Monday, July 30, 2012

The Muppets

The latest film in the recently-dormant Muppets franchise is simply titled "The Muppets". It's a suitable title. The film is re-introducing audiences and perhaps a whole generation to the once extremely popular characters. If writers Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller had wanted, they could've followed the other films, making the title longer by calling the film "The Muppets Reunion" as that is pretty much the gist of what this latest installment is about.

Walter is of the muppet species and he is also the biggest fan of the Muppets from their popular television show- Kermit the Frog, Ms. Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie Bear, Animal, etc. Walter goes to tour the Muppets Studios and discovers that an oil baron named Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) is going to destroy the landmark for the oil underneath the theater. Not being able to see such an important part of his youth be destroyed, Walter enlists the help of his human friends, Gary (Segel) and his wants-him-to-committ-to-her girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams), to reunite the Muppets so they can put on one last performance and show the world that they are still as revelant and frankly, as awesome, as ever.

The movie has the singing and the music (thanks to "Flight of the Conchords" musician Bret McKenzie), but there is a certain aspect of it all that is modernized. The setting is modern and the style chosen by director James Bobin (Flight of the Conchords- the TV series) certainly feels like any other movie made today, but the humor could almost be called retro at least in comparison to most comedies that I see nowadays (which are admittedly for an older crowd when compared to who the target audience for The Muppets might be). Kermit and co. are witty without snark, never rudely insulting, and still manage humor that is enjoyable for all. You could almost hypocritically call it a modernized-ode to films of yesteryear and that might be what's bothered me a little about this movie. Though by a bothersome feeling, I don't necessarily mean that as a negative experience, but more as there being 'something' that just hung over my head as I sat back and thought about it.

When I had first heard about a new Muppets movie, I started to worry about its success. Every mainstream movie that holds up a franchise with the exception of a few (those Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies I suppose?) are mostly PG-13 action-thrillers that feature either disillusioned teenagers (the Twilight stars) or disillusioned men in their 30s and 40s (Robert Downey Jr., Tom Cruise...). That 'feeling' I was mentioning was that this Muppets movie is extremely self-aware of the kind of climate it is in. The Muppets love having celebrities and pop-references, but this movie is about how they haven't been around and how a fan just wants the comeback of his favorite characters as if he needs to preserve his youth. Walter might be notably distracting for the story at times, but he and his non-Muppet co-stars do step away (though not enough for me) to give Kermit, Piggy, and the rest some breathing room and yet, Walter seems integral to what Segel, Stoller, and Bobin were trying to accomplish with the movie. This was a fun and classy family film that dared to be something I don't experience a lot with mainstream movies- endearing.

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