‘The Muppets’ Review

Published 2 years ago by

The Muppets 2011 Cast The Muppets Review

Screen Rant’s Ben Kendrick reviews The Muppets

When it was first reported that Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother and Forgetting Sarah Marshall) would be taking on one of the most beloved movie/TV properties of all time, The Muppets, needless to say, reactions were somewhat mixed. Then as parody trailer after creative parody trailer debuted online and in theaters, more and more moviegoers became cautiously optimistic that The Muppets would actually turn out to be not just an enjoyable trip to the theater but a worthy installment in a series that hasn’t seen a big screen release in over twelve years (the last one being Muppets from Space).

However, does Segel’s The Muppets offer a fun time at today’s movie theaters – while also serving as a worthy installment in the larger saga of Muppet movie offerings?

Fortunately, The Muppets not only delivers an enjoyable trip to the movies, the film also addresses a number of reasons why the titular characters deserve to be a staple in the current cinescape – directly tackling the cynicism of our modern entertainment offerings. That said, the film isn’t overly preachy, and despite a number of celebrity cameos, lets the familiar felt-covered faces of characters like Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, and Fozzie Bear take center stage. Unlike a lot of modern films which have to work hard to keep their audiences entertained with explosions, eye-popping CGI, and “gritty” interpretations, Henson’s creations are still able to keep audiences invested due largely to their heartfelt/charming personalities. Even Walter, despite being the new Muppet on the block, holds his own alongside his fellow non-human friends, and will no doubt be a fan-favorite for years to come.

While the overarching storyline in The Muppets isn’t the most imaginative narrative in the series, the combination of social satire and genuinely endearing character moments succeeds in delivering one of the most sincere installments of the franchise. As mentioned, Segel sidestepped the limelight and puts Walter center stage. Walter is the world’s biggest Muppet fan – and destiny calls when he travels with his biological, yet human, brother Gary (Segel) and Gary’s girlfriend, Mary (Amy Adams), to Hollywood. Walter becomes the only person capable of reuniting the Muppets, who have all gone their separate ways, so that they can stop a rich oil tycoon, Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), from tearing down the iconic Muppet Theater.

Walter Jason Segel The Muppets The Muppets Review

Walter and Gary (Jason Segel) in 'The Muppets'

While certain members of the original Muppets team had been somewhat critical of Segel’s interpretation, highlighting moments in the trailers (such as Fozzie’s fart shoes) that were supposedly antithetical to Henson’s approach to the characters, the final version of The Muppets comes across as extremely grounded in the franchise spirit. In a world of gritty reboots and dark comic book characters, it’s hard to imagine any filmmaking team capturing the same success as Segel and director, James Bobin (The Flight of the Conchords) manage with their Muppet movie. While it might be hard for some fans to imagine a scenario that would have forced the Muppets apart, rebuilding the estranged friendships not only mirrors the film’s larger message, the premise also delivers some truly heartfelt character moments – not to mention entertaining comedy set pieces.

While some viewers had probably been expecting non-Muppet Segel to hog the spotlight, like other children-show-turned-modern-movies (such as Neil Patrick Harris in The Smurfs or Jason Lee in Alvin and the Chipmunks), the “humans” are all portrayed with campy tongue-in-cheek fun that serves to let the Muppets shine. Amy Adams is a bubbly and cartoonish school teacher (as well as an expert electrician) and Chris Cooper, playing the evil Tex Richman, manages to strike a good balance as a villain that audiences will love to hate – while still offering some genuinely funny laughs throughout the proceedings.

Segel and Bobins were adamant about using the same practical Muppet effects that have been a staple of the series – with basically zero CGI used in the entire film. While it won’t necessarily be surprising for fans of the series, it’s still pretty amazing to see the Muppets in action – dancing together in large scale numbers on the Muppet Theater stage – as well as presenting complicated emotions in quiet character moments through subtle body gestures and facial expressions. In a time where movie magic usually boils down to big-bugdet digital effects and 3D glasses, it’s great to see that some filmmakers can still make real-world inanimate objects come to life in 2D.

Chris Cooper Deadly Bobo The Muppets The Muppets Review

Tex Richman with his associates Deadly and Bobo

That said, despite a heartfelt message and a masterful handling of the Muppet franchise, there are a few moments where Segel and Bobin’s The Muppets falls a bit flat. A number of the film’s musical numbers are especially enjoyable – mixing fun and quirky musical stylings with some pretty interesting and entertaining onscreen imagery (“Man or Muppet” to name one) – but a few of them fall short of being either necessary to the story, or even worse, all that entertaining to watch (“Me Party”). The same can be said for some of the film’s numerous gag set-ups which, once again, connect surprisingly well in most cases – though there are definitely some drawn-out duds along the way. While the flat points aren’t nearly enough to hamper the overall experience, in a film the successfully captures so much heart, laughter, and onscreen magic, the underwhelming moments are exceptionally easy to spot – and, at times, undermine the film’s steady momentum.

