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“The Muppets” – Review (POSITIVE)

November 23, 2011

It’s time to play the music, it’s time to light the lights, its time to meet the MUPPETS!!! After a decade absence from the movie theaters, the Muppets are back, and it’s all thanks to Jason Segal.

In 2008, Jason Segel had just come off his successful comedy “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”; perhaps there was a great use of cinematic foreshadowing when he used Muppet-like puppets for the ending scene (“Dracula Musical”). Later that year, Segel and “Sarah Marshall” director Nicolas Stoller pitched an old school Muppet movie to Disney. Not necessarily a reboot, but more or less a rebirth. The original draft was entitled “The Greatest Muppet Movie Ever!” and from what I saw at last night’s midnight screening that title wouldn’t have been far off.

The old school humor is still intact, without having any real need to make a lot of pop culture references or puns of todays world. The Muppets are simply the Muppets in this movie. They’re exactly how they were when they first appeared in 1976. The whole reason why we fell in love with them in the first place remains just a shiny as ever. The movie has a great supporting cast, yes I’m looking at you Oscar winner Chris Cooper, hilarious songs by Flight of the Concords Bret McKenzie w/ the help of Segal & Stoller, and wonderful cameos that will leave a big stupid grin on your face.

On vacation in Los Angeles, Walter (voiced & performed by Peter Linz), the world’s biggest Muppet fan, and his friends Gary (Jason Segel) and Mary (Amy Adams) from Smalltown, USA, discover the nefarious plan of oilman Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to annihilate the Muppet Theater and drill for the oil recently discovered beneath the Muppets’ former studio. To stage The Greatest Muppet Telethon Ever and raise the $10 million needed to save the theater, Walter, Mary and Gary help Kermit reunite the Muppets, who have all gone their separate ways: Fozzie now performs in Reno, NV with a Muppets tribute band called the Moopets, Miss Piggy is a plus-size fashion editor at Vogue Paris, Animal is in a Santa Barbara clinic for anger management (seems like he has a problem), and Gonzo is a high-powered plumbing magnate.

Segel & Stoller’s script is without a doubt pitch perfect coming from two die-hard fans. They respect the source material without trying to vandalize what made it so first-rate in the first place.  The story resembles a bit of the first movie, “The Muppet Movie”, everyone is trying to get together (again), even Kermit says to the audience when Gary asks, ‘How are we gonna find all of them?’ Kermit responds, ‘Didn’t you see our first movie? We drove’. By the third act of the movie The Muppet Telethon starts and of course it’s in the original theater, original theme, and even original supporting Muppets from the 70s show. People who grew up with the show will be smacked with nostalgia, people who grew up with the original movies, will remember this & that, and then laugh away.

I have to talk about the musical numbers; it wouldn’t be a Muppet movie without musical numbers. It seems that Segel & Stoller are big fans of parody musical numbers think Mel Brooks territory. The opening number is just so upbeat and silly, but it plays with the audience admitting, ‘Yea we just did a musical number, so what?’ Its numbers like those that I truly believe the audiences will eat up. Besides, you’ve got the supporting help of Bret McKenzie. I’m a huge fan of “Flight of the Concords” and to see his name in the credits, as well as series director James Bobin in the directors chair, and spoiler alert, Kristen Schaal’s cameo made me so happy as a fan of that too. Besides when will you ever see Academy Award winning dramatic actor Chris Cooper start freestyle rapping? Ok, I’ve said too much I don’t wanna spoil the movie.

There’s just so much goodness in this movie, it’s hard to nit-pick at it. Sure I think the runtime could’ve been cut down, at one point in the movie you kind feel it might drag out, but it does make up for that at the end. “The Muppets” is a glorious return to Jim Henson’s creations. It’s a movie for a new generation as well as the old. Go see this movie!

GRADE: A-

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