The Muppets Are Back, with Some Annoying Friends
Movie Review: "THE MUPPETS"
Published: Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 14:11
Who can hate on the Muppets? They're an ordinary, simple group of puppets primarily used to entertain and educate children. They've starred in "Sesame Street" and have been around for 50+ years thanks to creator Jim Henson. Having died 20 years ago, I feel that Henson would cringe in his grave if he saw the hodgepodge of a movie called "The Muppets", co-written by and "starring" Jason Segal.
This is the first theatrical release for the Muppets in 11 years, since "Muppets in Space." In these years, the Muppets have fallen out of popularity, and one of their few remaining loyal fans is a muppet lookalike named Walter. Walter's human brother Gary (played atrociously by Segal) and his girlfriend Mary (an equally horrendous Amy Adams) decide to go to Hollywood for their anniversary, bringing Walter along with them so he can visit the original Muppets Studio.
Upon their arrival and to their dismay, they find that the studio is dusty and worn out; it clearly isn't producing any films or TV shows anymore. During their visit, Walter overhears oil conglomerate Tex Richman (played by a sometimes rapping and singing Chris Cooper) planning to buy the old Muppets studio and tear it down to reach the oil underneath it. Of course, Richman isn't telling the Muppets that this is actually what he's using their old studio for, but Walter finds Kermit and informs him that this is his plan.
From there comes a "Blues Brothers"-esque "Bringing the band back together" film, where Kermit and Walter round up Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Beaker & co. to perform one last show in the old Muppet Theater, hoping they can raise 10 million dollars to buy their old studio back. Whole sequences are even taken from "The Blues Brothers": during their first performance they weren't immediately able to please the crowd, basically improvising until they perfected their original routine.
Cameos by Jack Black, Whoopi Goldberg, Selena Gomez and others provide some fresh faces in a rather rotten, overused story. However, they cannot bring the film above its irredeemable fault, which is the acting of the human stars. The love life between Gary and Mary is similar to that of a middle school boyfriend and girlfriend. Neither of them seem to have real feelings for each other (or other humans in general), as Gary completely forgets about the day of their anniversary while helping to launch the Muppets' show. They kiss each other on the cheek and don't seem to bet made happier by the presence of each other. The whole reason that they seem to be in the film is to subtly teach children that everyone is equal (even if they're a Muppet), and you can interact with and help whomever you please.
These characteristics of the main characters are directly related to Jason Segal's pompous writing, taking half of the screenplay credit while Jim Henson deservingly gets credit for writing the Muppet characters. As convincing as each of the individual Muppet performances were, Segal and Amy Adams still hold the movie back an absurd amount. Their poor and amateur attempt at appealing to all audiences comes off as horrifically morbid acting. Director James Bobin should stick with TV shows, as he has previously directed "The Flight of the Conchords" and "Da Ali G Show" series, instead of teaming up with a (to be short-lived) big name like Jason Segal.
In Hollywood, though, money is money, and anything with the Muppets' name attached to it is guaranteed some sort of lucrativeness. If you're bringing your toddlers to the movies, I guess you can't do too much worse than "The Muppets," but at this time of year there's always going to be a better option at the theater than this Segal-influenced, elementary trash.