The Muppets

I’m constantly surprised by the quality of “children’s” films these days. Some of my most memorable film experiences of the past five years have been watching films directed at the family demographic – stuff like Wall-E, Toy Story 3,  and Up (I haven’t yet seen all of Rango, but the ten minutes I did see makes it look pretty promising). Taking a look at the Best Picture nominees this year (the worst crop in recent memory – in my opinion), I’ve realized that of the ones that I’ve seen, none have been as entertaining – or as moving – as the aforementioned children’s films. And none of the them have been such an effortless pleasure to watch as The Muppets has been.

The story is fairly typical – The Muppets need to get back together to stage “one last show” to save their beloved theatre from an evil oil magnate – the aptly-named Tex Richman (Chris Cooper). The only problem is the Muppets haven’t performed together in years (referencing that the last Muppet movie was over a decade ago) and they exist in a world that doesn’t think they’re relevant anymore. The story is partly based on reality – the Muppets have been gone for years, puppets have been replaced by CGI, and they aren’t as famous or well-known as they used to be – they’re relics of an era before reality television and special-effects laden extravaganzas. Apparently, this was the most difficult part for the real-life “Muppeteers” in making this movie – admitting that the characters had become irrelevant. The movie proves that the Muppets haven’t become irrelevant – we’d just all forgotten how charming and entertaining they can be.

This was the most charming and delightful experience I’ve had in the theatre this year and easily cemented its place as one of the ten best movies of 2011 for me (the list should be coming…one of these days). Jason Segel and Amy Adams are fantastic as the human counterparts to the puppets. The play Gary and Mary, a young couple from Smalltown, USA who have been dating for ten years and live in a community eerily similar to Pleasantville where students cry when Spring Break comes and the town breaks into a spontaneous choreographed dance to celebrate every new day. For their tenth-anniversary, the couple decides to travel to L.A. with Gary’s brother Walter – a Muppet – to visit the Muppet Studio and see how their favourite entertainers are doing. The dilapidated studio tells them everything they need to know and the threesome set out to reunite the old Muppet gang for one last hurrah.

The sheer glee of the film is infectious – even for someone who isn’t the biggest Muppets fan. The humour is clever with the cast breaking the fourth wall, meta-references to previous Muppets films and the story never takes itself too seriously. Even the musical numbers are so over-the-top in sentimentality and sweetness (and knowingly so) that the cast can sing about rainbows and sunshine without getting bogged down in cloying cuteness.

It’s funny, filled with catchy songs written by “Flight of the Conchords” star Bret Mckenzie (those familiar with that show know what to expect), and it single-handedly revitalizes a lagging franchise. See it.

Grade: A

Sidenote: My favourite moment in the film occurs when bad guy Chris Cooper does a song-and-dance number. Greatest comedic scene of the year.

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One Response to The Muppets

  1. Nostra says:

    Was supposed to see it this past weekend, but unfortunately didn’t manage to. With all the great reviews I can’t wait to see it. I even watched 2 of the oldest Muppet movies to get in the mood last week.

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