There’s no doubt that much like Walter asserts early on in the film, Muppet fans have been waiting years for Henson’s characters to break through all the reality television, franchise film reboots, and cynical celebrity posturing – with a film experience that can serve up the same mix of Muppet brand social parody, musical stylings and charming character moments that adults remember and newly-introduced children are bound to love. The Muppets, helmed by filmmaker fans who were more interested in seeing the Muppets return to glory – rather than stepping into the spotlight themselves – no doubt reflects that Segel and company have managed to produce a Muppet film that not only lives up to the franchise legacy, but for some fans, might just end up being one of their all-time favorite adventures with Kermit and the gang.

If you’re still on the fence about The Muppets, check out the trailer below:

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Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick - and let us know what you thought of the film below:

The Muppets is now in theaters.

Our Rating:

4.5 out of 5
(Must-See)

TAGS: the muppets

49 Comments

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  1. How was Rowlf i love Rowlf so much not saw him in a muppet movie in a good lenght of time i hope he had a few parts eh .

  2. This movie made me long for the old Muppet’s featuring the comedy writing of Jim Hansen and his partner. I miss the old Kermit the frog and miss piggy, Jason Segal’s writers got the comedy and charm of the Muppet’s all wrong. I gave his (Jason Segal’s version of the Muppet’s) 2 stars. Kermit wasn’t funny, Miss Piggy wasn’t funny as a matter of fact no one in the movie was funny.

  3. I was so disappointed in this movie. I have loved the Muppets since I was a kid so my expectations were maybe a little higher. They should NOT have had humans in the film at all. All the sing sings done by the human actors were terrible and they really did not show any acting skills what so ever! Who the heck wrote these songs??? They should have just let Kermit and the rest of the gang carry the show. The best part was watching the Muppets sing Rainbow Connection and the Muppet Show theme song. That’s it – those two songs were the best parts of the movie – do not waste your money on this one..I doubt you could keep your kids awake to watch the whole thing! :(

  4. I mean really. This movie is an atrocity. The whole thing smacked of a money-grubbing industry that the movie was at times parodying. The songs were terrible, clearly written by non-songwriters. The script tried unsuccessfully to sneak by on self-referential gags that were hackneyed 10 years ago. If you’re a fan of Muppet Caper, and Muppets Take Manhattan, it will break your heart what’s become of the Muppets, and story-telling as a whole in our culture.

  5. You naysayers are crazy. This movie was absolutely fantastic, and completely in line with the Muppet feel of old.

    Not have any humans in it? Have you ever SEEN a Muppet movie?

  6. Really great film. Hoping for a sequel

  7. We are soooo clever now and the people who created entertainment in the 80′s were such idiots. We are so much smarter and cleverer and everything we do has a big wink in it and we never take anything seriously. Thank God they didn’t try to write a straight comedy with Muppets, because surely that’s impossible. I much prefer a movie that is told with one wink after another so we don’t have to take anything seriously. I love it when the characters constantly talk about the script in the movie so we don’t have to suspend disbelief. We can just continue to enjoy the Muppets ironically, just like how we enjoy everything these days, ironically. I love how people break into flash mobs (latest trend) and ironically enjoy the Muppets, but thankfully at the ends of scenes they insert lines to let us know that all enjoyment is ironic and we are actually goofing on musicals, because we are WAY too cool to enjoy a musical number. I love the constant 4th wall breakdowns with characters constantly remarking on the script and the plotline, as we are WAY too clever and cool to suspend disbelief and enjoy any movie, let alone the “campy” Muppets. Thank God they made Fozzie funny by inserting “fart” jokes, and having Jack Black shout out to “stop telling jokes!” because Fozzie’s whole act was stupid (or maybe just over our “clever” heads.) And thank you Jason Segal and Amy Adams for acting over the top to goof on the movie and making it clear everything you did had a big “wink” in it because you two are so edgy and would never lower yourself to playing your parts straight like those fools in the 80′s did with Manhattan and Caper. All in all, thank for showing us how clever you are, and how clever we the audience is, because we are clearly more clever and smart, and cannot be fooled like those fools in the 80′s who actually enjoyed the Muppets for what they were …

  8. ewww terrrible movie only for childish members of the community!@!!! ^&^#$*

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