1 The Muppet Mindset: THE MUPPETS Movie Review

Nov 11, 2011

THE MUPPETS Movie Review

Ryan Dosier - About three months ago, I made a promise to Steve Whitmire. I promised him that, once I saw The Muppets, I would write an honest review of my thought on the new film. Well, I just got home from the early Cast and Crew screening of The Muppets in the main theater of The Walt Disney Studios and I'm ready to showcase my honest opinion. And here it is:

The Muppets is everything I wanted and expected it to be. Somehow, Disney and Jason Segel and James Bobin and the Muppeteers and the entire production team, have done the impossible: they've made a movie that appeals to virtually everyone--Muppet fans, huge Muppet fans, casual fans, adults, kids, teenagers... everyone. But the more impressive and incredible feat is that they've made a truly funny, truly emotional, truly fun Muppet movie. Five years ago, I don't know anyone who would have thought this could be done, but I am here to tell you honestly that it has been done... and it's coming to theaters very soon.

The Muppets are the stars of this film, 100%. I was actually extremely surprised by how great both Jason Segel and Amy Adams are and how brilliantly they eased into the story. The most surprising part was that, once Kermit was back in the picture, we barely hear from either Gary or Mary until the third act and all focus shifts to Kermit and Fozzie and Rowlf and Scooter and Gonzo and Walter and Lew Zealand and Animal and Floyd... and the divine Miss Piggy. If there is any doubt in your mind about whether the Muppets are the stars of this film, squash it immediately. I am here to tell you that no one shines more than Kermit, no one has more laughs than Fozzie, no one carries more weight (don't hit me) and emotion than Miss Piggy, and no one will give you shivers like Walter. This is a Muppet movie with Jason Segel in it, not a Jason Segel movie with Muppets in it.

That's not to say, however, that the human co-stars aren't fantastic--because they really, really are. Jason Segel's character, Gary, was one of my favorites. The song "Man or Muppet," a brilliant duet between Gary and Walter, that comes before the big Muppet telethon was one of the true, honest highlights of the film. The song was incredibly catchy and warmed my heart to no end, and mostly because the great acting of Jason Segel and Peter Linz as Walter. One of the most touching scenes in the movie comes just before the big climax when Gary and Walter are talking backstage. It will endear Jason Segel in your heart forever (as if that hasn't already happened).

If you have any doubts about Walter... stop having them. Watler is pitch perfect in absolutely every scene. His story and his journey is incredible. Why is Walter such a big Muppet fan? Because he's different, and watching the Muppets made him feel accepted and showed him that everyone is special and deserves to show it. The way he talks to Kermit or Gonzo is the way you or I would talk to Kermit or Gonzo... a dedicated fan who would do anything--yes, even being thrown into an electric fence--to bring his heroes back together. There's a moment, at Kermit's house, when Kermit is down and lost, and the things Walter says to the Frog will make you honestly wonder if they broke into your brain to write the dialogue. Peter Linz has brought to life an amazing, enduring, and wonderful character. People--myself included--were swarming him after the screening to congratulate him on a truly perfect new character.

Speaking of the Frog, I know this is going out on a huge limb, but Kermit in The Muppets ranks alongside Kermit in The Muppet Movie for his incredible acting, depth of emotion, and heroic journey from beginning to end. The Kermit we meet at the mansion has lost his way without his friends. If his song, "Pictures in My Head," does not move you in some fashion, then you're not giving credit to the history of Kermit the Frog and the amazing talents of Steve Whitmire. "Pictures in My Head" will surely go down in history as one of the great Kermit songs. It carries the weight of his entire plight in about two minutes, and it's perfect.

And I am thrilled to say that the biggest emotional storyline is carried out by Miss Piggy and Kermit. Their falling out and rising back up is amazing. I've honestly never loved and believed in the frog and the pig more--and that all has to do with the way the characters were respectfully handled and written. They reference their history, they confront each other about past issues, and they finally come together and share the sweetest moment you could imagine. However, Piggy fans will be pleased to know that it's not all sweetness and kissy kissy, Miss Piggy shows variety brilliance throughout. One of my favorite scenes comes when Piggy executes her idea to get a celebrity guest host for the telethon. You'll be in stitches.

