Muppets, The (2011)






THE SCOOP

Director:  James Bobin
Cast:  Amy AdamsJason SegelChris Cooper
Plot:  With the help of three fans, The Muppets must reunite to save their old theater from a greedy oil tycoon.

Genre:  Comedy / Family / Musical
Awards:  Won 1 Oscar - Best Original Song.
Runtime:  103min
Rating:  PG for some mild rude humor.

IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
Let us press the nostalgia button and be transported to the days when Jim Henson created a group of puppet characters with very wide mouths and protruding eyes.  Those who grew up with “The Muppets” many decades ago, well, have already grown up.  

But it is always the heart-tugging nostalgia for those happy times with Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy that will send droves of grown men and women to the theaters, most I believe with kids in tow.  I have a vague memory of seeing “The Muppets” once in Sesame Street when my shoe size was six, but they have been largely forgotten.

Now being largely forgotten can be depressing, as the puppet characters in The Muppets would attest.  With the threat of their once glorious and glittering theater studio to be torn down by an unsympathetic big shot wanting to drill for oil below it looming, Kermit must rally his fallen troops to perform one last show to raise the ten million dollars needed to save the building. 

Sounds like a pretty straightforward plot?  Yes indeed.  Very much predictable especially towards the climax, The Muppets however keeps proceedings interesting and fresh by allowing the puppet characters to come alive and be their own persons.

Alternating between song-and-dance numbers and puppet drama, this musical-comedy is largely entertaining because it is self-reflexive and indirectly pokes fun at the audience by having characters talk about key plot points (they will work hard to get their ten million dollars) and acting for the camera (cue maniacal laugh). 

The quirky characters also help the audience to get past moments of pure absurd fantasy such as the scene where they travel from America to Paris in a car “by map”.  Despite being soft, cuddly and stuffed with cotton wool, “The Muppets” transcend their seeming artificiality through excellent character development by writers Nicolas Stoller and Jason Segel, who collaborated to acclaim in Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008).

Segel and Amy Adams play the human leads in The Muppets, though that may sound inaccurate as they are relegated to bit parts that do not quite stand out on their own.  Whenever the focus shifts from the puppet characters to the human characters, the film, believe it or not, loses its human touch.  

Extended sequences of Segel and Adams singing are awkward and seem out of place.  Moreover, the romance between them is never truly brought to the fore, thus rendering their interactions as fleeting, unimportant transitions rather than having a stake in driving the narrative.

In a nutshell, The Muppets is still a reason to cheer for families this holiday season.  It will bring back fond memories, and for some, it may create new, if not fonder, memories.  Despite its flaws, the film remains highly watchable, and this is a strong testament to the colorful non-human characters that adorn this decently-made family picture.

GRADE: B (7.5/10 or 3.5 stars)






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