It’s been a long time since The Muppets were prominently featured in the public eye, but thanks to Disney and writer/star Jason Segel, Jim Henson’s troop of puppets is officially back. While their new adventure isn’t quite up to the standards of some previous outings, The Muppets is a solid film, and a great choice for your family this weekend.
The premise is surprisingly accurate; audiences have forgotten The Muppets, leaving Kermit moping around his mansion, Fozzie performing at a casino, and Gonzo running his successful plumbing empire. After an evil oil tycoon (played by Chris Cooper) purchases the old, long-abandoned Muppet Sudios lot, the Muppet gang gets back together to try to raise ten million dollars to get their studio back.
I’m a long-time fan of The Muppets, so I had pretty big expectations going in. Luckily for me, the film met most of the criteria on how to make a decent Muppet movie: the songs were good, the cameos were funny, and the story had heart.
The film’s plot is not led by Kermit, but by a new puppet in the Muppet stable named Walter. This particular character grew up idolizing The Muppets, and not only drives the story, but also acts as a catalyst for Kermit. Only after seeing Walter’s adoration does Kermit decide to regroup with his former pals.
Walter is a fun character, but he looks a little bit bland. Supposedly the brother of Jason Segel, Walter winds up looking like an orange, glassy-eyed Kermit with Christopher Walken’s hair. He doesn’t exactly gel with the other puppets onscreen.
Though few, long-time Muppet fans are sure to recognize some other flaws in The Muppets. Kermit doesn’t always sound like Kermit. Most of the time, his voice is passable, but there are little quirks and nuances that separate this puppeteer’s voice from Henson’s. It’s probably not fair to compare anybody’s Kermit to Henson’s, but the performance seemed particularly off this time around.
But the biggest oddity wasn’t Kermit’s voice, but rather his apathy, which seemingly diverts to downright depression. The Kermit we meet in this film looks the same as always on the outside, but is broken down in his demeanor. While things eventually go smoother for him, it’s odd seeing Kermit depressed at the beginning of the movie. It doesn’t feel right.
The good definitely outweighs the bad in The Muppets. While it isn’t as strong as The Muppet Movie, or even The Great Muppet Caper, it’s still way better than some of terrible Muppet films, like Muppet Treasure Island or Muppets in Space. While enjoyable, The Muppets leaves room for improvement, but hopefully we won’t have to wait too long before we see a sequel.
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