely lovable character and is basically channeling Jason Segel’s insane love of The Muppets and he helps carry the film along with Kermit, Miss Piggy and Fozzy. The other new addition, and now one of my all time favorite Muppets, is 80’s Robot, who serves as Kermit’s butler and chauffeur and, at least for me, was the source for some of the biggest laughs of the movie, offering up Tab and New Coke and attempting to find the other Muppets with his dial up modem.  One of my only real complaints about the movie is that some obvious fan favorite characters are pushed into the background like Dr. Honeydew, Rizzo, Swedish Chef, most of Electric Mayhem and Sweetums.  Personally, I also felt there wasn’t enough Statler and Waldorf, as they only have about 2 or 3 jabs in the whole movie.

Music has always been a big part of The Muppets and the new movie is a musical through and through.  A few of the songs don’t really work but a couple of them are extremely catchy including the introspective “Muppet or a Man” and the theme song of the movie “Life’s a Happy Song”, along with the previously mentioned Chris Cooper rap.  It’s too early to tell if any of these will become classics like Rainbow Connection, which is featured toward the end and instantly reminds you how it’s not just the best Muppet song but one of the best songs period, but they are still well done and easily get stuck in your head.  One other thing I like about the musical numbers is that they kind of make fun of the fact that it’s a musical as in most cases at the end of the song whoever’s singing will go into some sort of over the top showboating which usually results in them getting looked at like they’re  insane by bystanders.  There’s also some Muppet takes on popular songs like a kind of creepy barbershop quartet cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Carmella the Chicken singing Cee Lo’s “Fuck You”.  Finally, there’s a great selection of licensed music in the movie as well, including what could possibly be the greatest use of Starship’s “We Built This City”.

I’m not sure how you can possibly go see The Muppets and not leave with a big, dumb grin on your face.  It’s both a celebration and reintroduction of everything Muppets and has tons of laughs, good music and most of your favorite Muppets getting at least one joke and the new Muppets are great additions to the gang.  Definitely go check The Muppets out as soon as possible.

4.5 out of 5

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