Saturday, March 24, 2012

Review: The Muppets

I’ve been waiting for the local release of The Muppets ever since I first heard snippets of their showstopping number “Life’s a Happy Song” late last year and boy it really took awhile for this movie to finally get here. But the long wait was worth it as The Muppets is a joy to watch on the big screen as it will make you sing, dance, laugh and cry all at the same time.

Gary (Jason Segel) takes his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) to Los Angeles to celebrate their anniversary however he tags along his brother Walter so he can also visit the Muppets studios. Once they get there, they discovered that the studio is closing down as business tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) plans to destroy the entire studio for oil drilling. The group informs the almost-retired Kermit the Frog of the situation and they soon went on a mission to assemble the old crew to perform a Muppets Telethon to save the studio.

The story is definitely in line with the Muppets tradition of deliberate silliness and heightened reality (a muppet and a human as brothers?) but it doesn’t matter anyway as it is charismatic enough to make it work. What’s amazing though is that underneath the meta jokes and goofball gags lies a story about mourning the world that moved on without you and the uncertainty on returning to a place you once loved. The movie poses the question “Has the world become too cynical for The Muppets?” and The Muppets in its own absurd way examined this ordeal vividly and would actually make you evaluate how we often dismiss the value of things in the past just because they are passé.

The Muppets openly pulls in your nostalgic heartstrings but it does not feel manipulative because there’s genuine passion and affection poured into the production. The musical number “Pictures in My Head” featuring Kermit the Frog reminiscing the good ol’ days of "The Muppets Show" is a poignant scene that embodies how this film is not just a throwaway project to cash in on an established brand name. When the "The Muppets Show" telethon begun I had goosebumps upon seeing the opening sequence. I actually don’t recall if I ever watched an actual "The Muppets Show" episode on television before (or maybe I was just too young to remember) but the opening sequence felt so familiar, it’s like welcoming an old friend back.

The music definitely elevated the movie even more thanks to Bret McKenzie (of Flight of the Conchords fame) who did a terrific job. It’s actually brilliant that they got McKenzie to do the job as his wit and sensibilities match the movie’s bizarrely sweet tone. The Oscar-winning song “Man or a Muppet” proves why McKenzie was the perfect choice. Adams and Segel are just supporting characters but these actors have the perfect personalities to complement the movie’s atmosphere. And while Cooper didn’t add that much to his one-dimensional villain character just seeing him rap is worth the admission. There are a lot of celebrity cameos in the movie but the one that involves Jim Parsons was the crowd favorite.

It’s unfortunate that after the long wait The Muppets has to open the same week as the highly-anticipated "The Hunger Games". I’m afraid there won’t be a lot of people interested enough to see this movie, which is a shame because The Muppets delivers unadulterated entertainment, and most importantly optimism that you don’t often see in movies these days that often favors the jaded. This not just a comeback vehicle for these lovable puppets but a loving tribute that would make its creator Jim Henson proud. 10 / 10

The Muppets is now showing on all digital cinemas nationwide

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