Chris Cooper's Tex Richman is one of the most evil of Muppet villains, ranking up with Doc Hopper in his cruelty and attempts to destroy the Muppets. But he would not have been nearly as fun if not for his great sidekicks, Uncle Deadly and Bobo. Bobo is a laugh riot, as always, and really is just there to make goofy comments for no real reason, which is perfect for the bear. Uncle Deadly takes the cake, however, and Matt Vogel should be commended for bringing back a character whose potential is undeniable. Just wait until you see Uncle Deadly's big scene... I doubt you ever thought you would be moved by Uncle Deadly, but you will.

One of my favorite things about this movie was the soaring, hilarious, and wonderful music. Almost every song is not only catchy, but also takes you on an emotional, heartwarming, and hysterical ride. Even the rendition of "Rainbow Connection" performed by Fozzie Bear and the Moopets, which is just meant to crack you up, carries the emotional wait of seeing poor Fozzie trying to perform but stuck with an act that he doesn't believe in. Every song has this sort of wonderful subtext. The undoubted musical highlights are both the opening and closing "Life's a Happy Song" (Oscar worthy, seriously), Kermit's "Pictures in My Head," Gary and Walter's "Man or Muppet," and the unbelievably touching group version of "Rainbow Connection." The only song I didn't love (in fact, the only moment in the movie that left me feeling sort of "meh") was Amy Adams and Miss Piggy's "Me Party." The set up was just a little strange and it didn't really work for me, but every other song in this film will make you smile, laugh, and, maybe, tear up.

There's just so much that happens in the movie and I'm forgetting to talk about quite a lot. The "getting the gang back together" montage is wonderful and closes with an inside joke that will make you fall out of your seat. There is a wonderfully funny running gag with Gonzo during the telethon. This is probably Scooter's biggest role in a Muppet movie. Rowlf is charming and funny and delightful. The Electric Mayhem rocks hard. Marvin Suggs sings a line in a song. Link Hogthrob is a featured member of a quartet. Every single cameo is handled perfectly (and some were even trailer-exclusives). Rashida Jones is so much fun. The voices of Jim Henson, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, and Frank Oz all appear in the film (including a very, very special piece from Jerry). There are direct references to The Muppet Movie, The Muppets Take Manhattan, and The Muppet Show, with allusions to The Great Muppet Caper. Wayne and Wanda have one of the biggest laughs in the movie. Remember that all of this is happening in a feature film in 2011.

The Muppets is a return to form for the Muppets. Not just Kermit, not just Miss Piggy, but Fozzie Bear and Gonzo the Great and Animal and Scooter and Rowlf. It returns us to The Muppet Show where these characters truly were a hurricane-strength force in the entertainment industry. It reminds us that we are special and that there's a place for all of us. It reminds us that Kermit the Frog will always believe in us if we believe in him. It reminds us that growing-up doesn't have to mean growing into something you're not. It reminds us of the days when huge celebrities were clamoring to sing with a pig or joke with a bear. It reminds us that singing chickens will always get the biggest laugh.

But, above all, The Muppets reminds us that there is always a place for singing, and dancing, and making people happy; we remember that laughter is the greatest gift you can give someone (no, not children or ice cream) and that it doesn't have to be cruel or vulgar to make people happy. I truly believe that this is something the world is waiting for and more than ready to have back in their lives... they are ready for the Muppets. Luckily, the Muppets are ready for them with a film that breathes amazing life into the characters, the franchise, and the world of movies.

