Ah the muppets.
I admit to having a soft spot for them (pun intended). I practically grew up on Sesame Street and watched the Muppets’ Christmas Special (in which Jim Henson himself appeared) every year until we lost the tape. So the movie is graded on a curve, just like if I was forced to review a movie put on and staring my own family. Plus it co-stars Amy Adams and she’s so cute it’s hard to hate anything she’s in.
This movie is a lot of fun, a definite return to the muppets’ best work. Heck, normally I can’t stand musicals (though operas rock) with very rare exceptions. The rules for the whole thing just never made any sense to me, (so in this song they understand your message but in this song they can’t because it’s like… your thoughts or something?) and while I will admit that maybe if I studied them more, they would be clearer, I am not motivated to put that much work into it. This movie remains one of those rare exceptions as very quickly the rule of its songs became clear to me: whichever action is funniest.
Now some (like the always awesome Furious D) have accused this movie of being just a bit hackneyed and cliche. Well I can’t exactly argue with his point, because that is the point of this narrative: one of the most rapid-fire deconstructions and reconstructions I’ve ever seen. Much of the humor comes from setting up a cliche, and then making the audience guess whether they’ll follow it or subvert it. Heck, the villain gets his own over the top singing number so it’s kind of hard to be too offended, even as a writer. BUT (and this is a huge but) such will only work for this movie which is built as a “return/reboot” film for the Muppets. If any sequels happen, they will have to try new things with their antagonists.
So how does the movie work as a narrative whole? Well there’s plot holes galore, but that’s kind of the charm, if you’re going to start arguing about them, you may as well argue about how felt puppets are treated like people: You’ve clearly lost all joy in life and just don’t get it. I only have one real complaint. In this movie, a new character is introduced (quite well) named Walter. Him and his brother are the two that have the largest character arcs in the movie, and with Walter, part of it is that time-honored “finding where you belong”. So far so good (see above for why I let this cliche slide).
Part of the climax turns upon Walter filling in an act on the Muppets’ reunion show, but he’s not sure what he could do. In the end we learn… he can whistle.
I mean it’s not bad, but we’ve never seen him whistle once in the film. (or if we did, it was so brief that I had forgotten) Throughout the movie, it has been established that Walter is THE biggest Muppet fan ever to live. Then, right in the middle of their big show, Kermit has to run an errand and leaves Scooter in charge (with Scooter panicking since he doesn’t “host”). The build up was perfect, I expected at any moment: Walter would be the sub-host, the fill in. Except he doesn’t. Scooter does end up filling in briefly. Like I said, you can bend or play with a lot of cliches in your work, but violating character and narrative arcs should only be done in absurdest comedies.
All in all, I ended up enjoying myself a lot more than I expected and laughing harder than I have at a movie in awhile. And that’s more than I could ask for. I’d give it:
Parents, I’d definitely get a copy of this as it’s going to be a lot easier to watch twenty times with your kids than other kiddy fare.