"Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure." Marianne Williamson

Sunday, December 4, 2011

"The Muppets" (2011)

I was excited when this came out.  I watched Jim Henson documentaries on Youtube, cried through a few listens of "Rainbow Connection" and fantasized about being a muppeteer . . . and than a week later when nostalgia had slipped away as easily as she came, I found myself at the theatre watching "The Muppets".

Jason Segel co-wrote and stars in this attempt at a Muppet comeback.  Segel and his brother, a muppet named Walter live in a small 50's style town in a house that only Disney or Pee Wee Herman could have invented.  Amy Adams is Gary's girlfriend of 10 years - she wants more time alone with Gary and feels he's too attached to Walter.   The three of them travel to Hollywood and visit the Muppet Theatre now cobwebbed and neglected.   Enter Statler and Waldorf - the Muppet anti-Muppets, who are in on a deal to sell the theater to evil oil tycoon Richman played by the normally excellent, Chris Cooper.  Walter and Gary go and find Kermit the Frog at the frog's mansion.  There's a hilarious scene where Walter is hurled unsuccessfully over an electric fence; other than that there's not a lot of laughs in this movie.

I had already read Frank Oz, muppeteer of Miss Piggy and Fozzie amongst others had declined to participate in the film.  After seeing "The Muppets" I don't blame him.  That Muppets je ne sais quoi is missing throughout and Walter the Muppet was too cute to be a real Muppet.  This wasn't a film about Muppets as much as a film about a fan of the Muppets.  Jason Segel would have been better writing a story where he and Walter kidnap Kermit and Company and then force them to reenact the fans' favorite scenes. 

The Muppets TV show featured guest hosts - it was a who's who of 70's stars: Sylvester Stallone, the cast of Star Wars, Alice Cooper, and Steve Martin.  It was a show that children watched but I bet the parents got more of the humor.  For example, the Johnny Cash duet with Rowlf is a great reminder of the edgy humor The Muppets had - it was adults muppeteering after all.   See Johnny Cash and Rowlf on Youtube.

Perhaps I'm a purist and maybe the Muppets are way too personal to me, but a word to Jason Segel - stick to romantic comedies!  I won't have a hard time Forgetting Jason Segel.   And Walter - you're just not cut out to be a Muppet.  Give it up.   

There is going to be a better Muppet film some day, until then I am sticking to the likes of "The Muppet Movie" and "The Muppet Show" as the defining work of the Muppets and their creator Jim Henson.

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