3 1/2 Couches (Graphic Coming)
The way we respond to movies is based largely on our perspective. That is neither profound nor a secret, but it is a central factor in processing The Muppets. In this case it isn’t as simple as recommending the film to certain people and advising others to take a pass. The movie is designed to be enjoyed by different people in different ways for different reasons. The Muppets is somewhere between a really good movie and a fantastic one depending on your perspective
Personally, my viewpoint is a rare and strange one. Given that I’m in my mid-twenties I fall outside the two target audiences. I’m neither a child or an adult who grew up alongside the Muppets during their prime. I was excited about this movie for a different reason. Beyond being a fan of Jason Segel in general, I’m fascinated by people with irrational passion.
Segel is a Muppets superfan and an admirer of the puppeteering community as a whole. Of course, many stars of popular franchises claim to be fans but Segel is on another level. He co-wrote the film in addition to starring as Gary and uses every opportunity to gush about his affinity for the franchise. He said the film is the culmination of a life-long dream and revealed that he wept openly the first time Kermit was brought on set.
Armed with the knowledge of Segel’s Muppet obsession and little else I took my seat. What I got was a movie I thoroughly enjoyed but not necessarily in the way I expected. The film does a fantastic job of using Segel without allowing him to overtake the movie. It remains very faithful to the Muppet tone and sensibility. The film introduces Walter as a Muppet like being who grew up in a normal human family. The differences between him and his brother Gary (Segel) are acknowledged but there is no explanation of how they are brothers. Rather than waste time explaining, the movie simply presents the situation as truth.
The film is ultimately about Walter finding his place in the world. The broader plot involves Walter, Gary and his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) helping the Muppets get the gang back together in an effort to save Muppet Studios. The plot is much more complicated than that with plenty of twists and turns, but this film isn’t about plot as much as it is about tone.
For someone with only vague memories of Muppet works, I found the film to be extremely enjoyable. It is successful in navigating in and out of emotional territory. It is a goofy puppet-centered comedy but is meant to have a message of embracing oneself and it does a good job conveying it.
The musical numbers were the highlight of the film. There were appearances by the classics like “Rainbow Connection” but the new songs stole the show. “Man or a Muppet” and “Life’s a Happy Song” have been stuck in my head for days. The performances are strong and the plot moves along at a relatively nice pace. Although, the end does seem to drag a bit. Segel is predictably good and Adams could play this type of role in her sleep. The celebrity cameos were extremely well used, especially Jim Parsons.
On the flip side, while I can’t speak on the topic personally, all indications are that for lifetime Muppet fans this movie was something more than a good family feature. Even without much background knowledge it’s obvious that this movie is a love letter to the Muppets and their fans. For a take from a true Muppet fan read this review by Alan Sepinwall. He is a TV critic for HitFix.com who felt compelled to review The Muppets despite not being assigned to do so.
All things considered, I think anyone can appreciate and enjoy The Muppets but especially fans. As for kids, they should enjoy it to as there is plenty of humor aimed at all ages.With no 3-D or animation or eye-popping special effects young children might find this to be a breath of fresh air, at least the smart ones.