out of Five
Running time: 103
It's so frustrating when a movie, that you desperately want to love, comes so close to being great but is merely good. Unfortunately, The Muppets is one of those movies.
What's it all about?
Walter, 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 bulldoze the Muppet Theater and drill for oil. Together, Walter, Mary and Gary help Kermit the Frog reunite the Muppets, who have all gone their separate ways, to stage The Greatest Muppet Telethon Ever and raise the $10 million needed to save the theatre.
What's frustrating about the film is that the jokes often fall flat. The rap number by the venerable Chris Cooper is especially cringe worthy. Other jokes involving a Muppet tribute band called The Moopets, Carmila and the Chickens bocking Forget You and a longlist of celebrity cameos don't work. In fact, the entire middle section of the film smacks of a deleted scene lacking the kind of energy needed to build up to a satisfying finale. The most criminal of its story problems though is that feminist icon Miss Piggy gives up her job as plus size editor of Vogue all too easily for a chance to get back with her frog. If I was a parent taking girls, it would require a discussion about making sensible choices after the film was over.
The decision of whether to take children to this new movie is controversial. My own 9-year-old brother was restless throughout, being too young to remember The Muppets, he didn't hate the movie but the humour went over his head. If he was given the option, I'm sure he would have chosen to see Alvin and the Chipmunks or The Smurfs, for their cheap tricks, squeaky voices and silly catchphrases, but unlike those remakes of classic TV shows, The Muppets has been made with a genuine warmth and affection as opposed to cynicism and studio fodder. It's the difference between choosing to eat a home cooked meal over a fast food fad.
While I'm unconvinced that this movie will create new fans, there's still plenty to enjoy. New Zealand's own Bret McKenzie (Flight of the Conchords) wrote two songs for the movie. His songs Life's a Happy Song
and Man Or a Muppet
have been playing on repeat since I saw the movie, but it was the songs Pictures in My Head
and of course The Rainbow Connection
that moved me to tears. What the music does is remind you how The Muppets could go from songs of deep melancholy to exuberant joy. The film is worth seeing, perhaps not with children, but with Gen X-types who want to take a pleasurable stroll down memory lane.