Bottom Line: “Cute” would be the wrong word for this one…
“But Kermit, you have to try! The Muppets are AMAZING! You give people the greatest gift that can ever be given!” –Peter Linz as Walter
“Children?” –Steve Whitmire as Kermit the Frog
“No, the OTHER gift.” –Peter Linz as Walter
“Ice cream?” –Steve Whitmire as Kermit the Frog
“No, no, after that…” –Peter Linz as Walter
“Laughter?” –Steve Whitmire as Kermit the Frog
“YES! The THIRD greatest gift ever!” –Peter Linz as Walter
Directed by: James Bobin
Starring: Amy Adams, Bill Barretta, Chris Cooper, Dave Goelz, David Rudman, Eric Jacobson, Jack Black, Jason Segel, Matt Vogel, Peter Linz, Steve Whitmire
Joyful family musical opens the curtains with the quirky Walter (voiced by Peter Linz). He has been a true-blue fan of The Muppet Show ever since his childhood, and he, in fact, looks unmistakably like a Muppet himself. When touring Los Angeles with his best friend Gary (Jason Segel) and Gary’s girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams), he learns that an old theater belonging to the Muppets is being taken over by an oil tycoon. Destined to save the Muppets, Walter visits Kermit the Frog’s (Steve Whitmire) house, making every attempt to bring this to his attention, even though Kermit seems uninterested. To do so, it is agreed that all the Muppets be gathered from where they are on their own acts and reunite for a show to raise ten million dollars, the whopping cost needed to save the theater from being taken over.
It’s interesting that 2011’s THE MUPPETS sets up with a plot about bringing the Muppets back to fame, whilst the film itself is also a marvelous attempt to do the same. Yes, Jim Henson was the creator of Sesame Street as well as The Muppet Show. There is certainly a difference between the two franchises. Sesame Street was his attempt to teach younger kids in an appealing way, with friendly monsters. You won’t be finding anyone like Elmo or Big Bird in THE MUPPETS, for those who aren’t familiar with that separate universe. Henson created the Muppet universe to entertain more, educate less, appeal to kids as well as adults. This is a nice throwback to the wholesome humor Jim Henson loved to deliver to us. There’s a distinct divide between silly, frivolous quips that will make those under the age of seven giggle, as well as more poetic humor and pop culture references that only older kids and adults would get.
“Maniacal laugh…maniacal laugh…” –Chris Cooper as Tex Richman
The whole cast here is wonderful. Without a doubt, the entire film brought a delightedly amused smile to my face, but the scenes involving Jack Black were especially so. We have his stylistically silly humor blended smoothly into certain scenes (i.e. the “Jacknapping” scene that imagines Miss Piggy in the likes of Jackie Chan), but not overly so. We also have some cameos from television stars of our day, ranging anywhere from Neil Patrick Harris to Jim Parsons to Whoopi Goldberg. Unfortunately, it’s not very likely a younger audience would appreciate most of those tidbits as much as a slightly older audience would. The performance that really pleased me was the voice acting of Steve Whitmore as Kermit the Frog. Other than Miss Piggy, Kermit the Frog is probably the best-known Muppet, and without a doubt my favorite of all…umpteen of them. It would be easy to mess up in such an iconic role, but Whitmore was phenomenal here, even if it was just his voice that we heard.
It’s been quite a long time since I’ve seen such a joyous family movie. The songs, better yet, helped this film to succeed as a great musical. It even looked like a Broadway musical at many points (and believe me, it pokes fun at these qualities, as well), with ensembles breaking out singing the same thing for an unexplained reason; someone posing sprightly front and center, a bright light shining on them, whilst no one else in the room is paying any attention; et cetera. The Oscar-winning duo “Man or Muppet” between Jason Segel and Peter Linz is astonishing, if nothing else, and the initially obscure appearances of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (in barbershop quartet style) and Cee-Lo Green’s “Forget You” (in chicken-clucked style) are both two I would go back and watch the film again for. What am I saying? I might go watch this film again just to feel like a nice, innocent little child for an hour and a half. A pleasant experience.