Rants for the Riff Raff: The Muppets
As far back as I can remember, I have loved the Muppets. I had a Kermit stuffed animal from the time I was a baby. I watched Muppet Treasure Island and Muppet Christmas Carol enough times to know them by heart. I even remember watching that odd cartoon Muppet Babies semi-religiously. But if you notice, none of those are the original Muppets. The two movies were made after Jim Henson (the original creator) had died, and he only worked on the cartoon for a few seasons.
That, however, does nothing to diminish my love for those felt puppets. If anything, it made it deeper. Once I got old enough to appreciate the Muppets’ humor and spirit beyond the surface level of silly, brightly colored characters doing slapstick, I wanted more. It made me want to watch the original series and see where they had come from.
That is exactly what Jason Segel, co-writer/star, and James Bobin, hope to do with their reboot, The Muppets. They know that it has been 33 years since the Muppets debuted on TV. Instead of trying to ignore that, they make it one of the main points of the film. It is 2011. Oil tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) plans on buying the Muppet studio, where they performed the TV series, and mine the oil reservoirs underneath it. Unless the Muppets can raise $10 million, their studio will be destroyed. To raise the money, the Muppets do the only thing they can think of; they perform. But are they popular and relevant enough to make all the money they need?
If you look at this as just a movie, it is pretty good. Really funny, colorful, well-written, and above all else, joyful. There are great gags and cameos (a Muppet staple) by people such as Zach Galifianakis, Sarah Silverman, Jack Black, and Rashida Jones, among others.
One of the most impressive feats the movie pulls off is just making you feel good. I was in an almost completely full theater, and as we were walking out, I saw no one without a smile. In a world that Tex Richman describes as “hard and cynical,” that is no easy task. But it is something the Muppets have always been good at. They are sincere and sweet, but not obnoxiously so. They are smart and self-aware, but still seem childlike and innocent. They present messages like the importance of family and friends, believing in yourself, and finding out where you belong without making it seem like an after-school special. Capturing this quintessential Muppets essence is the most important thing the filmmakers had to do, and they pulled it off flawlessly.
That being said, the movie is not perfect. The second act drags a little bit and there are a few songs that feel incredibly forced, like when Tex Richman starts rapping about how rich he is. It is kind of funny, but does not help the plot in any way, and Chris Cooper did not look into it at all. This is just nit-picking, however. It is extremely entertaining, and, if you are not a Muppet fan going in, you will definitely be one going out. I now really want to go back and watch the original movies and TV series, and I am not the only one who had this reaction. For Jason Segel and James Bobin, who obviously ferociously love the original Muppets, this can be considered a success.
By: Will Bray
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