Monday, December 19, 2011

The Muppets (2011) movie review

Overall verdict: 9/10

The Good: heartwarming characters, truly hilarious and well written humor that breaks the fourth wall, a touching story that anyone can relate to, vivid emotions and very human portrayals from the muppet characters, catchy songs, a simple story that appeals to all ages

The Bad: sometimes feel like two movies pasted together, dissonance in overall tone of the story

The funny and fuzzy sensation of a generation returns for one last hurrah in "The Muppets", a warm hearted musical comedy that acts less like a brand relauncher and more like a grand final act to a classic franchise. For years, the Muppets have appeared in TV holiday specials and movies but this movie returns to the original series that first jumpstarted the Muppes to fame: the 1976 Muppets Show. Self referencing humor, witty comedy and familiar characters pay the ultimate tribute not just to a well loved franchise but to the Muppets fandom as well. Why else would the main character be a muppet fanboy?

Meet Walter, the ultimate muppet fanboy (who is also portrayed as a muppet) who lives with his human brother Gary in "Smalltown" USA. The two grew up together and have been fans of the muppets ever since The Muppet show first aired in the 70s. One day Gary plans a trip to Los Angeles with his girlfriend Mary. Walter jumps at the opportunity to tag along and visit the muppet theatre, much to the dismay of Mary who was hoping for some private time with her boyfriend. But instead of seeing the muppet theatre of his childhood, Walter comes face to face with harsh reality: the muppets have disbanded, the theatre is in ruins and a greedy tycoon is looking to buy the location and tear down the place of Walter's childhood dreams. Undaunted, Walter tries to reunite the Muppets for one final show in order to raise the money needed to buy back the theatre.

Cute, heartwarming and absolutely nostalgic, "The Muppets" only downside is that it feels like two different shows pasted together; on one hand you have the plot thread about the Muppets getting back together for a final show, and on the other you have this disney styled buddy romance triangle between Greg, his girlfriend and his brother Walter. The tone between those two plot threads varies quite a bit, with the trio being like something out of "Mary Poppins". All saccharine and happy song and dance.

On the flipside, the tale of former muppet leader Kermit the Frog getting the gang back together is played more tragically and, believe it or not, more realistically. Yes he is a cloth puppet and so are the other Muppets, but this movie never panders to the kids. What we have is a story that adults can enjoy as well. The years have not been kind to the Muppets and Kermit is a performer past his prime, divorced from his former love Miss Piggy, with only memories and mementos of his glory days. As he tours the world looking for his friends, he sees the sorry state some of them have landed in. This story thread is both emotionally moving and ultimately satisfying. What's more, it would surprise you how vividly cloth and stick puppets emote. There is a certain warmth and realism present that even the best computer graphics animation cannot replicate. Despite having new voice actors, these are the same lovable characters from the original show, quirky personalities and all.

Throughout the movie, the ongoing tension between Walter and Gary references the real life balance between childlike passion and adult responsibilities. With its self referencing narrative, the movie works as a parable about growing up and taking on new priorities in life; something many fans of the original muppets show would have personally experienced.

But perhaps the main attraction is the movie's witty humor. Not even the fourth wall is safe as the characters lampoon everything from High school Musical style dance numbers to a time saving montage sequence. It is clever, well written comedy that pokes fun at itself and other shows. So hilarious that it has to be seen to be believed.

The Muppets covers all grounds for a good movie experience. The most human of characters portrayed by inhuman looking cloth puppets, cast chemistry that tugs on the heart strings and a simple story that anyone can relate to. Throw in some catchy songs and celebrity cameos with a healthy dose of nostalgia for those who loved the original Muppets Show and you have a sure winner that appeals to fans new and old alike. And once the curtain comes down, you would be clamoring for an encore. Here is a true tribute to a timeless classic that brings a childhood icon to a whole new generation of viewers. Let us give a standing ovation to "The Muppets", definitely one of the must watch movies of the year.

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Go For it: if you liked the original Muppets Show and would like to see the ultimate tribute to it. If you like disney styled musicals or if you want a quick trip back to the more innocent days of childhood and have a good laugh.
Avoid it: if heartwarming and saccharine shows make your stomach churn

Entertainment: A
Story: B+
Acting: A
Characters: A
Music: A-
Replay value: A
"Brains": B+

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