By Gary Murray
Starring Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy
Written by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller
Directed by James Bobin
Running time 98 min
MPAA Rating PG
Selig Film Rating Matinee
The first Muppet movie is one of the best films ever made. With the opening of “The Rainbow Connection” the movie charms as it delivers joke upon joke that have become much-quoted classics. It still holds up as both a testament to how a family film can be entertaining and how, with determination, inanimate objects can project major emotions. The sequels didn’t hold up as well until the premise seemed to be pushed into the ground. In a world where everything old is new again, the Muppets are back with a new film—The Muppets.
The story starts in Small-town USA with Walter and Gary (Jason Segel) a pair of brothers who are as different as two brothers can be. While one is a human, the other is no so much a person as a puppet. Gary has a girlfriend of ten years Mary (Amy Adams). The two are planning a trip to Hollywood and invite Walter along. Walter lives and breaths the old Muppet Show and wants to visit the studios where the magic happens.
Once there, they find that the world of the Muppets is very much past their heydays. The tour is little more than looking at fallen buildings. A local businessman Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) has his own designs on the buildings, wanting to tap the oil underneath the ground. If the Muppets cannot raise $10 million to save the studio, the bad guy gets the land.
Before one can say ‘road trip’, Walter, Gary and Mary are on a journey to re-unite the Muppets and save the studio. First, we get to meet Kermit, who is living behind the gates almost in a Sunset Blvd. style of existence. The second roped-in Muppet is Fozzie Bear, working in Reno with a Muppet style cover group. He is still pushing those same old jokes but with a different back up Dr. Teeth band (with a very famous drummer in an Animal costume). All of the Muppets are easy to track down except for Miss Piggy who is living a high fashion existence in Paris. There are some unresolved feelings between Kermit and Piggy.
The forces against getting the Muppets together are still powerful. Tex wants that land and will do everything in his power to stop the show. Drafting some of the more nefarious Muppet characters, he plots and plans to make sure that the Muppets never get the money. The story is how the group overcomes their differences to make the magic happen just one more time.
While it is great seeing these childhood characters once again on the big screen, the final product of The Muppets is a very mixed bag of emotions. The biggest problem with The Muppets is that the expectations are too high going in. The film takes quite a while before it hits on all eight cylinders. Once it does, some of the jokes are both strong and cleaver—it just takes a long time for the payoff.
All of the Muppet wires are gone in CGI magic which in a weird way, takes away from the magic of the creation. Part of the thrill was seeing those little wires making the arms move akimbo fashion. Another problem with this latest film is that the music is not memorable. There are songs, just no hooks. By the time we get to a new version of “The Rainbow Connection” is becomes obvious that no song in this little tale holds a candle to that classic.
Amy Adams is note perfect as Mary in a part that is weakly written. She isn’t given much to do other than be pretty and sing her heart out. She comes across as a kid in a candy shop when working with the Muppets as if this role were the realization of some childhood fantasy. It is a shame that the creators of the work didn’t dress her any better. Every costume in this production looks bad on her frame.
Jason Segel is the weak link in the cast. While he is a passable singer, his dancing is painfully inadequate. While the background chorus kicks up a storm, he is as stiff as a board and as light on his feet as an oak tree. The best guess is that he was hired for his comic chops. But he is a minor league player when up against The Muppets.
Like all the other Muppet movies, there is a large cache of famous faces throughout the film. It seems that everyone on the planet wants to be a part of the Muppet universe. This is the kind of job one fights to get and fights even harder to keep.
I’m thrilled that the Muppets are back and I hope this film destroys those vampires at the box office. Next time out, I hope that the story and music will be a more cleaver exercise. The opening cartoon is a Toy Story ‘toon. It is really funny and too short, making the audience wanting more.