Having already seen Haywire, I had to pick another movie. (Yeah, this post is a sequel to the previous one. Isn’t that exciting? No? Never mind.) So why not The Muppets? But at the same time, “why” The Muppets? Another muppet movie, did we really need it? Well no, but here’s the good news: it isn’t too bad. It’s not great either. The song and dance routines seem to be completely out of tune sometimes. For no obvious reason, characters can burst into a song. Some songs are also out of place: after Moulin Rouge, “Smells like teen spirit” already got a musical version and at least there’s a Nirvana member in the cast (Dave Grohl is the drummer of The Moopets). But when the Muppets are rebuilding their theatre, all the characters start singing “We built this city on rock’n’roll”. Are the Muppets really that rock’n’roll? I have some doubts.
One of the men behind the reboot is Jason Segel and let’s all guess as to whether his puppeteer role in Forgetting Sarah Marshall had anything to do with the producers okaying this. Segel has comedic timing, but I didn’t always “believe” him when he started singing while looking at the audience. The fourth wall is one you better not break because very few are able to look through the screen convincingly enough for you to believe the actor/actress is truly addressing you instead of looking down a camera lens. Good news for The Muppets though: one of the people who can pull it off is Amy Adams and she’s the female lead here. To be honest, Adams is one of those actresses who can get me to watch a movie I’m not interested in and not feel disappointed.
And to be fair to Jason Segel (also one of the film’s writers), most of the time he’s doing a fine job. Like any episode of the original show, the film needs a “special guest star” and that’s the weak point of the film. Not only because it’s Jack Black and he’s horrendous when playing natural: there’s a scene where Jack starts punching people during an anger management class (which Animal is attending too) and even I’m better at delivering a fake punch. Equally present in that scene is Kirsten Schaal and maybe Jack can watch the dvd and look at how it should be done. Just look at Kirsten, Jack, just look at Kirsten. Once Black is in the role of “reluctant guest host”, he’s doing better, but there’s still the big problem: the film has many cameos. Is Jack Black, the anger management student, the real Jack Black or not? And if so, what about the many other stars? Should we recognize Sarah Silverman in the waitress role or not? Is the lady singing at the school Leslie Feist or not? And have Foo Fighters hit rock bottom and is that why Dave Grohl is drumming in Fozzie’s band? That’s quite confusing and it would have been better if Jack Black hadn’t been in any previous scene. Just let one of the Muppets say he knows where a star lives and then kidnap him. That way the movie would work better because it hinders the rest of the film. During the fund-raising show the Muppets are organising people like Selena Gomez pop up and it’s clearly Selena as herself. But the first person to come to the show is a homeless hobo, who looks a lot like Zach Galifianakis. Should we recognize him or not? It’s a fine line but once the writers start crossing it the entire time, it doesn’t help the film.
That was my biggest objection during the film. I had two objections before I started watching. First and foremost, the title… why “The Muppets”? The first movie had the equally inspiring title The Muppet Movie, but the later films had titles which added something, e.g. The Muppets take Manhattan. Just using The Muppets as title, suggests that either the Muppets have been forgotten (as suggested in the film) and the film works as a reboot. I don’t think that’s the case: a lot of kids still know the show after all. The other reason – we’re clearly forgetting laziness – is that the title suggests that this is the definitive Muppet movie. That’s rather cocky, wouldn’t you agree?
Objection n°2 is the character of Walter, the Muppet-like ‘brother’ of Jason Segel’s character. Again, the writers messed up in a way. They try and make us believe that Walter is a genuine person, but later in the movie there’s another song and dance routine where we see the Muppet version of Segel as well as the flesh and blood version of Walter (Jim Parsons). So wait, have we now been watching Walter as he sees himself or is he actually a “muppet”? Bearing in mind, the film makes you believe the furry creatures really exist, it then becomes tough to distinguish what’s supposed to be real and not.
Those objections do weigh on the film, but overall it’s not the disaster I assumed it was going to be. I guess that’ll have to do as praise these days.
P.S. And yeah, there’s also a version of “Mahna Mahna” in the movie. You know, that track from the scene with that 1969 ‘sex documentary’ which later became a Muppet classsic? In case you didn’t know, the track was used for a scene in Svezia, inferno e paradiso (“Sweden: hell and heaven”) where Swedish girls went to the sauna. Here’s the scene, but don’t expect to see anything.