The Muppets (2011) review

Director: James Bobin

Starring: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Kermit The Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Animal

STATLER: “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were reciting some sort of important plot point.”

WALDORF: “I  hope so. Otherwise I would’ve bored half the audience half to death.”

STATLER: “You mean half the audience is still alive?”

I’ve been a huge fan of the Muppets ever since I was really young. As I grew and managed to get hold of more and more Muppets stuff I managed to grit my teeth and ignore the worst parts of Muppet history Muppets In Space, the early laugh-free Saturday Night Live stuff) and focus on the classics – The Muppets Christmas Carol, The Muppets Take Manhattan and, of course, The Muppet Show itself.

Walter is the newest Muppet. And he's pretty awesome.

The Muppets have been out of the public eye for so long however that when I heard another movie was on the way I felt excitement and trepidation in equal measure. Would this be the long-awaited return of the Muppets I’ve been hoping for for years, or would it be an anachronistic, out-of-date embarrassment that would sound the death knell for my beloved puppets? Thankfully, the answer is the former, and by some distance.

The Muppets tells the story of Walter, a young puppet who lives with his brother Gary (Jason Segel). Walter is the world’s biggest Muppet fan, so when Gary and his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) ask him to travel to Hollywood with him he jumps at the chance to visit the hallowed Muppet Studios. 

Fun fact - that blue Muppet once did a brilliant duet with Vincent Price on The Muppet Show

Unfortunately, since the Muppets haven’t done anything of note for years, Walter arrives at the Muppet Studios to find it rundown and dilapidated. While there he hears a deal being made by the evil Tex Richman, who claims he wants to buy the Muppet Studios to turn it into a museum but in reality wants to demolish everything and drill for oil.

Distraught, Walter decides to try to find the reclusive Kermit and convince him to regroup the Muppets and put on one more show to raise enough money to buy the Studios back, but there’s just one problem – they’ve all lost contact with each other since they disbanded years ago, and Kermit and Miss Piggy left on bad terms. Can they save the day and buy back the Studios? You might be surprised.

The Rainbow Connection, a song from The Muppet Movie (1979), is reprised

The Muppets is hilarious. Newcomers will get a laugh from the jokes and such but this is clearly a film for the fans and as such is packed with previous references to The Muppet Show and the various movies. While most of these references are fairly well-known, die-hard fans will have fun spotting the odd appearances of some of the more obscure Muppets that only featured in a couple of sketches 30 years ago. Some may turn their nose up at its numerous attempts to break the fourth wall by making constant references to the fact they’re in a movie (when Kermit tells Walter the gang probably won’t get back together, Mary remarks that “this is going to be a really short movie”), but this was always a part of The Muppets’ comedy. After all, The Muppet Show featured countless backstage sections where they discussed the running of the show as it was happening, so it makes sense that they’d know they’re in a movie too.

The music is also sensational – you’d hope so, considering the film is essentially a musical. The songs are written by Bret McKenzie of Flight Of The Conchords fame and fans of that series will hear some definite Conchordian elements to many of them. Indeed, “Man Or Muppet”, the song that won McKenzie an Oscar, has a pleasantly similar vibe to “I’m Not Crying” from the first episode of Flight Of The Conchords.

So they couldn't get Rizzo The Rat but they could get that big blue bastard?

It does have one or two iffy moments. One of the main plot points involves the Muppets needing to find a celebrity to present their show, and there’s plenty of fuss made over Kermit and others desperately trying to find someone as time is running out. Everything is seemingly being set up for a special celebrity cameo to appear at the last minute and surprise us, but when they eventually settle for a celeb who already appeared at the start of the movie it feels a little cheap and is a bit of a let-down.

This isn’t the end of the world, mind you, and is merely a disappointing drop in an ocean of joy. The Muppets is essential viewing for everyone, because it wonderfully introduces these fantastic characters to those too young to know them, while also ensuring it does justice to their heritage and history for long-time fans to feel like this is a suitable end to their journey. And the ending is a pleasantly refreshing surprise too (at least until the film bottles it and quickly squeezes in a more conventional conclusion during the end credits).

In fact, the only reason I’m not giving The Muppets five Trevors out of five is because, for whatever reason, of the literally hundreds and hundreds of popular and obscure Muppets who all feature in the film there’s no sign of Robin, Kermit’s little nephew and coincidentally my favourite character. Yes, that’s horribly biased of me, but this is my site so nyaaah.

WHERE CAN I SEE IT?
The Muppets is still in a handful of cinemas across the UK. It was recently released on DVD and Blu-ray in the US so if you live in Americaland you can get the snazzy three-disc DVD/Blu-ray/digital copy/soundtrack version here. If you live in the UK and need your Muppets fix now then I recommend this fantastic four-disc set of the first season of The Muppet Show.

If you enjoyed this review and would like to read more, here’s a complete list of reviews on That Was A Bit Mental complete with brief descriptions. We’ve got 134 reviews and counting!

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