Sunday, 19 February 2012

THE MUPPETS (2011) - 4 STARS

"I'm being held captive by these weirdos!"
"Now you know how we've felt for the last forty years."

 DIRECTOR: James BOBIN
STARRING: Jason SEGAL, Amy ADAMS, Chris COOPER

Since the late 1970s, the Muppets have charmed and entertained audiences with their wacky adventures which later spawned several films including the family 'Muppets Christmas Carol'. But after the disappointing Muppets in Space came out in 1999, the franchise was reduced to several straight-to-DVD releases which looked to have signalled the end of Kermit and friends forever. But along came comedy actor Jason Segal who has put aside his resume of recent films to co-write one of the surprise packages of 2011 as The Muppets marks a triumphant return to the big screen for the erratic puppets. Though not quite as memorable as Christmas Carol, it is just one of those films which will have you smiling all day (maybe even for a long time)....

A human named Gary (Segal) and his brother Walter who is a Muppet have spent all their life doing things together despite their different appearances. But Walter finds a new devotion to life in the shape of watching old footage of the Muppets Show and dreams of being like one of them. His opportunity comes when Gary and his long-term girlfriend Mary (Adams) bring him along to Los Angeles where they are hoping to celebrate their ten year anniversary. But upon arriving at the old Muppets Studio, Walter realises that the Muppets aren't as popular as they once were and uncovers a sinister plot from maniacal businessman Tex Richman (Cooper) who seeks to uncover oil underneath the building. Determined to stop him, the Muppet looks to track down his idols and bring them all back together in order to figure a way of raising a million dollars before the deadline. With the help of Gary and Mary, he succeeds in convincing Kermit the Frog to gather up his old friends including Fozzie, Gonzo, Miss Piggy and many more to put on one last show to try and raise the cash before it is too late....

It's been a long time since The Muppets made their bow on the big screen and to see them back together again brings all that nostalgia back. It's a real crowd-pleaser which introduces itself to the latest generation of young viewers keen on experiencing what the older fans enjoyed back in the day and those especially who embraced the classic TV series will find delight in seeing their puppet heroes back again. We still have Kermit trying to pull it all together, we still have Fozzie and his bad jokes and we still have Animal attacking those drums. It's just how we remember them and we still have the occasional gags, over-the-top humour and poignancy that made the characters particularly memorable and it's satisfying to know that they've still got it. When it comes to the acting side of things, the lead human characters of Segal and Adams make a lovely couple but ultimately they take a step back to let the film's real stars take centre stage. It's even more refreshing to see Adams back in singing mode after his glowing turn in another Disney homage Enchanted (2007) but not even her talent can completely overshadow her female 'rival' Miss Piggy. Cooper has a lot of fun in his boo-hiss role as the cunning businessman Richman even getting his own rap which is awkward but then again The Muppets has always been about cheesiness. But we also get a newcomer to The Muppets characters in Walter who becomes easily likeable to me as someone devoted to trying to reunite his heroes to save them from fading into obscurity. And of course we have the list of cameo appearances which appeal more to American fans ranging from Mickey Rooney and Emily Blunt to Zach Galifianakis and Whoopi Goldberg . We don't quite get a huge cameo but those who do pop up provide their own brief turn with Jack Black having the most memorable one when he gets kidnapped for the show. However aside from laughs, the Muppets have always been celebrated for its witty and catchy musical numbers and once again they don't fail here. 'Life's A Happy Song' is a pure feel-good tune to get things going while the likes of 'Pictures in my Head', 'Man or Muppet' and the duet of Adams and Miss Piggy singing 'Me Party' provide more heart and soul to the story depicting the characters in these renditions. But it's the post-credits song which will leave you walking out of the cinema singing it to yourself for a long time.

What did disappoint me about The Muppets is that the Jim Henson touch is a little lacking here especially with the absence of Frank Oz impersonating Fozzie whose voice is distinctly different to his more loveable, quirky speech from past projects. The story itself clearly bases most of itself on The Blues Brothers in trying to replicate a familiar themed narrative that doesn't quite work as well as it did in the original Muppets film. Various characters are also underused with Kermit and Fozzie amongst those who get the most screen-time whereas the likes of Gonzo (who at least gets a back-story), the Swedish chef and the non-speaking Rizo are reduced to the background. Finally the ending does let itself down particularly during the credits, as it completely changes the outlook of the Studio's fate and feels awkwardly rushed to try over-satisfy people.

VERDICT: Though lacking in the Henson magic, the Muppets are back with a bang as this heart-warming and fascinating outing gives modern audiences a reminder that they are far from finished while also indulging their old fans with a great on-screen comeback. One word. Phenomenon. Do doo do do doo...

1 Comments:

At 20 February 2012 at 09:18 , Anonymous Rodney said...

great review, man, with some spot on comments here. I loved this film!

 

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