December 10, 2011
D: James Bobin. DP: Don Burgess. W: Jason Segel & Nicholas Stoller. Starring: Jason Segel/Amy Adams/Chris Cooper/Rashida Jones/Jack Black/ with the voice talents of: Steve Whitmore/Eric Jacobson/Dave Goelz/Bill Baretta/David Rudman/Matt Vogel/Peter Linz. (Includes numerous cameos, but I wouldn’t want to spoil them here!)
This holiday season started off with a big bang (go see the movie you’ll know what I mean). The Muppets not only gave The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 a run for their money, but proved to be worth the cost and the wait.
The first feature Muppets film in twelve years, The Muppets picks up in a small town where a Muppet (though he doesn’t know it yet) named Walter grows up with his brother Gary (Jason Segel). Introduced to The Muppet Show at an early age, Walter (voiced by Peter Linz) becomes transfixed with them. When Segel decides to take his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) to Los Angeles for their anniversary, Walter is included and promised a visit to the Muppet Studios. This premise is not only an excellent venue for song, “we live in a small, cutesy town” musical numbers, but it immediately recognizes, embraces, and encourages the view of the Muppets through Walter’s eyes.
This introduction of a new Muppet in this film is pivotal. Not only is it fresh, but the choice and the character completely embodies what the Muppets stand for. Full of energy, innocence, unabashed fun, and that glimmer of genuine good-heartedness, Walter is the center of the film. As his trip with Segel and Adams hits its highs and lows, you are with him and rooting for him all the way. Even better is the image of the Muppets as washed up performers, living out their life once the success has passed. These stories offer great cameos, and also place the Muppets with modern Hollywood landscape.
Segel, also an executive producer and writer on the project, has enough charm and where with all to reign in his comedy and his performance for his Muppet project. It is clear with both Segel and Adams (though she has far less to do) that their supportive roles were just as enjoyable for them to perform as it will be for audiences to experience. Not to mention they both get the two best songs out of the film. Helping them along is Chris Cooper as the villain of the story, Tex Richman, who wants to buy the Muppet studios and drill for oil underneath it. Topical and at times, trendy, Cooper is clearly having fun here, and why not? (maniacal laugh)
Not enough can be said about the music either. With original music by Christophe Beck (who got his big break on the WB show Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and original songs mostly written by music supervisor Bret McKenzie, The Muppets‘ music is a perfect blend of old and new. McKenzie, mostly known for his work on the short-lived show Flight of the Concords, harnesses enough creativity here so that each number, each song, feels fresh. Even an oldie remains a goodie, evoking the memory of Muppets creator Jim Henson and hopefully reminding everyone how memorable just a little green frog can be, when you give it a whole lot of heart.