Tuesday, February 28, 2012

And Now, Tricia's Slightly Conflicted Thoughts on "The Muppets"

This week, I finally saw "The Muppets".

Ever since, there has been an angel and a devil (or perhaps
a Playmobile figure and a LEGO minifig) arguing about it in my head. So with that in mind, I'm going to list things I liked in "The Muppets" and things that... irked me. I have to clarify that when I say "not-so-good things", I mean they didn't totally ruin the film for me, but they did get stuck in my craw.

So before I do this, I want to emphasize that I love the very fact that this movie exists. I love all the promotional things Disney did leading up to the movie, and most of all I love that they're doing big things with these characters at all. And this brings us to our first

Good Thing about "The Muppets": The filmmakers really really give a hoot (to borrow a phrase) about these characters and their legacy. They want to do Jim Henson proud. This is unspeakably refreshing in a world where we've got an annual variation on "Lovable, Innocent Childhood Characters - but They're Stuck in Cynical Modern Times! Isn't That Wacky?!?"

So let's sit back and appreciate how this movie could have gone so wrong in the worst ways. Hell, even when filmmakers do give a hoot about classic characters, their "comeback film" can go due south anyway. (Hey there, "Looney Tunes: Back in Action".) Every frame of the film you can tell that the humans involved are just about to burst with joy at the mere fact that they're working with these characters they grew up with since childhood.

Not-So-Good Thing about "The Muppets": That said, the subplot with the two lead humans is just... there. Actually, it just keeps showing up and getting in the way. In previous Muppet movies, the human characters were all as close as possible to background noise with the Muppets themselves carrying all the action. It's also a little uncomfortable to see Amy Adams essentially playing a nagging girlfriend character out of a gamer comic.

Good Thing about "The Muppets": The film is essentially a love letter to Muppet fans and a victory lap for the Muppets as a whole. There are tons of little references and inside gags. Overall, in a way, I was reminded of all the best parts of "Enchanted".

Not-So-Good Thing about "The Muppets": But the whole premise of the Muppets being gone for decades and nobody knowing who they are is, frankly, absurd. Even insulting (there is no way anyone Selina Gomez's age wouldn't recognize Kermit standing -so to speak- right in front of her). Yeah, this is their first movie in many years but it isn't like they've completely vanished. Hell, they were in a well-loved Walt Disney World ad campaign and starred in their own pretty decent Christmas special just the year before!

The plot overall is pretty nebulous and just feels like an excuse to get the band back together. And I'm not really keen on the fact that the main conflict gets resolved in the end credits. (I know a lot of scenes were cut for time constraints but this is ridiculous.)

Good Thing about "The Muppets": Sweetums is in it! With his suitcase! And so are Lew Zealand and Wayne and Wanda and Dr. Strangepork and Rizzo and his family and Thog and the Mutations and... This review is starting to sound like this, isn't it?

Not-So-Good Thing about "The Muppets": Ah, but then there's Walter, the new Muppet, and he's...

Okay to be fair, he's not like Lola Bunny or Jar-Jar Binks or Poochie or anything. He's not a downright offensive or insulting new addition to the Muppet roster. He is, in fact, kind of the opposite: he is uninteresting in every way. Just a black hole of charisma. He'd be easier to take if the older Muppets didn't stop every little while or so to say, "Hey, let's hear it for Walter!"

He'd also be easier to take if his subplot didn't force me to consider Muppet biology. Yeah, really. Spoilertext time:
So was Walter a Muppet adopted by a human family or did a human give birth to a Muppet? Bearing in mind that the Muppets have, up until this point, been absolutely and unquestionably real within their world, I honestly don't know which situation has worse implications. Either Muppets are a species, possibly a whole other order of life forms, or Muppet is a physical condition that different species can be born with. (And on a related note, let's not mention the freaky Jason Segel Muppet - though Walter's equivalent is hilarious. And speaking of...)

Good Thing about "The Muppets": The songs, with but one or two misfires, are terrific. The cameo guest stars all have great fun with their moments onscreen. The whole last act that plays out like an extended episode of "The Muppet Show" is terrific and overall, once again, I'm just glad the movie exists.

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Sketch of the Day!

I didn't already share this little landscape, did I?

1.6.12 - View from the York Harbor Inn

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