film review: The Muppets (2011)No Comment
It’s time to play the music, it’s time to light the lights…
It certainly is, The Muppets are back!
If you saw my posts on the vast number of clips and trailers that are available, you’ll know that I have been looking forward to this movie for quite a while. Looking at the list of release dates on IMDb it seems that Ireland and the UK were two of the last places in the world to welcome The Muppets back. Well they’re finally here… and it’s been worth the wait.
To be honest, I don’t know why I’ve been so enthusiastic about this film. Undoubtedly it has to do with nostalgia. I was a youngster when I first saw The Muppet Show, indeed I wasn’t even born when it first hit screens back in 1976, and while there were plenty of other shows I watched when I was a kid, The Muppets were some of the most memorable characters.
When I got older, I, like many others forgot about The Muppets. The fact that all the movies up until this one looked like crap didn’t help. Now, I don’t know if Muppets from Space actually was crap, but didn’t look like that sweet ol’ variety show that I loved when I was younger, so I wasn’t interested. This new Muppet film on the other hand, is tailor made for people like me. It’s not about The Muppets thrust into some childish adventure, it’s… The Muppets. Doing The Muppet Show. That’s what I want to see.
And that’s what Jason Segel wanted to see as well. A life long Muppet fan, he rounded up the Muppets to produce a film about… a life long Muppet fan who rounds up the Muppets to produce a show. What could be more Muppetastic?
The central character in this film is Walter, Segel’s “brother”, whose life changed when he discovered The Muppet Show as a child in the ’80s. Over the years, Walter and the rest of the world grow up and everyone forgets about the Muppets. Everyone, that is, except for Walter. When The Muppet Studio is threatened, Walter, his brother Gary and Gary’s fiancée (Amy Adams), realise that the only way to save the place is to put one more episode of The Muppet Show…
The reason this new Muppet film works is that… you can see the love that went into it. Writers Segel and Nicholas Stoller are huge Muppet fans, they know these characters and more importantly they know the tone that needs to be set with them. People wouldn’t have accepted, I wouldn’t have accepted, a film where the characters weren’t respected and Segel and Stoller have treated them with the utmost respect.
Which is not to say that I think it’s perfect. There were touches here and there where I thought jarred the tinest bit, jokes that were slightly too flippant, moments that could have been more… But that’s just nitpicking really. On my second watching I didn’t notice as much at all, I think it was just that… with something like this you looking with a fine tooth comb for something wrong.
The other thing I wasn’t sure about was the music… to me it just wasn’t quite right. I’m not really into Flight of the Conchords and I don’t know if Bret McKenzie’s songs… well… Ok, the songs worked, they were fun. They fitted the mood and they fitted the film, I just don’t know if they were that… Muppet-y. But then again, it’s been years since I watched The Muppet Show so what do I know? Maybe it’s just that it wasn’t usually the Muppets singing them… That was kind of strange.
However, the fact of the matter is that this film is a delight to watch. It’s just the right amount of sweet, it’s not childish, but it’s not cynical. It’s not stuck in the ’70s but it’s not too updated. It’s placed itself right in that Goldilock zone where it does what it needs to do for those folks like me who are on a nostaliga buzz, but it also has enough there that it can appeal to new audiences.
The truth is, in a time where we are constantly being festooned with kids films that rely on overtly adult humour to appeal to the older audiences, this film is quite an achievement.
So, since I haven’t said it yet… I loved The Muppets movie. I laughed, I sighed, I even shed a tear or two at some moments… I’m not joking when I say that this was an emotional experience… Not just because it was such a trip down memory lane for, but because (and I know I’m about to sound ridiculous here) to see someone have a dream and then go out there and make it come true, like Segel and all the others involved here did, is just so remarkable that… it makes you hopeful. I know this is just a movie and it’s made a lot of money and in the grand scheme of things it’s trivial. But… I felt it.
You can watch one of my most well-remembered memories from my childhood over on YouTube (because it was cut from the DVDs) but for now I’ll leave you with this…