November 18, 2011

The Muppets- Museum of the Moving Image

Erica: It's time to raise the curtain, it's time to light the lights...The Muppets are back in their first big screen outing since 1999's box office bomb, Muppets from Space. I LOVE and adore the Muppets and Jason Segel so this movie is a big win for me. The only thing going through my mind was 'don't suck and ruin my childhood'. Being that Segel is a self-proclaimed Muppet obsessed fanatic, I wasn't too worried. He didn't disappoint. In this movie, the whole gang is back together for the first time in years. We meet a new Muppet, Walter, who is Segel's brother (yes I know the concept is strange but this is a movie based on felt with a guy's hand up their butts...)who are both obsessed with the Muppets and Walter's dream is to go to Muppet Studios in Los Angeles. The jokes are classic Muppets and like all the Muppet movies that preceded, there are a handful of celebrity cameos. 

 The Muppets is Jason Segel's funny, fresh, and ultimately satisfying love letter to Jim Henson's enduring creations. I love the Muppets and really liked the three original Muppet movies, but the quality of Muppet product in theaters and on the small screen has been a mixed bag since the mid 80s - even before Henson died. The Muppets' return to TV in the late 80s wasn't too great and I'm not a big fan of the movies from the 90s. I didn't care for A Muppet Christmas Carol - perhaps because I didn't like seeing the Muppets playing different characters instead of themselves. I didn't see Muppet Treasure Island, and Muppets From Space was an undeniable misfire. Yet they've done some amazingly hilarious music videos and short bits online. And my memories of Muppets Tonight are pretty good. I didn't see the Muppet Wizard of Oz, but one of their other TV movies, A Very Merry Muppet Christmas, was absolutely terrific and one that I've watched multiple times on DVD. They followed that up with another holiday film, Letters to Santa, which wasn't nearly as good but still very enjoyable. The Muppets deserve a lot better and Segel gives them exactly what they need with this film.

The Muppets is funny and touching. The mix of Muppet and human time is pretty appropriate. Segel and Amy Adams sort of disappear for much of the second half, but that's okay. They're there to bring the Muppets back and that's what they do. And every Muppet has their moment, although I thought there wasn't enough Rowlf. There aren't as many cameos as news stories reported or rumored. No Lady Gaga, Steve Martin, Billy Crystal, etc... maybe some of them were cut and maybe some of them were just rumors, but don't go into the movie looking for cameos. There are just a few and mostly they're pretty funny. The music is great, too, although I didn't really laugh at villain Chris Cooper's short rap song. The film tends to wallow in nostalgia a bit much - yeah, the Muppets used to be great and they gave us so many great memories, but it gets to be a bit much at times. Rainbow Connection is one of my favorite songs, but did we really need a reprise? It felt a bit too easy a grab at our heartstrings and nostalgic sensibilities. I liked hearing it again in this film, but felt kind of reluctant about it. Maybe that's just the sourpuss in me trying to come through.

We saw this film at a preview screening at the Museum of the Moving Image. Jane Henson, widow of Jim Henson, was there too with their daughter Heather. I don't know if this was their first time seeing it. We were sitting a few seats away from them at one point towards the end of the movie, I peeked over to see how Jane was reacting to this film. She was dancing along to the music, moving her arms, clapping and cheering. It was wonderful sight to see.

It's Muppetational and I suggest running to the theaters to see this when it opens. As Waldorf and Statler say in the AMC ads, "If you want to see The Muppets see them in the theater because you don't want to bring them into your home." You will want to bring them into your home and your heart for the first time in a very long time.

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