"Life's a Happy Song" sums up The Muppets in the best way: "Everything is perfect, it's falling into place, I can't seem to wipe this smile off my face!" And it's true... in so many, many ways. The Muppets have fallen into their place and on November 23rd and the days after, the support of the audience needs to prove it to see more and more Muppet projects. Go see this movie, Muppet fans. From one hardcore fan to however many of you are out there... Go see this movie. There is guaranteed to be at least one thing to make you grin from ear to ear, tap your toes, and give you shivers.







The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

24 comments:

  1. Well, congrats Ryan, your article just made me start crying in the middle of my college's computer lab. I'm just filled with such an overall sense of relief, joy, excitement, and bliss. I cannot wait for this movie. Thank you for giving us a great review without revealing any spoilers!!!
    -- Julia (ie. Puckrox)

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  2. Thanks so much for the review Ryan!

    Now, more than ever, I am excited about seeing the film, and no doubt all of the naysayers will become quiet after this film comes out.

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  3. Excellent review -- and coming from a Muppet fan who's extremely excited to share this experience with his daughter (who has never seen a Muppet movie in theaters), I have a feeling neither one of us will be let down.

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  4. Thank you so much Ryan for this speedy and thoughtful review. I read a lot of film critiques and this one is better than most. Not just because it's positive, rather because you communicate exactly what we need to know without retelling what the previews already told us or blurting out spoilers. I also want to add that, with the exception of "It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie" in 2002's, Kermit has largely taken a backseat or secondary role in recent projects since Jim passed. This film seems to honor the frog the way he once was. The true rebirth of confidence in the character from an all-too-long hiatus. All is as it should be. Let's hope others will see that too!

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  5. Excellent review! P.S. I believe I read somewhere that "Me Party" was cut in an earlier edit of the film and was put back in for some reason, which may explain the "meh" response it gave you.

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  6. Ryan, thank you writing this wonderful review - your words are so true and heartfelt and I trust your opinion and your judgement above just about anyone else's when it comes to the Muppets. I am beyond thrilled you were of the first to get to see it and if it's even possible to be more excited about seeing it myself than I already am, well, I am. I am seeing it on my birthday as a gift to myself and I know without a doubt it will be my best birthday ever. And hey - thanks for all you do for us Muppet fans in case I haven't told you that lately. <3

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  7. I've been fighting the hype on this from day one because I've been nothing but crushed for the past 25 years by the sad way the Muppets have been kicked around. I assumed this would be another lackluster or down-right embarrassing attempt to squeeze a few more dollars out of us long-term Muppet fans. I've also been reluctant to accept the "new" Muppets, the lack of Henson's and Hunt's energy, and the loss of many talented Muppeteers who have scattered to the wind. But, okay. You got me. I'm excited. Well done.

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  8. Wonderful review! I can't WAIT to see the movie. When it comes out on DVD, I'll definitely buy it.

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  9. Thank you, Ryan! Your review was the one I was most looking forward to because you are a huge Muppet fan as well!!!!!!

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  10. I have never seen a muppets movie in theatres (saw them only in dvds) and read your review just make me even more excited to see the film in the theatres, 23 november..

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  11. Vanessa--
    Considering how long that the Muppets (and their performers) have been around, changes are bound to happen.

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  12. At last! I tell you all along there was Snuffle- opps. I mean, I somehow knew this film would work.

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  13. Fantastic review Ryan, it made me tear up a little. Now I'm worried I'm going to cry from happiness the entire time I'm watching the movie. (I'll just have to see it again!)

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  14. I love to see comedic actors do a serious role. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Stranger Than Fiction are actually my favorites from those two actors. I admit I'm more of a comedic type, but the fact that they did them so well and so convincing I think made them my favorites.

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  15. All right,it´s official:now i can barely wait to watch this movie.Thanks for the awesome review,Ryan!!

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  16. Ryan, a most awesome and compelling review. If I had any doubt about this movie, you alleviated them. Thank you so much for getting me even more excited for November 23.

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  17. Is this movie out where you are now then Ryan for you because or how did you see it then? I couldn't find it in my theatre listing yet. Did you like Janise in the movie???

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  18. He went to a cast and crew screening in California, so that's how he saw it.

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  19. I got to see an advance screening of this last Thursday as well. I can not WAIT to see it again. I was pretty much crying from start to finish. It is not a perfect movie. Like Ryan said, Me Party could go, and so could another musical number and a random genre parody that is thrown in the middle. But while the movie may not be perfect, the Muppets themselves were. I really hope this does well in the box office so that we can get more!

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  20. Had goose bumps reading the whole time! If I wasn't super stoked to see this before, I REALLY am amped up now!!!

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  21. I also had a chance to see an advanced screening and I agree with all your comments and thoughts! Cannot wait to see it again. Paying the second time!

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  22. Ryan, thanks for the excellent, very detailed review! As a lifelong Muppet fan (from the Rowlf Jimmy Dean days) one small, odd thing has kept me optimistic about this film, and it is this: the shape of Kermit's head. Over the years Kermit has been rounded off, inflated, whatever you want to call it. But now he is back to the classic shape from the Sesame Street and Muppet Show years, where you can sense and see the changing shape of the hand inside. It used to be Jim's hand of course, and maybe that's why after his death extra foam or fluff was added to disguise the fact that that famous hand was no longer giving life to Kermit. Jim got a lot of wonderful expressions out of that very malleable felt face. I have no idea whether this was ever a conscious decision or simply the result of changing Muppet construction methods, but when I saw the first trailer, I said to myself "Kermit's back!"

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  23. Thanks for your very thoughtful review. I enjoyed reading it. I just got back from seeing the movie with my mother (70), my sister (32) and my son (7). I'm 42 and my sister and I both grew up with Sesame Street and the Muppets so we couldn't wait to see this movie. I think everyone in the family came away having enjoyed it for different reasons. I didn't realize how much I had missed Kermit until I saw him on the big screen. I was a little taken aback by the warm feelings of affection I have for a green, felt puppet. These are feelings generally reserved for people whom I've known and loved for a long time. Honestly, it's a little disconcerting and a testament to what the Muppets mean to many people who grew up with them. I know Jim Henson doesn't do Kermit anymore (and Steve, whom I will always consider the "new guy" does a really great job) but I couldn't help but feel like he was just around every corner in this movie and I really liked that aspect of it. Nice touch having his photo on the banners hanging on the building next to the Muppet theatre. I thought the song that Kermit sang at the beginning about being lonely was the best of the tunes. It's the only new one that made me feel anything. I actually felt guilty about kind of forgetting about the Muppets. Like they faded away because of fans like me who grew up and got on with the business of getting married, having kids and forgetting about their special kind of magic. As far as the other songs went..I saw a review that compared the Rainbow Connection number to a warm hug and that's what it was for me too... a warm hug from a beloved old friend I hadn't seen in too long. Ditto for the Muppet theme song. My sister and I both sat there with stupid grins on our faces brought about by the pure joy of watching a fond childhood memory brought to life again. The rest of the original new songs were okay, but not as good to me as the classics. I agree with everyone who's saying that the song about being alone seemed out of place. I also don't recall whether it's tradition in Muppet movies or not, but I thought the dialogue for the human characters was lacking a bit and I really came away not caring about any of them even a little bit. You could have gotten rid of all of them but the villain and Jack Black and I would have liked the movie just as much. Perhaps it's always been that way in Muppet movies and I just didn't notice 20 years ago. I particularly could have done without the human love story line, but I understand why it was in there. Some of the humor seemed a little overplayed and forced to me (the ongoing maniacal laughter bit for instance). Overall, I very much enjoyed seeing the old gang back together and look forward to seeing more of them. It's also given me an excuse to introduce all of the old movies to my son who drove me crazy singing the manamana song all the way home from the theater. Hopefully this film will spawn a whole new generation of Muppet lovers.
    -Lisa, Pittsburgh, PA

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