Review: The Muppets

The Muppets have been released to a new generation of kids who have no idea of the beginnings of these iconic, cloth characters way back in the 1970s. Somehow they have managed to survive nearly 40 years even though their general formula hasn’t changed at all. The TV show may have faded after the 1990s, but they still managed to produce two movies after the demise of the very tired TV show. And actually, as a fan of the 90s Muppets I really enjoyed their versions of Treasure Island, A Christmas Carol and Muppets From Space. So, it was with excitement that I went to see this newest installment of Muppet mythology.

This is the saddest Muppet film I can remember watching. The premise is that the Muppets have fallen from grace, the theatre and studios have fallen into disrepair and they have all gone their separate ways. Kermit lives alone in a giant mansion, Miss Piggy works for Vogue in Paris, Fozzie Bear fronts a tribute act, in Reno, called the Moopets and lives in an alleyway, Animal is in celebrity rehab with Jack Black and Gonzo is a successful plumbing magnate.

The human stars, Amy Adams and Jason Segel (Mary and Gary respectively), travel to Hollywood for their tenth anniversary and bring along Gary’s brother, Walter, as he is obsessed with the Muppets. They find the studios in desolation and Walter overhears a plot being hatched by Tex Richman, an oil tycoon played wonderfully by Chris Cooper, who plans to level the complex and drill for oil which just so happens to be right underneath the ground there. So begins the journey to reunite the rag-tag gang of performers to put on one last show to try to raise the money needed to save the theatre, thanks to a clause in the contract.

Virtually each shot has a cameo or two from Mickey Rooney to Selena Gomez.  All the action unfolds in the anarchic, madcap way you would expect, but the thing that really raises this film above the standards set before it – is the score. Most of the songs have been written by one half of Flight Of The Conchords, Bret McKenzie – and you can tell. The stand out songs are ‘Pictures In My Head’ and ‘Man Or Muppet’ – which is up for best original song at the Oscars this year, and it will be a very strong contender. There are some old classics including ‘Rainbow Connection’ and ‘Mahna Mahna’ and even some new cover versions: The barber shop quartet version of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and the singing chickens singing ‘Forget You’ by Cee-lo Green had me crying with laughter.

As usual, the human cast could be overlooked as Mary and Gary are really very bland characters and Richman is the pantomime villain. But the entire cast play their parts very well, which always adds to the believability of puppets interacting with humans. In fact Adams and Segel manage not to make their characters completely boring by being very charismatic and Cooper plays his part with obvious relish.

Of course it won’t be the most polished film you’ll see this year, but it will be the one that makes you smile from ear to ear for an hour and a half and then the journey home too. Well worth a watch.

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