The Muppet Show was a much treasured children’s TV Show created by Jim Henson in 1976. It was a great success, and was one of the first children’s shows that could be enjoyed by adults just as much as it could be enjoyed by kids. This was down to it’s witty scripts, enjoyable characters, and smart humour. In 1979, we got the first big screen Muppet adventure, appropriately named The Muppet Movie.
It was very well received by fans and critics, and was a success at the box office. And in 1981, we got another one, The Great Muppet Caper. Then in 1984, we got The Muppets Take Manhattan. And again, in 1992, we got the now Christmas classic, The Muppet Christmas Carol. These are the Muppet movies that are known to be good. There were three others, but they ranged from average to downright awful. By this point, The Muppets, while still having fans, faded from mainstream popularity. Then, in 2012, we got The Muppets, their big comeback film. Written by and starring Jason Segel of Judd Apatow and How I Met Your Mother Fame and Amy Adams, The Muppets is a fun, if slightly disappointing film.
This is the first Muppets film not to focus specifically around the team of The Muppets (Kermit The Frog, Miss Piggy etc.). It instead focuses around Walter and his brother Gary (Jason Segel). Walter is, for lack of a better word, a Muppet, while Gary is a human. However, once Walter saw The Muppet Show, he felt like he belonged. So when he goes to LA with Gary to see The Muppet Theatre, he is shocked to find that it has been closed for years and is now a wreck. He, Gary, and Gary’s girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) seek the help of Kermit the Frog, and decide to round up the rest of The Muppets to put on one last show together to raise the $10 million needed to buy back the theatre and stop an evil oil tycoon (Chris Cooper) from tearing it down and drilling for oil.
The plot is actually a good idea. While it borrows heavily from several other films, from The Artist to The Jerk, it separates itself from the other Muppet films as it’s actually supposed to be set in the real world with it making fun of how quickly things fade from the public eye. In this film, The Muppets are has-beens and are not doing very well (except for Miss Piggy). This film has many parody moments that are actually more head-scratchers than actual funny jokes. For instance, the main bad guy, instead of doing an actual evil laugh, he just literally says maniacal laugh! Maniacal laugh! Maniacal laugh! This gives thhe feeling more of a low-budget YouTube parody video rather than a full movie. They just seem out of place. It does, however, have a lot of fourth wall jokes. These are very funny so I won’t ruin any, but it gives the sort of meta flavour The Muppets so often has.
The acting is variable. Jason Segel, most well known for How I Met Your Mother, not only stars in this film, but actually wrote it as well. He wrote the very successful Judd Apatow film Forgetting Sarah Marshall, so he had quite a bit to live up to with the big comeback movie of The Muppets. Unfortunately, anyone who has seen the original films an TV show may not like this film much. Segel just doesn’t have the wit or talent of the late Jim Henson, the show’s original creator. From an acting standpoint, he can get really annoying doing the wishy-washy, happy-go-lucky role of Gary. It would have been much funnier if he had played it straight.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have Amy Adams, who has cracked this kind of role before in the excellent Enchanted. She also has a wishy-washy, happy-go-lucky personality, but she does it well. She’s not annoying. It feels like she is having fun with the part. Not to mention her beautiful singing voice. The Muppet performers themselves are very good. You can’t tell the difference between the voices now and the voices on the original show. Truly great impressions, from really talented performers.
The music in The Muppets is the weakest part of the film. The best songs by far were the old ones, and it’s Oscar nominated ‘Man or Muppet’ is, while kind of funny, an okay song. The songs are really awkwardly spaced. There could be two songs within two minutes of each other, and then we could wait half an hour for the next one. One of the staples of The Muppets is the celebrity guest stars. The most profound one is Jack Black, who does do a good enough job, even though the script doesn’t give him much to do. Other cameos include Whoopi Gholdberg, Selena Gomez, and Neil Patrick Harris, who even though he has no lines and is in the shot about a second, would have much better fitted the role of Gary than Jason Segel.
Overall, The Muppets is a good film, if a little over-hyped. It’s no where near as good as the TV show or the first four Muppet movies. It’s a bit disappointing, but if you go in with the state of mind that it’s a fun nostalgia film with plenty of Muppet series staples.