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Friday, April 6, 2012

The Muppets

I finally got around to seeing The Muppets the other night. Here are some quick thoughts:

Jason Segel and his collaborators managed to strike just the right note between silly humor and sly, knowing reference style humor. I loved the way The Muppets played with the style of previous Muppet output without ever being cynical about it. I loved the gags about "traveling by map", the "time-saving montage" and such. Also, basically every appearance by '80s Robot cracked me up. I also appreciated the constant references to the fact that all the characters knew they were in a movie, which felt very reminiscent of the original Muppet Movie.

I was a bit disappointed with the movie's music, though. They did an excellent job integrating the music within the plot, especially for the Oscar winning Best Song, "Man or Muppet?" but most of the original songs were unmemorable, with the possible exception of "Life's a Happy Song" which, though saccharine, was very catchy. I also would have appreciated if they had made space for the full version of "Rainbow Connection."

The celebrity cameos were a little underwhelming also. Maybe they will grow in retrospect, but it feels like the older Muppet movies attracted a higher class of celebrity. The cameos in The Muppets were mostly TV stars and friends of Segel. Much better were the stars who actually had roles to play, like Emily Blunt as Miss Piggy's icy receptionist and Rashida Jones playing against type as a ruthless TV executive.

I also had some problems with Amy Adams' role. I feel like it's too facile and common a trope to introduce conflict through the wet-blanket girlfriend. Segel seems to have learned this first-hand at the Apatow academy. Plus, Adams is such a likeable screen presence that it's hard not to concede that she has a really good point about Segel's Gary.

Still, these are nitpicks. The Muppets features Muppets, so it really couldn't go too far off-track. Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo and the gang are so enjoyable that it was almost enough just to see them on screen again. The fact that they were given so many nice gags and punchlines was the cherry on top of the sundae.

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