Sunday, November 27, 2011
My Two-Cents on The Muppets
The plot was not groundbreaking by any stretch of the imagination. It was your typical "get the band back together" movie as Kermit and the gang had to raise money to save the Muppet Theater from the archetypal rich businessman who was of course a Texan. Along the way, The Muppets used relatable themes like love, family, and growing up to punctuate the story. It took these standby tropes, ideas, and gimmicks and added the right amount of nostalgia and satire to take the movie to the next level.
What I appreciated most about The Muppets wasn't the story itself but the subversive humor that was threading throughout the entire run-time. From the get go The Muppets didn't pretend that it wasn't a movie, and instead it alluded to that fact and hung a lampshade on the very cliches that it was using. I'm a big fan of that kind of humor, which was why I was so happy to see Community's Donald Glover make an appearance because in a lot of ways this was the Muppet movie for my generation. It's idealistic without being gullible, which made some of the heartwarming scenes even more powerful.
Speaking of Childish Gambino, the celebrity cameos also made The Muppets a delight to watch. Some were obscure (Kristen Schaal), some were mandatory (Neil Patrick Harris), and some were flat out brilliant (Jim Parsons). These appearances turned watching the movie into a pop culture scavenger hunt that added an extra layer of awesome, but some were so inside that I was the only one laughing and I was OK with that (it made me feel superior.)
It wasn't just about the cameos because Jason Segel and Amy Adams did amazing jobs as the human leads. Segel was born to make this movie, and Amy Adams was pitch perfect as his romantic opposite. Even Chris Cooper did a great job as the worn-out, rich Texan character, and he made watching an old stereotype fun again. I also have to praise Rashida Jones as the cynical TV executive because she plays this kind of role so well.
While I liked The Muppets a lot, it was not perfect. There were some pacing issues in the second act, when they traveled to Paris to bring Miss Piggy back, and it ran a little longer than it needed to. I get that they wanted to get in as many callbacks, cameos, jokes, and story into a finite amount of time, but it would've been a stronger film if it had been 10-15 minutes shorter. That being said, these are minor quibbles.
This was the right time for the Muppets to make their comeback. This movie probably would have been too by-the-books even ten years ago, but this day and age allowed Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller to write their version of a Muppets movie that can speak to not only my generation but to the kids inside of us. Younger and older audiences may not get The Muppets, but who cares? It was a fun time at the movies and a reminder of the magic that Hollywood is capable of.