My family has a long held tradition of every Thanksgiving holiday going out to see a movie with our cousins, aunts, and uncles. Unfortunately this year I was not able to make it back home for the holiday so I wondered if the tradition would die with me this year. However, and only by the grace of God, my new “California Family” (i.e. – my girlfriend’s fam) took me in for the break from school and aided me in continuing the legacy. It was mutually decided that The Muppets was a great family film that we could all go see and enjoy together and thus my Thanksgiving movie-going tradition was kept alive.
But enough about me: It’s Time to Play the Music! It’s Time to light the lights. It’s Time to get this review started about The Muppets – so right! (sorry…)
I am going to try to be brief with this and keep it as spoiler-free as possible, so expect lots of [spoiler] blocks throughout. 🙂 In absolute short: I loved it but it has some problems. It was hilarious and played beautifully on the themes and formulas of the previous films. The plot was great, the jokes funny, and I left the theater feeling all the catharsis I hoped for. However, some elements of the story and the telling of it were just off (but more on that later).
The humor was fantastic! It had some incredible 4th wall jokes and self-referential humor that are so custom to the Muppet style. One of my favorite jokes in the film is one Kermit makes directly to the audience referencing their first film – The Muppet Movie. Just as I hoped going into the film, they paid great homage to all of our favorite Muppet jokes:
- Great cameos such as [spoiler] and [spoiler], and that one random appearance by [spoiler] 🙂
- Hilarious music (with not-so-subtle tinges of the Flight of the Concords influence)
- Self-referential humor (“I just did a song about it…” // “Reciting an important plot point” // The “Muppet Man”)
I really want to talk specifically about some of the jokes so this next section will be a SUPER SPOILER SECTION!!!! If you don’t want to be spoiled, please scroll past the section between the next two pictures (the un-spoiler section begins after the picture of Chris Cooper).
As is pictured above, the movie does a great job of referencing all of the Muppet hits. Off the incredible success of the “Bohemian Rhapsody” quartet video on Youtube, Segal and Co. brought back the quartet to do a hilarious literal barbershop quartet version of “Smells like Teen Spirit” while they shave Jack Black! SO FREAKING FUNNY and a great homage to their own success. Besides that the best part of the film by far was an out of the blue performance of “Forget you” (safe title there) by Cee Lo Green … wait for it … by Camila and the Chickens!!! Absolutely freaking hilarious because most kids would recognize the song but not get the real irony of what the song originally was called. Great move on the writing staff’s part to treat the older audiences to a great joke.
The other great thing about Muppet movies is the incredible cast of cameo appearances by stars as themselves. Starting back at the first Muppet Movie with Steve Martin playing himself as a rude waiter, the legacy has been carried out into this film beautifully, with great guest appearances by such as Mickey Rooney, Jack Black, Zach Galifianakis, Rashida Jones, Donald Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, Selena Gomez, and the big surprise – Jim Parsons off Big Bang Theory. His cameo appearance as the Human Walter for the “Muppet of a Man” song was brilliant! Also, I can honestly say that I will never be able to look at Chris Cooper in a movie again without thinking of his absolutley ridiculous rap. Chris droppin’ dope beats, son!
END SPOILER SECTION
Overall I really liked the film. However there were a few things that really rubbed me the wrong way and dragged down the quality of the film as a whole. I will try to present those as spoiler-free as possible because I want you to see if you feel the same way about it.
The songs felt very unmotivated. I remember in one of the first film classes I took at Azusa Pacific University, my professor told us that if we wanted to do a musical, we had to create a world in which the emotions were so high and blatant that the characters breaking into song is the only possible outlet for their tensions. And The Muppets does do that well generally. It is a world with Muppets in it; that sort of thing is almost necessary.
What didn’t work was that while the environment allowed for such silliness and outburst, the lead-ups to each song were either poorly done or non-existent. Musical numbers simply spawn out of nowhere which left me wondering “wait, why are they singing?” It simply seemed that the transition and build up to the songs (particularly at the beginning) just weren’t there which made enjoying the songs much harder than I hoped it would be.
Trying my best not to spoil anything here – the Muppets do their telethon to raise money and everyone is supposed to contribute an act, including newcomer Walter. However, he has no idea what to do. He wonders “What is my talent?” And the problem is that when he does debut it, it is entirely out of the blue. Their is no set up for what his talent is earlier in the film. If their was any, you can see that a person paying attention for that stuff didn’t see it, so… It just made the ending seem very odd.
And speaking of the end, Third:
The ending gets very fuzzy. Again I don’t want to spoil it, but it goes one way and then turns sharply the other way and then credits role. And during that credit role, they magically somehow get back to the first way again. Really vague I know but suffice to say that I was really let down by the ending simply because it got so convoluted and lost by the finale. Just be warned that it gets weird.
One final note, and this didn’t strike me until much later, but their is absolutely no mention of the man who started it all – Jim Henson. I don’t know why they didn’t pay homage to the genius who brought us Kermit and the gang, but it doesn’t detract from the film in any way. Just kinda sad 😦
Ultimately, I think this is a perfect example of my big soapbox of film: their is a difference between being Good and being Liked. I absolutely loved the film! It gave me all the catharsis I could ever want for the return of my childhood friends and was a hilarious and wonderful time of family for me seeing it. However, I think the story and plot suffered slightly and really brought down the quality of the film as stand-alone. The sporadic and random launches into song, the ambiguous and rushed ending, the general blandness of the story – in any other case I would have been sorely disappointed by this movie. However, Segal and the filmmakers really scored well by creating fun, lovable characters who really salvaged the movie from ruin. Definitely take the fam to go see it ASAP and enjoy all of the clever jokes, but be ready for some pitfalls that could really bring the film down for you.
Final Rating: 8//10
Whelp, there you have it! If you haven’t already, PLEASE check out their amazing marketing campaign (one of the best I have ever seen) and also see my review of the Pig with the Froggy Tattoo trailer on the Art of the Trailer blog.
Still working on some films from the Summer Film Challenge so expect reviews of those up soon and I’ll leave you with my favorite Muppets of all time: