10 reasons The Muppets was great
|LISTS - MOVIE LISTS|
Aside from the fantastic advertising campaign, of course...
When it was announced that there would indeed be a new Muppet movie, I had equal feelings of elation and dread. I grew up on The Muppets, be it reruns of The Muppet Show, their first three feature films – The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, and The Muppets Take Manhattan – or any number of television projects, like A Muppet Family Christmas, or even Muppet Babies, which still seemed to keep much of the magic that made the group so darned lovable. After the death of creator Jim Henson, there were ups (A Muppet Christmas Carol) and downs (Muppets from Space, The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz ). So it’s not hard to understand why many of us fans were more than a little skeptical about a new feature film. That being said, I was glad to find that The Muppets not only met, but also exceeded any expectations I had. What could possibly make it so great? I’m glad you asked that, because I happened to have a list right here that will illustrate just what made The Muppets such a wonderful film for fans young and old.
[If you don't want spoilers for any of the brilliant cameos in the film, skip entry number 8 on this list, in its entirety.]
10. The Gang’s All Here!
In recent years, there has been a push with any Muppets-related projects to shove in as many newer characters as possible. Many of these newer characters originated on the short-lived Muppets Tonight program for Disney Channel, and while some are great (Pepe the Prawn never fails to make me laugh), other older characters had been pushed aside or nearly forgotten. One in particular, Rowlf, had been utilized merely as a background character since the death of Henson, mostly out of reverence. However, he’s back at the forefront in this picture, right where he belongs. And in a reference to The Muppet Movie, there’s a great scene where the gang is chased by Sweetums, who just wants to be a part of the show.
9. The Humor is Back
From the very beginning, The Muppets had a special kind of Vaudevillian-style humor to them. It wasn’t necessarily aimed directly at children, but it was just clean enough for the younger audience, with some jokes that were meant for the adults. Where too many “family movies” these days shove a lot of adolescent humor at you (Seriously, how funny is a shot to the groin? Not very, take it from someone who’s taken a few!), The Muppets are funny without being overly vulgar or too kid-friendly. There’s a wonderful scene where Walter explains this to Kermit that The Muppets didn’t have to resort to those tactics so that they could stay respectable (only to have Fozzy walk in wearing whoopee cushions on his feet, exclaiming they’re “Fart shoes”.
8. Brilliant Cameos
[cameo spoilers follow]
The first three Muppet films are chock full of great cameos of the finest actors of stage and screen. Here, we get some wonderful cameos from more contemporary stars like Jack Black, the always wonderful Neil Patrick Harris (who, during the Muppet Telethon, tells a caller that he isn’t sure why he isn’t hosting the event), and a terrific cameo by The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons, who appears as Walter’s human mirror image. It’s also telling that the actors involved seemed to enjoy their time with the gang, which made their appearances much more fun. I only hope that if there’s another movie, maybe they could convince David Tennant or Matt Smith to stop in for a second (even better if they would bring the TARDIS – I mean, after all, The Daleks made an appearance in Looney Tunes: Back in Action).
7. Great Musical Numbers
The Muppets have always been known for their musical moments, and this movie had plenty of them. One nice change from Muppets from Space is that the numbers were all original. (The musical numbers from the recent television specials had been original as well, but really not up to standards for The Muppets.) The only cover performed was a hilarious barbershop quartet version of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, with Beaker covering the more risqué lyrics with his legendary “Meeps”. The real tear-jerker was the (Oscar-nominated) song “Man or Muppet”, where Gary (Jason Segel) and Walter have to decide where they belong in life.
6. The Villain is a Real Villain
Veteran actor Chris Cooper portrays antagonist Tex Richman with a real smarmy yet likable quality. His performance harks back to Doc Harper and Nicky Holiday, where there was an actual villain with a plot that the Muppet gang had to come together to stop. The antagonist’s plot actually makes for a driving force as the group must overcome differences and hostilities in order to defeat the villain of the piece and make for the happy ending that we have come to expect from the Muppets. And Cooper seems to relish the chance to chew scenery at every turn. He’s fantastic in this film, a truly top notch performance.
5. The Writers were Fans
Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller have been nothing but honest from day one about how much they loved The Muppets. Segal has gone on record saying that this film was more of a love letter to everything that The Muppets have been and what they stand for. And their encyclopedic knowledge of the group is evident throughout the picture. In early scenes where Gary and Walter are growing up, they spend every waking moment indulging in reruns of The Muppet Show, and watching the old movies. Even the fact that the plot of the film revolved around saving the old Muppet Theatre. The writers know the gang inside and out, and you feel it as you watch the film. It wasn’t hammered out in a room with a bunch of gag writers who were hired to make a picture, it was written by two guys who had a real love for The Muppets. And that love shows.
4. Don’t Mess with a Good Thing!
For some reason, writers felt the need to tweak characters and their relationships within the Muppet dynamic. The most glaring was the revelation in Muppets from Space that Gonzo was really an alien who had been left on Earth years before. After decades of being satisfied that Gonzo was a “whatever” (he kind of looks like a turkey, but not really). Why such a change to the character of Gonzo the Great was needed is indeed a mystery, other than someone was really grasping at straws for a storyline (which made no sense as they had just purchased a screenplay from writer Brian Lynch that had Hollywood abuzz – but I digress). Don’t try to fix what isn’t broken. Part of Gonzo’s appeal is that he was something unique, and he could be a sort of role model for those who also feel out of place. The most done in this film was the rehabilitation of Animal, which was undone in the end to hilarious results.
3. What’s Old is New Again
Seeing the gang wandering around the old Muppet Theatre getting ready for the Telethon brought back so many great memories of watching The Muppet Show. Again, it really showed how much love the writers had for the original Muppet stories, but it really felt right. While The Great Muppet Caper and The Muppets Take Manhattan took the gang into new territories, they still felt like the same old Muppets. Newer projects never really had the proper feel to them, as though the performers were simply going through the motions in order to keep The Muppets in the public eye in one way or another. Here, we are brought back to where it all began, and if there were never another Muppet film, it would feel as though they had been given closure.
That being said, there had better be more Muppet films.
2. The Human-Muppet Interaction
What always made the Muppets feel real was their interaction with real people, and moreover their interaction with the real world in the films. While I enjoyed films like A Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island, they were done in studio, which lost some of that “realness” about the whole concept. Even The Muppet Show, while done in a studio, seemed real because of how believable the whole theatre was. Seeing the gang out in real world settings, driving cars, boomeranging fish and whatever else just brought back some of that old magic.
1. It’s Fun!!!
There’s no other way of saying it. If you watch this film for no other reason, do so because it’s a blast! From start to finish, you get sucked into the film, and it’s a joyride the whole way. This is the Muppets as they should be. It’s wholesome entertainment that you can enjoy with the whole family, but it’s not so rooted in kid humor that adults can’t sit and enjoy it on their own. This really is the sort of movie that should be seen by everyone.
The Muppets is on general release in the UK now, and should be released on DVD in the US in late March.
IF YOU ENJOYED THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE HELP SUPPORT OUR SITE, AT NO COST WITH ONE CLICK ON THE FACEBOOK 'LIKE' BUTTON BELOW:
If you're interested in writing for Shadowlocked (disc and screening reviews, etc, or just getting some extra coverage for your extraordinary writing talent, get in touch with us.