If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Let me start out by saying that yes, I have been a huge fan of The Muppets since I was young. I wasn't around for the original Muppet television show (god, do I was I was) but I had a vhs of some of its highlights and I remember watching Fraggle Rock and Sesame Street at a very young age. I have always been drawn to Kermit and gang though, I don't know what it is about them but they have always really appealed to me. Kermit seems to be the eternal optimist even in the face of great adversity, Fozzie can't tell a good joke to save his life but he keeps doing what he loves despite others opinions, Gonzo is weird and wacky (very much like myself) but despite what others say he remains true to who he is, Miss Piggy is the diva of the group that loves to hog the spotlight (hee hee) but also has a sweeter side that Kermit brings out in her, Animal is the unadulterated tornado of joy and excitement (WOMAN! WOMAN!!), and there's so many more!!!. After a good deal of time spent out of the public's eye The Muppets FINALLY make their return to the big screen with The Muppets, a film that seems to be about the joys of friendship and what the gift of laughter can bring to an otherwise jaded, cynical, adult world.
In The Muppets, we follow brothers Gary (Jason Segal), Walter (the newest Muppet), and Gary's girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams). On a trip to Los Angeles, the group takes a tour of the decrepit Muppet Studios (As I said before, the Muppet gang has been out of the spotlight for several years) and Walter gets separated from the group and overhears evil oil tycoon Tex Richman's (Chris Cooper, maniacal laugh ) plans to rip down the Muppet theater in order to get to the oil that lies underneath it. There's only one gang that can stop Richman's scheme, but in order to do that Gary and Walter have to get The Muppets back together (a feat that isn't quite as easy as it seems) for one more show so that they can earn ten million dollars and buy back their old theater.
Like The other Muppet movies (with the exception of Muppets From Space), The Muppets is a musical and the songs (including some of the classics like Rainbow Connection) found within are some of the best parts of the film. Each one is catchy and memorable in it's own right (including Tex Richman's rap, a barbershop quartet version of Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit, and the film's theme song called Life's A Happy Song which perfectly captures the spirit of The Muppets). The soundtrack is most definitely worth a purchase, I can guarantee that there are songs you're going to want to give a re-listen.
The Muppets, like every Muppet film, has a strong cast of cameos including Whoopi Goldberg, NPH, John Krasinski, Mickey Rourney, Selena Gomez, Zach Galifianakis, Ken Jeong, Rico Rodriguez, and Sarah Silverman. The best cameos belong to Jack Black (who might as well be billed as supporting cast, he's in the film more than any other cameo actor) as the unwilling host of the Muppet Telethon (He is great here, it's fun to see him tortured during the telethon by The Muppets and his best line comes when The Muppets do a peppy barbershop quartet version of Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit "You're ruining one of the greatest songs ever made!!". Black is back at his best here, and that's a good thing in my opinion), and Jim Parsons (Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory) who stars in one of the musical numbers (That's all I can say about his appearance here lest I ruin a great moment, he left me in stitches).
Chris Cooper is also super great as the evil oil tycoon, Tex Richman, that is threatening the Muppet theater. You can just tell that he is having a blast with his role here, and nowhere is that more obvious than in a sing-along rap number (yes, the words do appear on the big screen and light up as he sings them...you can imagine my surprise and delight) in which he raps about how cool he is and how much he hates the Muppets. He's having so much fun going all out in this part that, villain or not, it's hard to resist rapping along with him.
All this said, The Muppets is not a perfect film. It feels almost messy at points, and tends to get bogged down in it's minor subplots. There are so many Muppets in the cast, but we only get to focus on a few, some notable favorites (Swedish Chef, Fozzy, Gonzo, Sweetums and many others) are left on the sidelines. Even though we do get to spend some time with these friends, it doesn't feel like it's enough. We focus mainly on Kermit, Miss Piggy, and Walter for the majority of the film, and that doesn't feel right.
The human character's don't seem very important, and it feels like they aren't in the film a whole lot (even though they are in it quite a bit). Maybe this is because there are so many different plots (5 in total) to follow that it's kind of hard not to get a bit overwhelmed every now and then. In the end, I guess it's ok that the humans end up taking a seat in the back , after all this movie is about THE MUPPETS.
The first half + of the film is fun, but failed to truly impress me. Don't get me wrong, the whole film is very funny and clever, I definitely was laughing HARD in my seat for most of it (another meta film)...but there was never anything that really made me stand up and cheer. The film starts to really pick up when the telethon starts. This is when the film turns into a film version of the original Muppet Show, and boy is it a joy to watch. The skits are hilarious, Jack Black as the host is awesome (Yes, I know I already stated this), and from here on out the film has that madcap, zany Muppet spirit that I have missed for so long. Probably the best thing that can come out of this film is if Disney decided to do a new Muppet Show that is an updated version of the original classic. I really do miss having The Muppets on TV (which is the medium that I feel has always fit them best) and I hope that if this film is a big enough success (and trust me, it will be) that they may be able to make it back on television one day soon.
The Muppets is a kids film that does not talk down to kids and also manages to keep most adults thoroughly entertained due to its unique sense of humor. The Muppets is also a commentary on how everything these days has been either dumbed down or made more violent (this is shown through a clever bit about a new show called Punch Teacher) and it subtly rebels against this with purity, simpleness and laughter. The Muppets are what we need more than ever right now, and while I may not have been as impressed as I hoped (It's not THE best Muppet film, but it's ONE of the best ones, ranks in as my second favorite Muppet film), the film still is a return to form for characters that have been reduced to shadows of their former selves recently (The Muppets Wizard of Oz and Muppets From Space come to mind). It's great to see the gang back, doing what we're used to seeing them do and what made us love them so much in the first place. The Muppets film has heart, and several very important messages that the gang has been teaching since the day they first entered our lives: Don't be afraid to be yourself, friends are important, don't ever let anyone discourage you, and always believe in yourself. In the end, The Muppets is not just for kids, it's for everyone whose inner child still lives and breathes inside them. Do your inner child a favor, and see the film.