The Muppets is, well, the Muppets. It’s a movie about a universe where felt creatures with vague resemblance to animals wander around without drawing any comment on their existence from normal people. This has grown to the extent that they apparently breed with humans as the muppet/person sibling pair that are the films main characters would attest.
Seriously though, it’s the Muppets so you know what to expect. An evil oil tycoon is about to bulldoze the old Muppet Show theatre into the ground, and the former inhabitants have only a few days to raise the money to save it. Encouraged by the previously mentioned siblings – Gary (Jason Segal, also a co-writer) and new Muppet character Walter (Peter Linz) – Kermit the Frog rounds up the old crew for one last show.
It is funny and it is enjoyable. The Muppets have a great knack of maintaining tropes for each character while also imbuing a degree of freshness for each outing, coming up with sketch and scenario to keep the audience laughing. Kermit and Piggy’s latest love spat takes on a refreshing twist when she strikes out on her own to become a fashion mogul, while Fozzy Bear, always a treat, is headlining a Muppet tribute act – the “Moopets” – in one of the films best moments, not to mention Animal in anger counselling. Whether it is one-liners, more elaborate gags, or even the infusion of a large degree of very dark humour at times – for the adults – the Muppets is far more hit then miss. I suppose it at times feels like a homage or tribute to itself, but that doesn’t stop the fun. If you liked the Muppets at anytime in your life, you will like this movie. And if you didn’t, you appear to have misplaced your soul.
The previously mentioned Moopets feature Dave Grohl on drums (named “Animool”), a short, silent, yet hilarious part, which is just one of a large number of effective celebrity cameos. Rashida Jones (The Office, Parks And Recreation), Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada), Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover), Rico Rodriguez (Modern Family), Whoopi Goldberg (Everything?), Selena Gomez (She sings, I think?) all appear in brief, but very effective snippets. Special mention though, goes to Jack Black, appearing as himself, kidnapped by the Muppets to be their celebrity host. Black frequently gets flak for some of his more vulgar comedic roles, but he frequently nails it humour wise, and The Muppets is one of those. Also, Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) has a small, but very awesome role, that gets special noting.
Beyond that, a large number of people appear for split second shots, which while showing how popular the Muppets are among some sections of the entertainment industry, is not strictly necessary or vital.
The musical parts are decent enough, though I wouldn’t consider them Oscar material by any means. Jason Segal seems to be making a “thing” of singing in everything he’s in, but he is able to carry it off, the Muppet cast too. With the exception of a cringe-worthy rap number from the villain, it all works.
The actual human characters of mention are few, and being honest, they aren’t trying too hard. Segal and his suffering girlfriend played by Amy Adams don’t ever really make the “buy” the universe they are trying to present (of course, the fourth wall is broken over and over again, so…) but it goes mostly for Adams who seems kind of bored at times. Phoned in, certainly. Chris Cooper, as the stereo-typical bad guy, has such a ridiculous part to play that it s hard to appraise his acting chops in this flick.
Hardcore fans of the old series might be disappointed at the sidelining that some of the characters receive, especially Gonzo, but I suppose that is to be expected with the limited running time. Just about everyone gets a bit of spotlight, just some more than others. Walter, the new guy, gets most of the attention, and that’s ok given that he’s propelling the whole thing, but at times the audience might want a bit less “coming-of-age” plot and a bit more of Staler and Waldorf.
A final note is that, in the cinema screen where I and my better half watched the film, only a tiny percentage of a packed house were under the age of 18. One wonders if the Muppets haven’t gone from being a thing for all ages to just something that pop up for the older crowd from time to time.